It’s extremely rare to have a football game when you don’t want to strangle the refs at least once but it is usually because they made a bad call in some fashion. Every once in a while, however, you want to strangle them for not having human empathy. This past Falcons/Colts game had a very good example of that.

Keanu Neal, who missed last season due to an ACL tear, was in coverage and went down seemingly no-contact (it would be revealed later he hurt his Achilles). In his frustration and heightened emotional state, he removed his helmet and threw it off to the side. In what became probably the worst feeling injury aftermath so far this season, Neal was in obvious physical pain and emotional pain. You could tell he thought his season was over and he was about as distraught as you see a player in situations like this. It was hard to watch. He was carted off the field pretty quickly, crying the whole time. It was impossible to not feel absolutely gutted for the guy.

Well, unless you are a ref!

Removing your helmet on the field of play is a personal foul. It’s a safety concern penalty, meant to reduce the chance of any injury happening to a helmet-less player. There is a logic to it. By the letter of the law, Neal technically broke the rules. But like…read the room, refs. Would anyone really have complained if there wasn’t a penalty on Neal here? It’s not like the refs are very good at keeping consistent with their calls to begin with. The guy who took his helmet off is clearly suffering and that suffering feels more important than this. His season probably just ended. Don’t spit on him as he leaves.

The other big example I can remember with this sort of heartlessness was when Bears TE Zach Miller had his career end on a horrific leg break while catching a TD. His football career died on this catch. What hurts the most about that play was just that: it was a fucking catch. That was a goddamn touchdown. He scored. His final play should have been a fucking touchdown. He almost lost his leg for that touchdown. But because the NFL doesn’t know what a catch is they ruled that Miller didn’t maintain possession of the ball throughout “the process of the catch” and the play he died for didn’t even count. I’m still furious about this play. Fuck the officiating crew that took that TD away. Even without the snap that was a touchdown.

Maybe sometimes the spirit of the game should supersede the nitty gritty technicalities.