It’s a well known fact that spinning a football on the ground is the most insulting thing one man can do to another. The NFL is finally catching on and officials plan on penalizing any player that spins a ball to celebrate a play.
This rule was in the rulebook last year but never enforced. NFL referees have only just started telling players it will be a penalty during this year’s training camps. There are other penalties that are also officially unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but are never called. Here’s the full list from the rulebook:
“These acts include but are not limited to: sack dances; home run swing; incredible hulk; spiking the ball; throwing or shoving the ball; pointing; pointing the ball; verbal taunting; military salute; standing over an opponent (prolonged and with provocation; or dancing.”
Other acts soon to be considered an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty are: Jumping more than three inches, high fives, fist bumps, “blowing it up” (post-fist bump) and running.
It warms my heart to know the words “incredible hulk” are in the official NFL rulebook. Obviously the NFL has taken the policing of celebrations too far. I’d agree that it’s probably a good idea to not have players using elaborate props to celebrate every touchdown (we’re looking at you T.O.), but banning spiking the football and spinning the ball on the ground is a step too far.
Football players are already covered up by pads and a face mask, the NFL shouldn’t be trying to strip more personality away from players. It’s the exact opposite approach of the NBA, a league driven by players and their personalities. Perhaps that’s why the NFL has separated itself as the most popular sports league in America. The teams are always the focus of the fans. Some players are fan favorites sure, but fans will continue to follow their team long after a big name leaves. This is why the NFL will be number one for decades to come: its success hinges on great teams not great players.
(UPDATE: To clarify, an NFL spokesman told deadspin.com that penalties will only be called for ball spinning on non-scoring plays. Inside the endzone, players are free to spin the football to their hearts content.)