Maybe I'm just mean, but I think everyone's lost their minds. According to an ESPN poll, 78% of the nation thinks that the excessive celebration penalty called against University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker was a bad call (most of the 22% who voted otherwise, not surprisingly, appear to be from the state of Utah).
Maybe I'm missing something here.
According to referee Larry Farina, "After scoring the touchdown, the player threw the ball into the air and we are required, by rule, to assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It is a celebration rule that we are required to call. It was not a judgment call." This statement was backed up by ESPN's SportsCenter, which aired the portion of the rule book in question. The rule is rather clear: no throwing the ball in the air after scoring a touchdown.
Period. The end.
But after airing the rule, several ESPN personalities, including Mark May, forcefully commented that they thought the referee made a horrible call. Given reasons included the following:
-they followed the language of the law, not the spirit of the law
-the refs shouldn't be allowed to decide the outcome of the game/the refs shouldn't be allowed to make calls in key situtations
-Locker had just made a great play
-the rule is stupid
Well, Locker had just made a great play, and perhaps the rule is stupid. Unfortunately, I'm rather sure there's nothing in the rule book stating that refs can pick and choose which rules they enforce. I'm also rather sure there's nothing in the rule book stating that the refs can choose not to enforce rules after great plays. But hey, I've never read the rule book cover to cover, so, you know, maybe those statements are in there somewhere. I'm not going to hold my breath, though.
Perhaps the spirit of the law is to reduce taunting, but that's not explicitly stated in the rule. It's clear that throwing the ball high in the air is not allowed.
As far as whether or not the refs should be allowed to decide the outcome of the game/the refs shouldn't be allowed to make calls in key moments is concerned...I've never understood this argument. Are you telling me that the call would have been legit had it happened in the first quarter? Or a mere five minutes earlier? Isn't it just as unfair to call a penalty at certain times and not other times? I've always been baffled by this argument in basketball, when people argue that the refs shouldn't be allowed to call fouls at the end of a close game. Furthermore, there appears to be a universal assumption that had the PAT been kicked from the standard 15 yards instead of 27 yards, the block wouldn't have occurred. I guess we'll never know, but I'm not sure I buy that assumption.
Would a Washington win have been great? Yes. Do I feel sorry, once again, for Ty Willingham? Yes. But I'm not going to hang the refs for the game's outcome. They were just doing their jobs. The rule can be reviewed during the offseason.