[lg policy] Linguistic hygiene: The Tuck Rule and Obscene Language Policy: Time for an NFL Do-Over

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 14 14:25:25 UTC 2012

The Tuck Rule and Obscene Language Policy: Time for an NFL Do-Over
Matt Sabuda
(Contributor) on March 13, 2012

There are rules that make football better. Then there are rules that
are so maddening, not even a team of attorneys can make a case for
their contribution to the game. Going into the 2012 season, the NFL
would be wise to reexamine a couple of rules both on and off the field
that affect the quality and sustainability of the game. When it comes
to a league championship for most despised on-field rule, it’s
difficult to find a more deserving candidate than the tuck rule.

According to NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2: “when a Team A
player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward
movement of his hand starts a forward pass, even if the player loses
possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his
body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then
loses possession, it is a fumble.”  Is there anyone out there that
truly understands the original point of this rule? If a quarterback’s
arm is going forward in a passing motion and the ball comes loose,
it’s an incomplete pass. That sounds simple enough. However, if the
quarterback’s arm is moving in a way that plainly indicates the
quarterback is in the process of bringing the ball back to their body
and it gets knocked away, it should be a fumble.

Anyone who has ever witnessed this rule in action can’t help but be
exasperated. If a running back takes the ball in the backfield, makes
a move to stretch the ball away from his body, then fumbles the ball
while bringing it back in toward his body, it’s a fumble. What’s the
difference between the quarterback and running back examples you ask?
There is none. It’s easy to imagine the basis for this rule being
crafted in a law office. I can just see two NFL attorneys sitting in a
room going back and forth debating what the intent of the quarterback
is under certain circumstances.

The tuck rule should be done away with immediately. It should also
serve as a reminder to the league that if their rules contradict what
the naked eye can plainly see, it’s OK to ask for a do-over. The focus
of the NFL’s rule tweaking should also shift to a well intentioned but
misplaced off-field rule. The NFL Fan Code of Conduct bans obscene or
offensive language.  As a fan of the game, there are times when I’d
like nothing more than to see the obscene loudmouth nearby thrown out
of the stadium. However, it just seems un-American to restrict a fan’s
freedom of speech.

As a former NFL employee, I’ve been on the sidelines during games. To
hear some of the trash talk that goes on would lead entire teams being
ejected by ushers for violations of this policy. I guess the speech
restrictions don’t extend to the field. While it’s admirable that the
NFL is trying to create more of a fan-friendly atmosphere, perhaps
they should focus on more important issues such as improved
restrictions on alcohol sales to already intoxicated fans.  Apply
their concern to the real issues, not superficial PR policies meant to
make the league appear more family friendly. The NFL should focus more
on the alcohol going into a fan’s mouth, than the obscenities coming
out of it. The last time I checked, a drunk fan driving home from the
game is a lot more dangerous than one using foul language.


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