Don't penalize passion

Were you ever young? Ever get excited about anything? Did you ever play the game? Or any other sport? Ever?

 

That's what we'd ask the officials from last Saturday's Georgia-Louisiana State University football game, in which a Georgia player was penalized for getting excited.

That's not an exaggeration. Even the Southeastern Conference would tell you that, after watching video of the incident.

"The video that we looked at does not support the call that was made on the field," Rogers Redding, SEC officials coordinator admitted this week in saying the penalty should never have been assessed.

A.J. Green, who'd scored a go-ahead touchdown with just 1:09 left in the game, was penalized for what they call "excessive celebration."

That's completely subjective, of course. But normally, "excessive celebration" would entail rehearsed theatrics, taunting gestures, chest-pounding and other exaggerated expressions of arrogance, superiority or narcissism.

Sadly, the sports culture has made it necessary to watch such things closely, as players over the years have far exceeded the bounds of good sportsmanship and even youthful jubilation in their self-aggrandizing antics. That's fine, and we support cracking down on it.

But none of that -- absolutely zip -- was present when A.J. Green joyously and innocently celebrated with his teammates one of the great moments in his young life.

That's when some overbearing, never-scored-a-touchdown-myself wet blanket had to spoil the moment with a penalty flag for no good reason.

And, oh by the way, some believe it cost Georgia the game, as the penalty required the Bulldogs to then kick off to LSU from their own 15 yard line, a huge handicap. It helped set up LSU for the winning score.

Is there a penalty for "excessive, stick-in-the-mud monitoring of excitement by college football players"? We hope so; for now, the conference isn't saying.

If you can penalize a college-aged kid and his teammates for doing nothing more than being happy, shouldn't an adult face some sort of punishment for a stupid mistake that changes the outcome of a game?

Most importantly, it's essential that every college conference, and maybe the pros, tell their referees to back off and let players show some passion. Otherwise, they'll take the life out of the game.

This isn't a chess match!

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