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Monday, October 5, 2009

Redding Sees No Need to Tweek Celebration Rule

In the wake of the penalty called on A.J. Green for excessive celebration at the end of the game on Saturday, there has been a developing discussion about the issues of race as they relate to these penalties. While CBS's Tim Brando certainly didn't indict anyone, he did allude to the idea that the issue would blossom.

“They don't want us to go more in-depth on why the SEC is throwing more," Brando said following the game. "I am telling you, it is a conversation, I don’t want to have it, my friend Spencer does not want to have it, and I am telling you, watch out, because people are going to take a closer look at this and it is not going to bode well for the league.”

I generally try to keep my own opinion as analytical as possible, but for the sake of full disclosure, here's what I think:

I find it nearly impossible to believe that there is any direct racial discrimination happening here, but I also am worldly enough to know that we all bring our preconceived biases to the table in everything we do. This rule is interpretive by the officials, and as Rogers Redding told me today, that leaves a lot of room for criticism.

"The officials are called upon to try to draw the line between what’s allowable in terms of teenage enthusiasm and what is either demeaning to an opponent or casts a negative image on the game from a standpoint of a player singling himself out and drawing attention to himself after making a really great play or a routine play," Redding said.

So I'll ask you, does your background -- your opinions on things like tattoos and dreadlocks and dancing on the sidelines, your thoughts about how people talk and what type of music they listen to -- do those things affect how you might judge a person's actions?

None of these decisions are made in a vacuum, so while I don't believe for a second that there are nefarious motives here, the way the rule is written leaves the door open for many of our preconceived notions about other people to sneak into the decisions being made.

In fact, it's not a whole lot different than how many of you may read Reddings' comments differently because he's a Georgia Tech grad. Same words, different context.

With all of that said, I figured it was probably only fair to post the complete transcript of my conversation with Redding.

David Hale: After reviewing the film of the excessive celebration flags in the Georgia-LSU game, what did you see?

Rogers Redding: The first and the last one were fine. The one that followed the touchdown with a minute to go, we felt like after reviewing the video that the call should not have been made.

DH: Have you spoken with Mark Richt or any Georgia officials about the call?

RR: Any communication I have with the coaches remains confidential.

DH: OK, well the call is obviously something open to interpretation, and the reaction -- due to the timing of the call and the venue -- has been pretty outspoken that in this case it was a bad call. Some people even question if there are more nefarious issues at play when these calls are made. Given the great latitude in the interpretation of the rule and the blowback that can ensue in the wake of a call like this, is there a thought to reconsider the rule the way it is currently written?

RR: That is the question, and it’s one the rules committee struggled with for some time. Last year was an important time as far as last year’s meetings because the rules committee looked at a lot of video particularly around unsportsmanlike conduct from around the country, and put together a DVD that was set out to all the players and coaches and officials.

Basically they said we think the rule as written is fine, and we generally think that the way it’s being officiated is fine. That’s not to say there might not be times when the officials either don’t call what should have been called or call what shouldn’t have been called. But in general, there’s a very strong feeling on the rules committee that rules like this need to be in place, that the coaches should teach their players to have the discipline to maintain football as a team game and not set a self-congratulatory kind of example. In fact the committee added this year a statement to the rulebook addressing sportsmanship, saying essentially those kinds of things, that it was the coaches’ responsibility in particular around coaching players to have the discipline to maintain the team aspect of the game.

So I think from the rule’s committee’s standpoint, it’s not a controversial thing from a standpoint of how the rule is written and how it’s being enforced. Now the officials are called upon to try to draw the line between what’s allowable in terms of teenage enthusiasm and what is either demeaning to an opponent or casts a negative image on the game from a standpoint of a player singling himself out and drawing attention to himself after making a really great play or a routine play.

It’s a tough situation, but the officials – what we tell our officials is, ‘Don’t go looking for stuff, but if it’s there, call it. If it’s not, don’t create it.’ I think generally we do a really good job of that, but we’re going to miss this stuff much like we miss pass interference or holding. There’s always going to be judgment involved. You’re never going to get everything removed because the official has to make a decision in a very short period of time – what am I going to call this?”

DH: Obviously fans will be upset when a call goes against their team and you'll occasionally get conspiracy theories, but CBS's Tim Brando offered some criticism following the game that alluded to issues of race potentially overshadowing some of these calls. What is your reaction to that?

