At the recently-completed NFL owners meeting, the muckity-mucks who run the league voted 31-1 (Al Davis, lone dissenter) for a new 15-yard penalty for excessive celebrations.
The definition: Players engaging in "prolonged, excessive, premeditated or choreographed celebrations." That's in addition to the already-existing unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for taunting.
There was also agreement that any player possessing a "hard, foreign object" should be ejected, as Paul Tagliabue suggested in a memo two years ago.
To Page 2, the whole mess sounds like an officiating nightmare.
So we gazed into our crystal ball and listened in on some previously-privileged conversations that are sure to happen once the games begin this fall.
Referee: "That's a pretty good challenge, Joe. Why did you make that call?"
Umpire: "Well, Terrell danced on the Giants' logo at midfield."
Referee: "No, he wasn't dancing. He just skipped for a second while he ran off the field."
Umpire: "I'm not too fond of skipping. That seems like taunting to me. Especially when you consider the smile."
Referee: "He wasn't smiling."
Umpire: "Zoom in there. Yeah, right there. That isn't a smile?"
Referee: "I think it's a grimace. T.O. took quite a hit there."
Umpire: "Skipping and grimacing at the same time is a kind of in-your-face gesture. That's excessive."
Referee: "Ok. I'll go announce it. Penalty stands."
Referee: "What's the problem, Mike?"
Packers' coach Mike Sherman: "The Lambeau Leap is legal! That's a chicken---- call!"
Referee: "Calm down, Mike. Let me talk to Fred and see what he was thinking."
Referee: "Fred, the Lambeau Leap is legit. What's up?"
Fred the Back Judge: "They both leapt. That's too much."
Referee: "All right."
Referee: "Mike, Fred's saying a two-player leap is excessive. I'm inclined to agree."
Sherman: "Review it. Bhawoh didn't cross the plane."
Referee: "The plane?"
Sherman: "The plane! It's not an official leap if he doesn't cross into the spectator area!"
Referee: "You know, Mike, you're right. That was more of a high five than a leap. But tell your players to watch it. One leap at a time is all we're going to tolerate."
Or this ...
Referee: "Tagliabue said we have to follow the memo. I think we've got to crack down on Shockey here."
Umpire: "What are you talking about?"
Referee: "No hard, foreign objects. That's an ejection. You saw what he did. He had a pen stuck in his helmet and he signed the back of that blonde cheerleader-babe's halter top."
Line Judge: "Let's see the replay. Look, it's a Bic® Softgrip® Softgel®. It's got 'soft' written all over it. We can't eject him for that! That's a serious call. We've got to be careful."
Referee: "That's easy for you to say. You won't have Paul shouting into your ear at 3 in the morning."
Umpire: "Let's call Bob over. He's the materials engineer."
Referee: "Bob, we've got to make a call here. Soft or hard?"
Bob the Side Judge: "Well, let's see here. We've got rubber. That's soft, especially if it's free of antimony sulphide. It's plastic on the inside -- classified as soft at temperatures above 96 degrees, and it's got to be at least that hot down here."
Referee: "All right. No ejection. Just a penalty and a warning. Bob, shoot me some notes on this tonight. If Paul gets on my butt about this, I'm going to come right back at him for specifics on soft and hard."
Umpire: "You'd think with this big Levitra deal he did, he'd have considered this type of problem in advance."
Or even this ...
Referee: "Norv, you have anything unusual planned you want to alert us to?"
Norv Turner: "You know how Mr. Davis doesn't like that excessive penalty rule?"
Referee: "We have to call it, Norv, and we're going to. Just tell us what tricks you've got planned."
Turner: "We're probably going to run 45-red-CE-out. Look, here's the diagram. Center becomes an eligible receiver."
Referee: "OK. Thanks. Good luck today, coach."
Turner: "Wait! You guys are going to call something, and Mr. Davis told me to challenge it."
Referee: "What the heck are you talking about?"
Turner: "Last year, after he went to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, he gave some of our offensive players Kachashi lessons."
Turner: "It's Okinawan free-form dance. I'm not joking. A bunch of our players might Kachashi after a TD."
Referee: "Yep, we're going to have to call that."
Turner: "But it's free-form, get it? Not choreographed."
Referee: "How can you work for this guy?"
And, finally, this ...
Warren Sapp: "What'd I do? What'd I do!?"
Referee: "Look, Warren, we told you the dance was OK if you kept it short. Which you did. But we can't stand for the sexual gyrations."
Sapp: "Say what?"
Referee: "We saw that Michael Jackson dance move -- that hand ... well, you know, down there. That's not allowed. That's obscene. And that's 15 yards."
Sapp: "No no no. That wasn't intentional. Look, ref, could I have a minute alone with you? It's ... ummm, personal."
Referee: "OK, everyone. The rest of you clear out. Just me and Warren here for a minute ... OK, c'mon, Warren. What is it? Let's make this quick."
Sapp: "Look, man, I got this fierce itch down there. It comes and goes. It just got real bad for a second. I swear."
(Meanwhile, up in the booth ... )
Al Michaels: "What could they be talking about, John?"
John Madden: "I don't know. But I'll tell what they should be talking about: Tough Actin' Tinactin."