From the Sidelines

As criticism comes in from all sides, NFL could use a hug

October 20 2016: The officials huddle during a time out of the Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire)
Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

No one needs a hug more than NFL officials these days who seem to be getting barraged with criticism from all sides.

But, rules are rules, and you can’t touch the guys in stripes on-field so Earl Thomas’ celebratory embrace after picking up a fumble and racing for a touchdown in New Orleans last weekend resulted in a startled Zebra and some yellow on the turf.

“Having fun, bro,” Thomas told the Seahawks’ website when talking about his behavior. “Just excited about the moment. I only live like three hours away from here. I’m just thinking like, ‘Man, everybody back home just saw me score.’ You never know what happens when you go into these games, then the ball kind of goes your way. Just an exciting moment. That’s just how I celebrated.”

The lack of common sense in the NFL is one of my biggest frustrations with the league, and this is a perfect example because you twist a particular rule which is obviously both prudent and needed and turn it into a robotic, Terminator-like regulation.

Presumably, we are not all incapable of seeing the difference of what the rule is trying to prevent and what went on in New Orleans on Sunday.

In a league filled with young men, who are at times comic book-sized fast and strong, it’s a pretty good idea to protect the arbiters of the game from some hothead who doesn’t like being flagged.

In Thomas’ case, however, you are talking about a happy player after scoring a defensive TD, getting a little too handsy with side judge Alex Kemp perhaps. But, if that’s how you feel, walk him over to the sidelines and say something like, “congratulations, but next time leave me out of it or the flag is coming.”

Sort of like the cop who pulls you over for doing 35 in a 25-MPH zone and lets you go about your business with a warning.

And it’s not like Thomas’ action was like a 50-50 ball for a receiver or a coin flip.

The NFL rulebook calls for players to be punished if they “shove, push, or strike (an official) in an offensive, disrespectful, or unsportsmanlike manner.”

The only word of that which could possibly apply to Thomas is “disrespectful” and if that was Kemp’s thinking, well he needs to lighten up and maybe embrace the WWE’s Bayley both literally and figuratively.

For those who don’t know, she’s a hugger.

Elon Musk, the billionaire behind SolarCity, Tesla and SpaceX, made a lot of news in the business world Friday by predicting that as more and more jobs are replaced by technology, people will have less work to do and ultimately will be sustained by payments from the government.

“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk told CNBC. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”

Musk has a better track record than most in business so people tend to listen to him and I’ll just say this as far as the NFL goes: if human beings are either not trusted or capable of injecting nuance to words on paper than we might as well fast forward to the robots because at least they will be consistent with the mechanical aspects to calls on the field.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America

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