RR: Well, that’s just not something I’m going to respond to.

(NOTE: Redding had not initially heard Brando's comments, which I paraphrased for him prior to his answer.)

DH: Obviously the timing of this call made it bigger than it might have been at another point in the game and since it was a national TV game between two highly ranked teams, it drew a lot of criticism. How do you talk to your officials about handling a situation like this?

RR: The timing of it for us is not an issue. We continue to coach up our officials to be diligent about using good judgment about enforcing any rule, so there’s not anything special we’d say to our officials other than to just take this as a learning opportunity and try to be judicious in making your interpretations of what you see. There’s not a whole lot to be talked about from a standpoint of making this a special case.

DH: Just a point of clarification, too. Do the officials regularly offer informal warnings to players or coaches during a game before throwing a flag, just saying something to the effect of, 'Hey, you're getting awfully close to a penalty here' before actually enforcing it?

RR: Sometimes you get a sense of a team or a particular couple of players, and you’ll see officials jumping in after a play is over and trying to prevent that from happening. So there is some preventative officiating.

And finally, this statement released by UGA from Mark Richt today: “I did talk to Rogers Redding at the SEC office Monday and I appreciate him looking into the situation. But that game is behind us and all the attention now is preparing our team to play Tennessee.”

Oh, and one more thing from my editor, Daniel Shirley: "Kool and the Gang would be embarrassed that was called a Celebration."

He's old.


Dawg Stephen said...

The intention of the rule, and the way its written is fine. The way it was carried out is not.

THanks david for covering this better than anyone else. I know CMR has to say what he said and take the high road, but Michael Adams could earn some points with me if he went and looked into this.

Redding saying it was bad doesnt let GA rekick from the 30 and possibly allow a touchback and LSU have to play that 80 yards differently and from the hurry up offense. Too little too late. hes a tech graduate, as well as the man who threw it. That will live forever.

And i just THOUGHT i hated tech before.

Dr. Spruell said...

It is all well and good that Redding doesn't see it as a racial thing; however, non-disparate treatment would require that Timmy Tebow be flagged about a dozen times per game (at least) if the standard used by SEC officials against UGA--week in and week out--is the standard. The officials need to get over the 2007 Georgia/Florida Celebration and call the UGA games without adding manure they find in the penumbras of the rule.

fulcrum said...

You forgot to ask:
Dr. Redding, why are you such a sanctimonious jagoff?

RR: . . .

doofusdawg said...

redding doesn't have to worry about changing the rule... thanks to brando the spotlight is now shining brightly on every single official on every single play in every single game... that flag won't come out of their pocket until that official's little computer between his ears has a chance to run the thousand or so calculations necessary to determine the risk level of him having his own life put under a microscope... you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Yodi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yodi said...

I think everybody should get back to good ole fashioned common sense. Obviously the call on Green was wrong, but even with me being a diehard Dawg fan, I see nothing wrong with what Scott did after his TD. Both hands pointed up for a second then a quick simple two fists to the chest move. In my eyes that is completely harmless. Calls should be made because they are in poor taste, inappropriate, taunting, disrespectul,drawn out, malicious...etc etc. What Scott did was completely harmless. Again, let's get back to common sense. If a kid scores a TD and points his middle fingers to the other team...FLAG HIM. If a kid scores and motions to the crowd to get pumped, to get loud, pumps his fist, that is harmless fun and excitement.

The whole "drawing attention to himself" thing is a complete joke. When are you not drawing attention to yourself when you celebrate?

Tim Tebow has the signature thing that he does when swinging his arms up and down, motioning to pump up the crowd. I personally think it's harmless, but he is drawing attention to himself isn't he?

Anonymous said...

Actually, the official that threw the flag (back judge) isn't a Tech grad.

And I guess the next time there's a questionable call in a UGA game with an ACC crew some idiots will blame it on the head of ACC officiating.....who's a UF grad.

Whatever. The call didn't put points on or take points off the board. In the end, LSU made plays and UGA didn't.

Anonymous said...

Nefarious nice word choice.

I believe that the etymology is Greek to Latin to Corso - not so fast my friends.

Things that we learn reading your blog-amazing.

A little humor in otherwise sinister subject.