It’s Official: Rules from NFL will be for better

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

Recent news releases by the NFL focused on the extension of the &uot;instant replay&uot; rule for several more years, with only a few minor adjustments.

Overlooked by most was the mention that officials will more diligently enforce the &uot;celebration&uot; rule, adding a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing free kick (kickoff) if the violation occurs during a scoring play.

That penalty pretty well guarantees the opponent decent field position, as a result of the penalized team having to kick off from its own 15-yard line.

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There are, of course, critics of the enforcement of any celebration rule, choosing to call the NFL the &uot;No Fun League.&uot;

Most of those critics have never played a down of football and therefore fail to realize that any score, or great offensive or defensive play, is a result of team effort.

Sure, there are great individual efforts that result in scores, but nobody ever did it all by himself.

Football, as much as any other sport, but perhaps more then other sports it requires a complete team effort, not only by those on the field but by all those squad members at practice as well, to enable that individual effort to pay off.

No one in the NFL is trying to catch curb natural exuberance. Any outstanding play deserves to be celebrated, but the carefully planned and choreographed dance routine and &uot;show out&uot; has no place in the game.

The league clearly and correctly regards such actions as taunting, and with foresight can envision that taunting leading to one of the several possible ends.

There will eventually be severe retribution by an opponent, such as recently happened in the National Hockey League, leaving a player so badly injured he might be crippled for life, or the celebrations would become so commonplace as to make the game itself a side show, much like professional wrestling.

In either case, the audience (and money) would shrink and everybody associated with the game of professional football would lose. My opinion only, but I think the National Football League made a move, though unpopular with some fans and media, that will help preserve the game in the long run.

A few years ago the NCAA made similar changes in college football rules, the best of which was to prevent players from removing their headgear while on the playing field.

Until then, it had been common for any player, even after scoring on a one-yard dive, to pull off his helmet and mug for the ever-present TV cameras.

Since that, and other similar rule changes entered the book, the game of college football has continued to thrive and grow.

Attendance and television coverage seem to almost double each decade, and there is no sign that it is leveling off, much less shrinking.

Those who make the rules for college football have made many changes and additions over the years, and I certainly did not agree with all of them. The strict enforcement of the celebration rule was one I applauded most loudly.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached at