Football Penalty Flag / by kevin murray




Football is America's most popular sport with powerhouse TV ratings but why is it that the powers-to-be can't see the obvious and make a small tweak to the current usage of penalty flags to make the game much more enjoyable and of more interest.


That is to say, why is it in football that when an official throws the penalty flag it’s always yellow?  You would think that by now they would have some innovations to this aging and inadequate tradition.  Hey, how about this?  Why not one color flag for defense (let’s leave that yellow) and another color flag for an offensive infraction (let’s make that blue).  There, that solves the problem.  Two penalty flags--simple. Yes, it's a bit more complicated for the zebra-stripes but hey, the officials can practice this new procedure in the preseason and iron out all the kinks so to speak on the gridiron.


Will mistakes be made?  No doubt, but that can be rectified.  If the wrong flag is thrown down, the offending official should follow that up by throwing down the correct flag and then picking up the wrongly used one.  Having corrected this mistake in an expeditious manner, or, as in the much more likely case, having thrown the correct flag down to begin with should leave no doubt in the fan's mind, on which side the infraction will be called.  This means that by the time that official turns his mike on to announce to the crowd what the infraction was we will already know which team/side it was on.  That’s a really good thing.   How good?


Well, the most important thing to remember is that the game is for the fans.  It is much more satisfying to be able to enjoy the moment as opposed to worrying as to whether the penalty flag negates the play.  Especially, as every real fan knows, when it’s a big, big play.  Is there anything more exciting than when your team scores a critical touchdown?  Why mitigate that excitement?  It's not necessary and this simple adjustment will take care of that issue. 


So that we will find that in the future when the offensive player scores a touchdown or gains some serious yardage and you see a yellow flag it won’t stop the celebration because you will know that that flag is on the defense.  If, however, the flag is blue, you can suspect the very worst and not waste your time with meaningless and senseless celebrations. 


Just to make a final point, it's good toremember that other officials in other sports carry more than one color.  Think soccer. Yellow means caution and red means ejection. Simple.  Straightforward.  So it’s not like it hasn’t been done before.  Just as the yellow flag was a quantum leap as it replaced the inadequate whistle or horn, so will two flags be superior to the current usage of just one, and the game, the excitement, the passion, will all be the better for it.