Taunting rule lunacy

AP: Wait until some overzealous ref decides some player slowed down too much, stepped too high, pranced too merrily, looked back over his shoulder too long or launched himself too early into the end zone — and then calls taunting in the final seconds of a game on a hot, boozy afternoon with first place on the line in the SEC. Better yet, he needs a replay to make the determination.

No doubt coaches, players and especially fans will take it all in stride — on their way to storming the field.

“Nothing’s perfect,” said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. “I’m sure something, or some situation will come up down the road that’s going to cause a lot of people some consternation. And when that happens, we’ll look at the rule and decide if it needs adjusting.

“But I don’t think the coaches were looking at that aspect. They’ve been talking about it for a while and decided it should no longer be a part of the game. And this rule is one way to make sure the kids pay attention.”

If only it were that simple.

The NCAA rule book tries to be specific on the matter of taunting, and most of the examples offered hardly require interpretation.

Players can’t use “threatening or obscene language or gestures,” such as “imitating the slashing of a throat.” They can’t stand over a fallen opponent and beat their chest. They can’t point any part of their anatomy or the ball itself at an opponent. Going into the stands is definitely verboten. So is pretending to fire a weapon, and even cupping a hand around the ear, as in the “I-can’t-hear-you” pantomime.

But just about everything else falls into a gray area.

Players can get whistled for “obviously altering stride,” a penalty previously called only on “Dancing with the Stars.” And how about “bowing at the waist after a good play”?

Say some mammoth defensive lineman causes a fumble, then bends over to catch his breath even as the teammate who scooped up the loose ball is running it back for a score? Fair or foul?

“That’s a good one,” Teaff said. “I imagine it’s one of those cases where the refs may have to go back and take another look.”

If you’ve ever attended a game where an excessive celebration penalty came back to bite the offending team, you know how well those things go over. Especially when it happens to the home team. In case you forgot, think back to last season, when Georgia receiver A.J. Green was flagged after catching the go-ahead touchdown late against LSU. (read more of this commentary embedded below)