Football penalties subject to interpretation

The CFL rules are on display every week in every game. Years of exposure to the rules has proven three things: the players like to break them, the referees like to enforce them, and TSN announcer Rod Black will never understand them.

The CFL rules are on display every week in every game.

Years of exposure to the rules has proven three things: the players like to break them, the referees like to enforce them, and TSN announcer Rod Black will never understand them.

This week I would like to give a tutorial on my interpretation of CFL rules. There are many rules in the game, but I will concentrate on the main points of contention — the typical penalties that drive coaches and fans crazy.

The big kid on the penalty block is holding in a game. The common belief is that holding occurs on every play, but the trick is to disguise it, or have a good reason for it.

Holding is essentially illegal use of hands on a play, it happens in football and it happens on prom night.

Football and high school romance success depends upon an ability to disguise their intentions, as both are highly susceptible to a penalty when flagged for improper holding.

The offensive tackles are the most likely to get holding penalties on a play. They have to prevent an end or linebacker from annihilating their quarterback.

The tackles are usually well over 300 pounds, while the defensive guys are typically much lighter and run like whitetail deer at a wolf convention.

O-linemen will grab onto fast-moving targets when they are beaten on a play to keep their job.

Most O-linemen develop into sleight of hand magicians as they camouflage a blatant hold from a referee’s scrutiny.

It makes them into all- star material.

Holding is also a big part of a punt or kickoff return in football, and it has been the root cause of many dazzling returns called back on account of a flag.

The special teams players are typically new guys that want to make an impact.

Many times their impact is a bad decision to grab an opponent even though the penalty has little to do with the actual return. Entirely new forms of coach profanity occur when this type of holding negates a big return.

Every player has an opportunity to hold on a play.

The trick is to pick your opportunity without a penalty flag-just like that kid in high school.

Roughing is a controversial part of a football game. The game is based upon controlled violence and sometimes the layers of control are pretty thin in a game.

The plays that create the most controversy are the split second decisions to apply violence and sometimes the player’s clock is slow.

A player commits himself to a collision slightly after his legal right to inflict bodily harm expires on the play. Sometimes the object of his bad intentions will aid the referees by a spectacular display of post-contact acting, but other times the player simply gets hurt on the play-no acting required.

The roughing penalties that make no sense are the post-play shoving matches that result in a highly unnecessary problem for the offender’s team. Football is beautifully designed for aggression and payback can be a well-known term for a female dog under the right conditions and opportunity during every game.

Lastly on my list is pass interference, a very common penalty that has a strong similarity to holding in many ways. Its best practitioners also learn how to disguise their illegal use of hands much like the O-linemen and high school kids. They also become all-stars when they reach the top of their game. Thus ends this week’s rules interpretation.

Jim may be reached at

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