Posted by Adam Jacobi
During the past offseason, the Pac-12 hired former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira as its interim coordinator of officiating, and on its face, it seemed like a wise move. Pereira has decades of experience with refereeing, he knows his stuff inside and out, and he's enough of a public figure that Fox Sports has him on during broadcasts to discuss rules interpretations to fans. Sounds good, right? Here's the thing: Pereira is in his 60s now, and he's got some ideas about what's considered sportsmanlike and unsportsmanlike that players 40 years younger might have some qualms about. In particular, Pereira sees Oregon's players making the "O" gesture with their gloves, simulating and celebrating the logo of their very own school, and via Dr. Saturday, here's what he has to say:
That's not a salute to the military. Nor is that a praise to god. I think that borderlines on being unsportsmanlike conduct. And really what you want to do is not do something like this, so that you can actually take the officials out of that. I would say this: I'll go so far as to guarantee you that Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks will get a phone call this week and tell them that "You need to stop doing this." ...
Why do I guarantee it? Because I'll be the one to make it.
We'll note that Pereira specifically mentions the military and God because he had mentioned earlier in the clip that these were the two entities to whom gestures would never be penalized. And that's good. But hang on -- military and God are fine, but a salute to the fans and the school itself is out of bounds? What on earth is Pereira trying to prevent here? These guys are playing football for the school and its fans first and foremost, and a celebration like this is never going to cause any negative consequences on the field. If anything, it strengthens the bond between fan and student-athlete, and that's the type of thing that matters when it comes to selling tickets.
Moreover, the act of penalizing celebrations helps nothing. It's not like excessive enforcement of traffic laws, which at least raises money for municipalities in the form of ticket fines. We can't take penalty yards to the bank. Penalties don't sell seats or make fans happy. They don't even move the game along. Thus, they ought to be called only when there's actual cheating or bad acts occurring. Flashing the Oregon 'O' to happy fans? That ain't it, Mr. Pereira. In fact, if he really wants to see a negative reaction to an Oregon Duck throwing up the 'O' after a score, there's one surefire way to do that: have a ref throw a flag about it.
I'm not allowed to use words strong enough to convey the extent of my revulsion toward Pereira's decision here, but let's just leave it at this: he can take this ban and shove it somewhere very uncomfortable (like the back of a Volkswagen).
[UPDATE: Within 10 minutes of this article posting, Mike Pereira posted the following message on his Twitter page: "Crew..Help me! The "O" the Ducks flash is OK. Talked to others and as long as it is not prolonged or directed at an opponent, it's ok." That's reassuring, but in this video he's making an example out of an instance that is neither prolonged or directed at an opponent, so there are clearly some questions that still need to be answered. We are awaiting further comment.]