bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Feel free to pray after a touchdown, but don’t slide into it

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It’s really amazing how much of the talk around the NFL this season has centered on non-football issues. It is more than I can ever remember, and that is saying something, as there is always a fair amount of that stuff going on. The early part of this past week included a lot of discussion of religious touchdown celebrations. Husain Abdullah of the Kansas City Chiefs was penalized after sliding to the ground and praying in Muslim fashion after he returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter of his team’s win over New England on Monday Night Football.

The rules about touchdown celebrations are truly bizarre. There are plenty of things you can do that it seems like you should not be able to do, and other things that are likely to be penalized even though they don’t seem any worse than stuff that is given a pass. One of the things that is exempt from being flagged is going to the ground to pray. The league is full of religious players (judging by the amount of proselytizing I see on Twitter), and so even though going to the ground in celebration is prohibited, it is okay if it is for the purpose of prayer. Many people were up in arms, then, when Abdullah was flagged for doing what he did, as it appeared that Christian prayer was fine but Muslim prayer was a violation. The reaction of the league did not help clarify matters, as an apology was quickly made by a league spokesman who said that the flag should not have been thrown.

Later in the week, the NFL Referee Association disputed the NFL’s explanation, saying that the flag was thrown correctly, and that it was for the slide that preceded the prayer, not for the prayer itself. Sliding is apparently one of the many things on the naughty list. Abdullah certainly did slide into his prostrate position, so I guess, based on the current rules, the penalty was the correct call. Here is the thing, though. These rules are stupid. More specifically, the inconsistencies make the whole thing a joke. Either let people celebrate or don’t. I agree that one type of prayer should not be exempt from penalty while another is not, but I also believe that disallowing other types of celebration while allowing prayer is silly. What makes prayer a more appropriate celebration of a touchdown? Rules are rules, and a statement of a religious preference should not exempt someone from those rules. By doing so, the league is stating that these demonstrations are somehow more valid than a celebration by someone who has no religion at all. Why is prayer necessary after a touchdown? Does someone’s god really care if he scored six points? I know people take their religion very seriously, and many get all bent out of shape if you question its validity, but come on now. If I can’t dance in the end zone playing air guitar after I score, why can I kneel down and pray? What if music is the most important thing in my life and I want to show that to everyone watching? Is the league going to tell me that is less valid because it does not have a religious basis? Can they tell me I don’t have the right to choose the source of my inspiration? I think it would be better to either allow all kinds of celebrations or to allow none of them.

Like with anything else, my opinion on this means very little, as far as reality goes. I would be shocked if the rules gain any consistency anytime soon. The officiating has been worse than ever this season, but the league has too many non-football things to deal with to make any headway in this area. I look forward to a tribute to the Flying Spaghetti Monster after a touchdown sometime soon.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Three champion skiers/snowboarders were killed in two separate avalanches in South America last Monday. J.P. Auclair of Canada and Andreas Franson of Sweden were killed in Chile, and Liz Daley of the U.S. died in Argentina a few hours later.

3) Michael Phelps, possibly the greatest competitive swimmer of all time, is in trouble again. This time he was arrested for DUI. The incident happened on Tuesday in Baltimore.

4) A high school football player from New York died on Wednesday after suffering a head injury during a game. Tom Cutinella was a junior in high school.

5) BYU’s star quarterback, Taysom Hill, broke his leg during his team’s loss to Utah State on Friday. He was having a great year and his team was undefeated until he got hurt. He will miss the remainder of the season.

6) In an example of everything that’s wrong with college sports, Daisha Simmons, a college basketball player who transferred from Alabama to Seton Hall to be closer to her terminally ill brother, is being prevented from playing this season because Alabama refuses to release her because her decision came too late to allow them to replace her scholarship. Classy move, Crimson Tide.

7) Jules Bianchi, a Formula One driver, is in critical condition in Japan after a terrible wreck on a wet course on Sunday. The video is brutal.

8) A Nebraska offensive lineman has given us the greatest false start we have ever seen.

Good sports:

1) Sunday was a good day for a couple of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and two of the best to ever play. Peyton Manning threw the 500th touchdown pass of his career during the Denver Broncos win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. Then, during the night game, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots surpassed 50,000 passing yards for his career while beating the Cincinnati Bengals.

2) During that game where Brady hit his milestone, the Patriots came up big in another area too. The game was briefly stopped during the third quarter so that a video honoring Bengals player Devon Still and his daughter Leah, who has cancer, could be played on the stadium screens. The Patriots cheerleaders took off their jackets to reveal Cincinnati jerseys with the number 75 and the name Still on them. Well done, Pats.

Bad sports, good sports appears early each week

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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