I love American football, it’s such a great game with many twists and turns. In my mind, this American game is quite simple, the keys one might say are about blocking and tackling and effective execution of the game plan. Often, you have to watch the entire game before the outcome is determined. Momentum can often swing from side to side during the course of he game. Even though I have much love for the game, I don’t like some of the behavior and ill will shown by some players toward their opponents. Even though it’s a brutal and violent game, the game still has room for respect, honesty and good sportsmanship.
On to sportsmanship or non-sportsmanship in the NFL. Merriam-webster.com defines unsportsmanlike as not characteristic of or exhibiting good sportsmanship. According to Wikipedia, unsportsmanlike conduct , or unsporting behavior or bad sportsmanship is a foul or offense in many sports that violates the sport’s generally accepted rules of sportsmanship and participant conduct. Examples include verbal abuse or taunting of an opponent, an excessive celebration following a scoring play, or feigning injury. The official rules of many sports include a catch-all provision whereby participants or an entire team may be penalized or otherwise sanctioned for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Unsportsmanlike conduct isn’t just celebrations that emotionally taunts your opponents. If you celebrate without disrespecting your opponent and don’t do anything obscene after a big play, I’m ok with that. If I could digress for a moment, defensive players can celebrate with exuberance and respect towards their opponents but should be careful how they celebrate as some have injured their knees or Achilles while celebrating after a quarterback sack.
If you talk trash to your opponent before or during most plays on the gridiron, is that acting like a good sportsman? Is grabbing a face mask exhibiting good character? Is indicating you’ve achieved a first down ok? I guess if it’s done without taunting you opponent that’s considered part of the American game. On the other hand, spiking the ball after catch? Especially if it’s meant as a slight towards your opponent, the game doesn’t need to include such behavior.
One act of sportsmanship I appreciate is Cam Newton handing the football to a young fan in the stands. That’s great and adds class to the game. He’s also prone to ask his team mates do the same thing after they score a touchdown. Years ago, players would have been fined for throwing a football in to the stands or handing it to a fan but haven’t seen any repercussions with this type of behavior. I’m glad the NFL realizes the good will that’s created when such behavior is done in Carolina.
In today’s NFL, you’ll sometimes find defensive players stand over players they’ve just tackled or brought to the ground. Often, this posture is to intimate and try to throw fear into your opponent. If this is considered dirty, nasty, unfair and lacking class, isn’t this considered unsportsmanlike behavior?
Moving on to the offense, what about a runner or receiver putting his hand on the opponent’s face mask to avoid being tackled, even if within the legal bounds of the game, could this not be considered unsportsmanlike behavior?
On an interception, if a defensive player quickly becomes part of the offense and then blindsides his opponent which sometimes results in a concussion or a stoppage of play be considered being a good sport? Especially if the defensive player says he had no intent to hurt the player. I guess sometimes reputation will be factored in. A first offender may get a lighter fine, if a repeat offender with an offensive reputation, all bets are off that the NFL will take their actions lightly.
I’ve heard the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive backs may attempt to hold their opponents on every play. They know referees will not call holding on every play so these defensive backs will push the envelope. If some synonyms of unsportsmanlike is dirty, illegal, nasty, unfair and foul, wouldn’t trying to hold offensive pass receivers on many pass players be considered lacking good sportsmanship?
In summary, there are some actions done during the game that could be cleaned up. It can still be extremely physical and violent but done with respect to your opponents. In addition, the NFL could do a much better job on trash talking before and during the game. This verbal warfare sometimes spills over to fights or opponents taking swings at each other. This brutality and loss of composure is something the NFL should do a better job to clean up. When fans talk about certain games that occur, it should be based on execution and strategy and not on who punched who or who was talking smack during the entire game.