Rules, rules, rules! Here’s one to call back
I always considered myself a pretty respectful person, but lately, I feel like I’m becoming a rule-breaker.
Here’s why: There are too many rules in our society.
I was reminded of this when I went to watch Blue Hills Regional Technical play in its Super Bowl football game last weekend against Cathedral High from Boston.
Both teams played their hearts out. With only a few minutes left to play, Blue Hills was leading, 16-14, when Cathedral’s quarterback, Matt Owens, slipped through an opening and dashed for a 56-yard touchdown.
Here’s where the rules came into play. While running toward the end zone, Owens raised his hand, for about three seconds, in celebration. Apparently, Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules forbid a player to celebrate before entering the end zone. So, the touchdown was called back, and Blue Hills went on to win.
Now, I was rooting for Blue Hills, not Cathedral. But something inside of me churned when I realized that Owens, who just ran the most important yards of his life, was going to go home with the heaviest heart in Massachusetts. I pictured him in his car. It was going to be long, long ride home.
I turned to my boyfriend and said, “That’s sad. He will never, ever forget this for the rest of his life. And,’’ I added, “this is the type of play that will be on the news and on Yahoo news. Just watch.’’
I was right. The reason it is on all the local networks and the national news is because we all know, deep down, that something is terribly wrong when we make up rules that interfere with the human experience.
We are a society that has so many rules it’s a wonder anyone is allowed to say or do anything anymore.
In the case of this game, the rule was created to prevent taunting and poor sportsmanship. Fine. No one wants to promote or witness poor sportsmanship. So create concise rules that penalize players for malicious or deliberate taunting, rather than for jubilation during the biggest moments of their lives. I don’t want to go to games and watch kids celebrate like timed robots. They are not robots; they’re people.
If Owens had turned and faced his opponent and raised his hand defiantly, well then, he would be guilty of poor sportsmanship. But when was it decided that raising a hand in a joyful moment was being a poor sport? Don’t we all rise to our feet in celebration when we see something wonderful? Don’t we lift up in unison during great performances on stage or at a rink or on a field or at a court? Are we poor sports because we feel the urge to rise and cheer? I don’t think so.
This young man did not taunt his opponent. He didn’t turn back and talk to his opponent; he didn’t face his opponent. He lifted his hand and this gesture wasn’t about his opponent at all. It was about his team and the touchdown he was about to score to give his team the championship.
If I were the mother of Cathedral’s quarterback, I’d be heartbroken. There is nothing I could do to give him back his moment of joy and nothing I could do to help him carry the burden of losing a state championship game because he was penalized for “poor sportsmanship’’ when he raised his hand.
I am hoping his parents will read this article and realize that even people rooting for Blue Hills could see their son did not demonstrate “poor sportsmanship.’’ I have three sons of my own. If I had to hear one of my sons accused of poor sportsmanship, well, I’d be beside myself.
The rules. When I think about all the rules in our world, I am convinced we have too many of them. They deny us a chance to be human. Call me nostalgic, but when I grew up it wasn’t against the rules to say “Merry Christmas’’ or “Happy Hanukkah,’’ and it wasn’t controversial to include God in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Call me nostalgic, but when I grew up, there was no timeline for our emotions and no rules for our every word and every gesture.
And when I grew up, we lost games because the other team beat us, not because we got excited and raised our hand for three seconds.
Following the MIAA rules, Blue Hills won that championship game fair and square. But at the end of the day, they won a game based on a rule that for many people - at least for many discussing this game on Yahoo and the local news - is a rule worth reconsidering.
We need rules to stop at red lights, go at green. But when a rule whittles away at our humanity, well, call me unruly, but I believe that is definitely a rule worth breaking.
So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and may God be with you all. And I say all of this with my arm up and waving jubilantly.
Rea Cassidy, a resident of Milton, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.