A specter is haunting professional football. The specter of simulated violence.
For too long, we’ve sat idly by while giant, hulking men simulated potentially violent acts during stoppages in play. That’s not funny, and it’s not right. No one goes to a sporting event to see violence — simulated or otherwise.
I’m writing this now, of course, because Redskins cornerback Josh Norman was penalized last week for simulating bow-and-arrow violence, and some barbaric enthusiasts and/or archery cultists disagreed with that call. They are under the mistaken impression that violence is okay. It is not.
Look, I’ve seen my 9-year-old daughter and her fourth-grade friends play with bow and arrows. They even teach archery in her D.C. elementary school, blinded to the real-world possibilities of these devil tools. Merchants, if you can believe this, sell bow-and-arrow sets in toy stores — and right in the very front, too. Kids read popular young adult novels that feature bows and arrows. So you don’t need to tell me how much violence is implied by a bow-and-arrow motion. You know how much happier I would be if my kid would stop with the bow-and-arrow business and instead go out and play some sports, maybe take a few head shots from someone running at full speed? A lot happier, that’s how much.
“The key is if it’s a gesture that either mimics a violent act — whether that’s something with a firearm or a bow and arrow — or a sexually suggestive act, those are unsportsmanlike conduct,” Dean Blandino, the vice president of officiating, said this week on NFL Network. “That’s unsportsmanlike conduct.”
And who could argue with that? Who could argue against a crackdown on mimicked violence?
Violent acts are terrible things, even if they’re only mimicked.
And so it follows that no one should ever mimic a violent act.
Here’s more from Blandino:
“It’s something that officials will flag,” he said of this detestable simulated violence. “That’s direct from the competition committee. It’s something that we’re going to continue to try to be as consistent as possible. We certainly don’t want our officials getting too specific with the announcement — we can have a little fun with that — but it’s unsportsmanlike conduct. It’s an unsportsmanlike gesture, and that’s something that we’ll continue to emphasize throughout the season.”
Like others, I glanced through the rule book this week, to see the exact wording we can rely on to wipe out this plague of simulated violence. The passage comes at Rule 12 Section 3 Article 1(c), which clearly prohibits “using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.”
The rule further notes that “These acts include, but are not limited to: throat slash; machine-gun salute; sexually-suggestive gestures; prolonged gyrations; or stomping on a team logo.”
This is clear, concise and inarguable. And thank heavens for all that, too. For too long, we’ve put up with sexually-suggestive gestures on football fields. In 2016, that can not and does not fly.
As for the link between machine-gun salutes and bows and arrows; I mean, sure, a bow and arrow isn’t quite as deadly or frightening as a machine gun. But the idea is the same. These are implements of violence, and there’s just no way to tolerate that on an NFL field. It’s not funny, and it’s not right.
“I did talk to the league office in the last couple of weeks just to make sure that it was a foul, and was informed that it was,” said Fox rules analyst and former NFL executive Mike Pereira. “They look at it as the same as shooting guns. It’s in the rule book; it says you can’t do the six-gun salute or shoot. Well, the same thing: you can’t shoot a bow and arrow, and clubs have been told. … Shooting a bow and arrow is just like simulating shooting guns. It’s a foul and it’s not allowed.”
Look, we’re not really asking for too much from our pro sports entertainers. All we want them to do is help move our society in a less-violent direction. We’re talking about simulated violence, sure. But it’s just one step from simulated violence to the real thing. And we just can’t be in a place where pro sports — our weekend retreat from the real world, our chance to get away from it all — are in any way increasing the amount of violence in the world.
That’s why you should ignore those who wonder about the NFL trying to legislate its game into the ground, who worry about hypocrisy and consistency, who worry about drunken fans brawling in the stands or parking lots, who occasionally feel ill after watching something that’s supposed to be a game, who wonder if playfully simulated bows and arrows aren’t actually a heckuva lot more innocent than just about every other part of the NFL, who wonder whether cracking down on simulated bow-and-arrow violence is a distraction from more serious issues.
Because this is the serious issue. Simulated bow-and-arrow violence is wrong, and the sooner the NFL gets rid of it, the better and less violent our society will be.