Football referees need to chill out

Dan Armelli

Officials across all sports have a thankless job.

If you know them by name, it’s either because you watch a lot of sports or they’re doing a terrible job. When they’re doing a quality job, they’re simply white noise.

But now, more than ever, football officials are sticking their noses in places where they don’t belong. The most frustrating part is their continuous chipping away of the unadulterated enjoyment these players have while playing the sport they love.

I think most fans will know that I’m talking about Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown’s attempt at “twerking,” for which he’s been fined a total of $36,000 this year.

But I’m also talking about Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman’s bow and arrow celebration, which also drew a taunting penalty and a $10,000 fine.

This is a celebration that’s seen constantly by the NBA Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Wesley Matthews after he makes three-pointers. Even more relevant, this exact celebration has been done by fellow NFL players Brandin Cooks and Travis Kelce — both of whom were not penalized.

These officials regulating fun don’t even have an organized plan to do so. They seemingly make this stuff up as they go.

Much of this has to do with the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s drive to make the league a dictatorship so he can be the mover and shaker of everything that goes on in the NFL.

Sadly, this new era of crushing any authentic spirit and entertainment is permeating to the college game as well.

Take the game between the University of Notre Dame and North Carolina State Saturday. In the second quarter Notre Dame drew a false start penalty on a fourth down and 15. A NCSU defender — as every defensive lineman in the history of football has ever done after an offensive lineman jumped before the snap — pointed across from him to point out the culprit of the false start.

Unfortunately for the defensive lineman, he was caught in the crosshairs of an official that woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. He got called for a personal foul taunting penalty, which negated the false start, and gave Notre Dame an automatic first down.

This wasn’t a penalty for celebrating, but it’s becoming clearer that football officials have no idea what is or isn’t taunting.

As a Broncos fan, I’ve seen linebacker Von Miller do Brown’s dance countless times after sacks and not once has he been called for a penalty. Perhaps Goodell subscribes to Key and Peele’s three-pump rule.

One would think someone in Goodell’s position would encourage former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson-esque celebrations. Some of my favorite memories watching football, when I was little, were seeing Johnson take a pylon and putt the football in for eagle, or seeing him try to resuscitate a football back to life. To me, that’s entertainment that would draw the eyes of casual football fans.

I’m fine with trying to rid of mean spirited taunting, but good-natured, pure celebration. Heck, even pointing at a guy who committed a penalty is just a natural part of any sport. Goodell is telling grown men how they can and cannot dance, tarnishing tireless preparation and competitiveness on one of the brightest stages in all of sports.

The regulation of celebrations must cease. Goodell needs to call off his dogs and these old men need to lighten up. After all, some of us appreciate fun.

Dan Armelli is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].