Friday, February 28, 2014

The N-(FL)Word

Usually, there is no way in Hades that I would be looking forward to the NFL season on February 28th.  In fact, most years I would already be sick of talk about the combine, free agency winners and losers, and mock drafts.  But next season is going to be much different because of Commissioner Roger Goodell's edict that use of the "N-word" on the field will be punishable by a fifteen yard penalty.

This will add a whole new "social element" to the game of football--as a number of people (within the media that regularly covers the game and those who champion the cause of "political correctness) keep track of who gets flagged for the new penalty.  And by "keeping track" I of course mean a "racial scoreboard".  It wouldn't surprise me if someone developed an "N-word" website for quick reference every Monday morning that will monitor not only the color of the "offending" player--but also that of the "offended" player.

For some reason, I have a tough time imagining Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Joe Thomas ever getting called for this penalty.  If I had to pick a position or two that would be most likely to get flagged, it would be Defensive Back and Wide Reciever.  If you have ever been down on the field for an NFL game, you know that those guys NEVER stop trash talking each other--and the "N-word" is a critical part of their vocabulary.  Linebackers would be another likely source of such "egregious language".

One of the pieces of advice that I give new reporters and anchors here at the Radio Ranch is to stop swearing in their ordinary conversations outside of the studio--because the more you say a word out there, the more likely you are to "accidentally" say it on the air.  And we have had some people drop the "F-bomb" and the "S-word" into a live mike.  And that is why African-American NFL players will likely be the ONLY ones called for on-field use of the "N-word".  It is used in the locker room, it is used on the practice field, they use it when talking with their friends, they hear it in the music they "chill out to" on the way to the stadium, before the game at the stadium and on the way home from the stadium.  So what is going to click in their heads when some player tries to cut their knees or blindsides them with a block to not use that same word in order to avoid a penalty?

The new rule is nothing more than a typical NFL over-reaction to a controversial occurrence--this time the embarrasing text and voice mail messages between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins--where the white player used the term toward a black player--and the subsequent claims by other Dolphins that Incognito was an "honorary 'N-word'".

Knowing Commissioner Goodell's usual MO, referees will not directly say "Personal Foul, use of the 'N-word'--number 27 on the defense."  Instead it will be disguised as a simple "unsportsmanlike conduct"--so tracking the "racial disparity" of the new penalty could be a challenge.  But it would be fun to hear the league's top over-explainer--Ed Hochuli--break it down at least one time: "After the play, but before the ball made the line to gain, we had a personal foul on number 27 of the defense for the use of derogatory, racial language directed at a member of the opposition.  However, because the foul occurred after the ball was dead and there was a change of possession involved with the play, we will enforce the penalty, reset the chains and it will be first and ten in the other direction.  Time out."

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