Texas teen did not deserve to be disqualified

Rules, as often said, are made to be broken.

That is unless you’re the anchor person on a 4×100 relay team in Texas that happened to win a qualifying race for the state meet last week.

After crossing the finish line, Derrick Hayes made a simple gesture to the heavens to celebrate the victory. Nothing wrong with that, right? Randy Moss can pretend to moon Packers fans at Lambeau Field and get away with it, so a simple act of showing one’s faith shouldn’t cause a problem.

Ah, but those pesky rules officials in Texas had a problem with young Derrick. Apparently his skyward finger point was a violation of a rule regarding excessive celebration. No win; no trip to the state meet.

Reports indicate that Hayes was warned by an official to stop the celebratory pointing, and when he didn’t the official felt he was being disrespectful. The University Interscholastic League indicated there’s no reason to believe that Hayes was disqualified based on his faith.

Can we be serious here? If Hayes had pointed at a parent or a coach standing on the sideline, do you think he would have been disqualified?

Heaven (forgive me for using the word) forbid that someone expresses his faith in a public way. Hayes wasn’t attempting to convert others to his religious points of view. His crusade that day was to win a race and go to state.

From all indications, there was nothing celebratory about the gesture. He didn’t part any water, nor did he feed five thousand from five loaves of bread.

Tim Tebow has been far more visible in expressing his faith. He’s been criticized in some corners for his actions, but he and his team have never been penalized in any way, as far as I know.

If the true meaning of excessive celebration is used properly in professional sports, there would be more unsportsmanlike penalties than holding calls in football or traveling calls in the NBA. Chest bumps would go the way of the dinosaur. Choreographed celebrations equivalent of Broadway shows certainly wouldn’t be tolerated.

My favorite celebrations have always been the simple ones. Like Barry Sanders handing the football to an official after scoring a touchdown. Every young athlete today should be required to watch all 109 of Sanders’ touchdowns and then write 200 words on why his actions afterwards are classier than any moon walk ever performed.

Ozzie Newsome said that legendary coach Bear Bryant’s advice to him about how he should behave after scoring a touchdown was to “act like you’ve been there before.” Newsome certainly wasn’t the first athlete to be told that, and hopefully thousands of others have heard it since his college playing days in the 1970s.

Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was the master of the hand-the-ball-to-the-official-and-not-act-like-a-fool celebration. What better way to get under the skin of an opponent than being better than him and acting like it was easy?

What Hayes did at the finish line certainly wasn’t excessive. If anything, we need to see more of it.

Of course, it might be breaking “Rule 2; Section 7; Subsection B” and some Barney Fife-like official might interpret it beyond its merit. What does that say about where we’re at as a society?

For now, Hayes can cling to the words of Timothy 2 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

And he was disqualified for doing so.