On the surface, it was refreshing to hear the league’s senior V.P. of officiating explain that certain types of celebrations on the surface of the playing field will be permitted, based on the discretion of the officials. At a deeper level, it’s troubling.
It’s troubling because the NFL’s rules as written prohibit any celebration on the ground, with the exception of going to the ground in prayer. Snow angels clearly aren’t permitted.
Unless they are.
In harmonizing the decision of the referee in one game to throw a flag for a snow angel and the referee in another game to refrain from doing so, Blandino necessarily admitted that the league has a method for enforcing its rules that ignores the language of the rules. Which is a problem, for reasons well beyond snow angels.
At a time when the NFL is periodically accused of making it up as they go, the notion that officials have the discretion to permit certain type of celebrations that violate the rules reinforces the idea that the rules only matter when the NFL want them to matter.
Which means that the language of the rules needs to be changed immediately — or that the discretion needs to be eliminated.
This isn’t about snow angels. It’s about any and all actions that, based on the rules, constitutes violations but that, based on the enforcement, aren’t categorized as violations.
That said, it’s encouraging that the league is allowing players to behave more like human beings and less like robots. That needs to happen not by the seat of the pants, but by the process of changing the rules.