In a little-noticed move yesterday, the NFL published what can only be described as a price list for teams that want to get the rules waived during a game. All the team needs to do is inform the officials of the intended infraction and pay the designated amount (I’m guessing payments will be electronic?). The refs get payment confirmation and no flag will be thrown.
Word of this price list circulated quickly through the dark side of the Internet as players and teams fought to keep it secret. Of course, once something hits the Internet, it doesn’t remain secret for long.
Despite my efforts, I haven’t been able to get ahold of the actual price list, but based on the comments I’ve seen I can piece together some of its parts. Some were willing to chat with me online and share their thoughts. Out of respect, I won’t identify people making comments.
“This is great!” said one player. “If we need to interfere with a receiver, all we have to do is signal that the team will pay the $10,000. That’s a small price to pay for preventing your opponent from taking the lead in the fourth quarter.”
One coach noted that his club—one of the wealthiest—will have a distinct advantage. “We’ve had strong teams in recent years but just haven’t been able to get past the last hurdle. We’ve got plenty of cash, and I suspect we will use it to level the playing field against certain teams.”
I asked this coach if the NFL should just shred the rule book all together. “No,” he said. “Certain rules have to be there for safety reasons. That’s why grabbing a guy’s face mask will still get you a yardage penalty. But the rules designed to ensure fair competition, well, it’ll be nice to get them waived when needed.” When pressed to identify when a waiver might be needed, the coach said, “Say your offense has momentum. The last thing your guys need is some dunderhead getting himself declared an ineligible receiver and cutting the momentum off. For a lousy thousand bucks, we can ensure that a dumb mistake won’t kill us.”
With all of this coming on the heels of “Deflate-gate,” I had to ask the obvious question: does this price list include using under-inflated balls? One player would only say, “What do you think?” I asked what the named cost was, but he demurred. “It’s not a million bucks, I’ll say that.” He wouldn’t reveal anything more, which leads one to wonder: are there increased prices for playoff games, championship games, and even the Super Bowl? After asking the coach this question repeatedly, he simply signed off the chat.