Sportsmanship has become an epidemic. From the mandatory postgame handshakes between teams to the midfield embraces of football coaches, it has gone too far. Now, it has cost a young man his defining moment.
This has gone too for. Enough, already. We get it - you're supposed to be 'good sports' when you play sports. It's all about respecting your opponent and never, ever doing anything to show up the team on the other team.
Seriously, can we can all of this nonsense?
Sportsmanship has become an epidemic in the professional, college and high school sports environments. From postgame handshakes in the NHL and college basketball to the awkward hug and/or handshake in football. It has even gone as far as to penalize athletes for celebration after scores, most notably touchdowns in football.
Come on, stop it. It's extremely stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The latest display of sportsmanship stupidity came in our own neck of the woods at the high school level. Matthew Owens, the starting quarterback from Cathedral High School of Boston, broke free for a touchdown run that would have given his team the lead late in the game against Blue Hills in the Division IVA Super Bowl last Saturday.
On his way to the end zone, Owens lifted his left arm in celebration of the greatest defining play of his career. That little act of jubilance, seen in this video, wound up costing him a touchdown, a title and the moment of his career.
Per Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules, celebration or taunting on touchdowns is prohibited, thus leading to Owens' 44-yard touchdown run being called off. Here's the official MIAA rule (via Boston Herald).
RULE 9. SECTION 2. Unsportsmanlike Conduct Fouls - Unsportsmanlike Acts
ARTICLE 1. There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct or any act that interferes with orderly game administration on the part of players, substitutes, coaches, authorized attendants or any other persons subject to the rules, before the game, during the game or between periods. Infractions for these acts by players are administered as either live-ball or dead-ball fouls depending on when they occur.
Specifically prohibited acts and conduct include: 1. No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall use abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to: (a) Pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent, or imitating the slashing of the throat. (b) Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally. (c) Inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way, such as simulating the firing of a weapon or placing a hand by the ear to request recognition. (d) Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves). (e) An unopposed ball carrier obviously altering stride as he approaches the opponent's goal line or diving into the end zone. (f) Removal of a player's helmet before he is in the team area (Exceptions: Team, media or injury timeouts; equipment adjustment; through play; between periods; and during a measurement for a first down). (g) Punching one's own chest or crossing one's arms in front of the chest while standing over a prone player. (h) Going into the stands to interact with spectators, or bowing at the waist after a good play.
PENALTY - Live-ball fouls by players: 15 yards. Live-ball fouls by non-players and all dead-ball fouls: 15 yards from succeeding spot. Automatic first down for fouls by Team B if not in conflict with other rules. Flagrant offenders, if players or substitutes, shall be disqualified.
Sure, Owens took part in "pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s)" with his action, but in no way did he point his arm at the opponent. And the resulting penalty? The touchdown was called off and the ball was placed back at the 24 yard line.
You all know how this story ends - it's almost a given when something like this occurs. On the next play, Owens was intercepted, and that was all she wrote. Blue Hills defeated Cathedral, 16-14, to win the Super Bowl. Season over.
Naturally, this call wasn't met with pleasure from fans, coaches, players and others. Immediately after the game, Cathedral head coach Duane Sigsbury shared his thoughts on the play that altered his team's season.
After the game, Cathedral coach Duane Sigsbury was quoted in the Sunday Boston Herald as saying, "If you are going to take a game away from a kid being excited because he just made the play of his life shame on you."
Owens' mother, who was in the stands for the first time of his career because it makes her son nervous, told the media how proud she was of her son and commented on the unfortunate incident.
Matt's mother, Cathy, told FOX 25 this particular game was her first game in stands because her presence makes Matt nervous, but she was excited when she saw her son barrel into the end-zone.
"When he did it proud, proud, I was so proud of my son!" Cathy said.
Instead of celebrating the six points, Matt received a penalty flag and the touchdown was called back.
The official claimed Matt violated a MIAA regulation against excessive celebration when he raised his arm in the air on his way to the goal line.
"If you are going to penalize him for dancing, showboating, he didn't do that," Cathy said. "He was just like, I finally did it!." (via FOX 25)
The mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, even shared his very direct thoughts on the matter. And like most of us, he wasn't very happy about it.
"I think sometimes these rules are written by frustrated athletes," Menino said on a visit to the high school. "They never participated in a sport, and they don't know what it is to be excited. You play in a football game, you run for a touchdown, and you do something special."
"This kid was 18 years old, his birthday, running for the Super Bowl championship," Menino said. "You wouldn't be a human being if you didn't show some expression." (via Boston Herald)
In truth, this is a disgrace. The MIAA ought to be ashamed of itself for robbing this young athlete of his defining moment on the gridiron. Instead of that memory being magical, it will be haunting.
All because of political correctness.
Let this be a lesson to all - sportsmanship has gone way too far in American sports. While athletes should not be encouraged to taunt the opposing team, they need to understand that it's all part of the game. It's part of life, in reality. Why shade these kids from what the world is really like? There are going to be those who taunt you in life. Get used to it.
On the same note, there are also going to be moments of great excitement in life. The message the MIAA is sending here is that you shouldn't celebrate them. That is just wrong on so many levels.
The MIAA, NCAA and other governing agencies aren't doing anybody any favors by banning celebrations or taunting, especially if by doing so, they are taking away moments like this.
It's time to get rid of these moronic rules. Now.