Really, NFL!?!: A Rant on Taunting and Terrelle Pryor’s Ball Flip

Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor

The Cleveland Browns lost 20-25 to the Baltimore Ravens in truly Brownsy fashion on Sunday, blowing a 20-0 lead complete with a blocked PAT returned for a two-point conversion, an offensive explosion followed by three scoreless quarters, and a defense that went flaccid for Flacco in the second half. The main takeaway I had from the game1, however, was a handful of baffling penalties and play-reversing calls evincing a lack of judgment fit only for an NFL officiating crew and the Chris Christie administration.

The star of the show though, as far as comedic errors go, was a taunting penalty on Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor (Sr.?) after a completion that would have given the Browns a first down on the Ravens’ 10-yard line, with :21 seconds left, down five points. Instead, the ball was sent back to the 30-yard line due to “offsetting” penalties, quarterback Josh McCown threw an interception on the next play, and the Browns lost.

Which brings me to a segment I like to call, “REALLY!?! with Kyle,” a tribute2 to the segment popularized by Seth Meyers on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” in which he berates individuals and organizations for truly, inexplicably stupid and ignorant actions. Here’s a clip of Seth and Amy Poehler reprising the segment on Late Night with Seth Meyers on the topic of women’s sports, with a LeBron James shoutout to boot. I can’t do justice to the excoriation that Seth and Amy provide during “REALLY!?!,” but I’ll give this rant against “The Taunt” with all the righteous indignation I can muster.

REALLY, NFL!?! Really? In a hotly contested professional football game, you see fit to make a call of that magnitude, to help swing the fortunes of the game, for a taunting call? A call that has nothing to do with gameplay at all, on a play in which the Ravens were flagged for holding Terrelle Pryor (the taunter) to gain an unfair advantage, you saw fit to flag the Browns for harmless extracurricular activities. In a sport in which the primary objective on defense is basically felonious assault, you thought it just to penalize Terrelle Pryor for hurting another man’s feelings? REALLY, NFL?

Really, officials? Really? Did any of you narcs consider, even consider the mere possibility that Pryor was flipping the ball to the official (who needs the ball to spot it), and was doing him the slightest of favors by flipping it in his general direction? I mean look at the alleged misdeed below. The ball is literally INCHES from the official’s outstretched hands. Did the officials get together and say, “Hey, guys, maybe we should error on the side of caution on this one and SCREW THE BROWNS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE”?



I mean, REALLY NFL officials? Let’s make a conservative estimate here (in your favor), and assume there was a 90 percent chance Terrelle Pryor was maliciously trying to disgrace an opponent. I’ll give you 90. Who cares!?? Receivers and defensive backs talk trash before, during, and after every play. As far as I can tell, at least one full quarter of the receiver position is shit-talking. I think they test it at the combine, and teams even have a designated Assistant Coach of Trash Talking. So, if we as a society are going to penalize Pryor for his ball flip, then we should either: a. Have every complete pass accompanied by a 15-yard penalty; or b. Abolish the receiver position altogether.

And really, NFL? Did you not watch the rest of the football game? Ravens receiver Steve Smith has reacted to every reception of his career by generally acting like a maniac and attempting to humiliate his opposition as much as possible, including several times during Sunday’s game . And this wasn’t … anything?

So, unless every Steve Smith reception is penalized with a taunting flag, then you’re blatant hypocrites for not retracting the Pryor penalty. Also, Ravens receiver Mike Wallace celebrated one of his touchdowns by taunting the Browns crowd, finding some Ravens in the front row, giving them the ball, and taking a fake selfie with them. 

So, let me get this straight. Casually flipping a football in the general direction of an official and defensive back? TAUNTING! Taking a fake selfie after a touchdown, pandering to the cameras, and generally making a mockery of the entire sport of football? NOT TAUNTING!

Really, NFL? Taunting? Who cares? It’s a sport of millionaires trying to catch a ball. Outside of the occasional throat slash or drop-kicking the opposing team’s mascot, what’s even worth getting that upset about to penalize a team? How can you take yourself that seriously, NFL? I mean seriously NFL grow up, I mean REALLY.

Really, NFL? I know the obvious counter to “omg the refs screwed the Browns wahhh” is, “Hey, it’s not our fault the Browns blew a 20-point lead.” Plus, everyone knows the Browns would have subsequently found a way to throw an interception or fall into a sinkhole or shoot themselves in the foot with a rocket launcher disgruntled-teammate-in-Halo style. But the probability of the Browns scoring from the 10 with :21 seconds is like 40 percent, and the probability of the Browns scoring from the 30 with :21 seconds left is exactly -120 percent.

I mean, really. Plus, hadn’t Quarters 2-4 provided enough evidence for the officials to realize, “Hey, they really don’t need our help to screw this up.”? In fact, for as down-and-out as the Browns have been for the last 17 years, couldn’t you officials have found it within the depths of your kind and charitable souls to, you know, let this one slide? Clearly, Browns fans have suffered enough. Let’s not pile on, shall we? Instead, you looked at our stick-and-canvas tent that we’ve been surviving in for the last 17 years and been calling “home” for however pitiful it is, unbuckled your pants, and URINATED all over it. So THANKS.

Really, NFL officials? Really? Is :21 seconds left in the game the right time to take a stance on sportsmanship? Do the Browns a favor next time, and let us know when the blessed “Period of Graciousness” begins, during which Browns players will oblige with nothing but curtsies, salutes, and handshakes. Meanwhile, the Browns and their opponents will continue with the belligerence and mean-spirited fight club that compose the ohh let’s say remaining 59 minutes and 39 seconds of a regulation NFL game.

Really, NFL official Wayne Mackie (If that even is your real name)? Let’s ignore that your name sounds eerily close to the uptight guidance counselor on South Park, but what even compelled you to throw a penalty on that play? Was your entire family killed by a tragic ball flip in 1994? If so, I’m really sorry. But ball flips, just like bat flips, are awesome. So get over it, I mean, REALLY.

Really, NFL? Really!?! Your sport’s enforcement mechanism, for both penalties and off-field punishments, is utterly broken and completely arbitrary. It’s the Random Punishment Generator Machine, and Pryor’s taunting penalty is only the zillionth example of this.

Plus, professional football is a sport rife with serious, endemic issues that the NFL has done nothing to address. But taunting is not one of them. So, let’s get this straight, NFL. (We want to be on the same page here.) Former players’ brains turning to mush 15 years after retirement? Not that important! A robust division of the Twerking Police! Important!!!!

And finally REALLY, NFL official? If you see a gifted athlete catch a pass to move into the red zone in a one-score NFL game in the last two minutes and your first thought isn’t, “Wow, what a great catch and what a privilege it is that I get to officiate such a great game!” and instead you think, “A ball flip! That’s against the rules! Fifteen-yard penalty!” you should take a long look in the mirror, because you’re a dick, I mean REALLY.


  1. Besides “business as usual” for the Browns []
  2. Ripoff. []