At a time when it’s become fashionable to throw stones at everything the NFL does, it’s only fair to point out when the NFL has gotten something right.
Several years ago, the league moved the umpire from his standard spot behind the defensive line into the offensive backfield, across from the referee. This year, the NFL has removed the exception that applied when the offensive is inside the opponent’s five yard line.
The decision arose from a desire to ensure the safety of the umpires, who easily can get inadvertently caught up in the scrum of large, armored bodies trying to throw blocks or make tackles. A recent high school game in Texas introduced another potential hazard: Deliberate targeting.
Deadspin has the video and the story from the know-it-when-you-see-it deliberate attack on an umpire in a game between Marble Falls, Texas and San Antonio John Jay. The free safety for John Jay makes a beeline for the umpire and blasts him from behind. After the umpire is on the ground, the strong safety dives onto him, helmet first.
The players were ejected, and the broader question becomes whether they did it on their own or at the behest of a warped adult who issued a sweep-the-leg-style directive.
Either way, someone needs to be prosecuted for assault. And someone at the NFL deserves a pat on the back for removing the temptation for a player in the heat of the moment to “accidentally” collide with an umpire.