Just lighten up

By Jeff Feyerer

My father taught me a long time ago that sports were supposed to be fun.

Not violent, not restricting. Pure unadulterated fun.

These days I’m beginning to wonder if that description of the sporting world still holds true.

When it comes to fun, two of our most popular sports are going in opposite directions, both of which are sad.

Through the first week of the National Football League season, it looks like they want to permanently change their name to the No Fun League.

One look at the Bears-Lions game on Sunday brings evidence to this claim.

It was a torrential downpour of flags coming down on the Soldier Field grass.

Excessive celebration. Taunting. Unsportsmanlike conduct. Blinking twice without notifying a referee. You name it they called it.

I’m not going to say the referees were wrong, but they flagged the Lions for three different penalties on the same play. You rarely see a team being flagged for two penalties on the same play, let alone three.

Two of these penalties consisted of two separate incidents of offensive pass interference. You may see one offensive pass interference called in a single game. Maybe.

Penalties called on the Bears killed their emotion and killed drives.

Olin Kreutz, the enforcer of the Bears offensive line, was flagged for a personal foul when replays clearly show he was trying to back away from the situation.

And that brings us to the transgressions of the Human Mood Swing, David Terrell.

The NFL’s leading receiver after Week One (God, that sounds strange) was clearly only excited because he remembered how to catch a ball and finally accomplished something in a Bears uniform.

His five catches and 126 yards marked only the fifth time in his career he has gained at least 50 yards in a game and the first time he has done so since Week Five of 2002.

Not so good for a first round pick from Michigan who is in the top three of every all-time receiving statistic in school history and the man whose job it was to resurrect the aerial attack in the Windy City.

So how did David celebrate his breakout game?

He clapped, he screamed, he was vocal. But nothing that deserved a penalty.

And yet he was flagged.

For what?

Flipping the ball to a punter after a long gain.

You’re kidding me right, Zebra?

He didn’t stand there and taunt him. He wasn’t even looking at the player he flipped the ball to. It’s not like he gunned the ball at his head and stood over him doing the Macarena.

Not only are penalties for individual celebrations enforced, but also those for group celebrations.

The Lambeau Leap. The Mile High Salute. The Dirty Bird. The Bob’N Weave. All gave the Packers, Broncos, Falcons and Rams a fun identification with fans. All are now penalized.

Then there’s baseball.

Texas Rangers relief pitcher Frankie Francisco is being held on aggravated battery charges in an Oakland prison.

If anyone missed Francisco’s WWE audition at Network Associates Coliseum late Monday night, chances are you’ve had a chance to see a highlight because nothing like it has been seen in Major League Baseball before.

Well, maybe not chairs hurling through the air and injuring multiple people.

Over the past four years, incidents with players and fans in baseball have become commonplace.

Some of these incidents have hit close to home.

In 2000, Chad Kreuter and other members of the Dodgers charged into the crowd at Wrigley Field after someone allegedly took Kreuter’s hat and poured beer on him.

At Comiskey Park in 2002, a Chicago man and his son partook in the ultimate male bonding experience. Beating the crap out of an old man and subsequently being arrested. Way to show your kid the ropes, Dad!

It was the first, and hopefully the final, time I have been embarrassed to be a White Sox fan.

Last October, during the American League Championship Series, Yankees’ Karim Garcia and Jeff Nelson did their best soccer hooligan impression and attacked a part-time Fenway Park groundskeeper for provoking them.

Just another reason to dislike the Yankees.

The groundskeeper alleges he was only cheering for his hometown Red Sox.

Even if they were provoked by name-calling or being called overrated, which I would have said to Garcia and Nelson, that gives them no right to attack another person.

I understand some players may be concerned about the aforementioned incidents in Chicago, but let security guards do their job.

Don’t take matters into your own hands.

Francisco’s chair-throwing incident was over the line.

Baseball should suspend him for the rest of this year and part of next season.

No athlete making millions of dollars has any right to attack a fan paying $40 for a ticket and $5 for a hot dog.

But maybe they should have the right to show they are excited, having fun and that the game they are playing is not an uptight exhibition of order and discipline.

Referees and players need to lighten up.

It’s supposed to be fun.

Jeff Feyerer is a senior in communications. He can be reached at [email protected]