December 01, 2010
Well, it finally happened: Penalties for excessive celebration have officially jumped the shark. If the NFL is the No Fun League, it's still a celebratory paradise compared to the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association. That was made clear when a Tumwater (Wash.) High running back was flagged for excessive celebration after he pointed to the heavens following a touchdown run on Monday night.
The play, which you see above, happened in the second quarter of Tumwater's 63-27 victory against East Valley in the Washington 2A state semifinals. According to KOMO News, running back Ronnie Hastie scored on a 23-yard run and celebrated as he has following each of his touchdowns this year: by pointing to the heavens.
"That wasn't the point [of the gesture], so I guess I was a little confused," Hastie told KOMO News. "I do that to give glory to my Heavenly Father, Jesus. He gives me the strength. He's the one who gives me these abilities in the first place."
Making matters even more strange, the WIAA refuses to decry the penalty, saying that until the referees' association gives it the full context of the play it can't determine whether it was an excessive celebration or not. In fact, even if it was, it says the penalty still might have been justified because Hastie did not immediately give the ball back to a referee.
"The point is to make sure the game goes on, that something that happens after a score or after a spectacular play or whatever doesn't slow down play itself," WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese told KOMO.
Yet that explanation is patently ridiculous. By those standards, any time a player spiked the ball or did anything following a touchdown except sprint with the ball directly to the referee, that player would be justifying a penalty against him. What if the player just dropped the ball once he reached the end zone? Is that an unsportsmanlike penalty? It sure sounds like it according to those standards.
This isn't the first issue that has popped up this year with Washington officials. In late October, referees in the Seattle area used pink whistles in support of charitable efforts to raise money for breast cancer awareness. In response, the Washington Officials Association said that the pink whistles were a violation of uniform code, and threatened to ban the officials who used them in game action for a playoff game, which would have cost the officials a game check. The issue was eventually resolved without any officials being fined or banned from game action.
Of course, this isn't the first time that a player giving thanks in the end zone has been attacked for a religious moment, either. Last fall, a Penn State player took a knee in the end zone after running onto the field, something a number of players from high school to the NFL do each week. Instead of saying a prayer alone and trotting off the field, he was mocked by Goldie Gopher, the University of Minnesota's mascot who was parading around his team's end zone.
At least in the case of Goldie Gopher, the University of Minnesota immediately apologized for their mascot's action. Until the WIAA does that to Hastie, the running back said he'll take his post touchdown devotion off the field.[Video: Most over-the-top touchdown celebrations]
"I'll just have to change it up and not make as big of a statement, I guess. The refs are in charge," Hastie told KOMO of how he'd react to touchdowns in Tumwater's 2A state title game against Archbishop Murphy on Saturday. "I'll just point to the sky once I'm off the field."
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