If you are a fan of basketball, you are well aware of flopping — the art of exaggerating contact to try to draw a foul on your opponent. Well, the art of flopping is also alive and well in the NFL, fans just haven’t heard a referee call it such. That is, until referee Bill Vinovich (who incidentally is also a college basketball referee) announced that there was no foul on a play because the player “took a flop” (video).
Why do players flop? Because, every once in a while, that flop might gain his team an extra first down or an extra 15 yards. In fact, players freely talk about the art of flopping (video).
How do NFL officials handle a play in which they think a player flopped? Former NFL side judge Don Carlsen told Football Zebras the most obvious case of flopping in the NFL is when a kicker tries to draw a roughing- or running-into-the-kicker foul. “Football players are just big kids and will do just about anything to have it seem they were wronged,” Carlsen said.
Carlsen said that it is not just the kickers who flop. He says many players downfield, especially receivers, try to exaggerate contact trying to get the officials to throw a flag. He recalled that it got so bad one year, the NFL tried to put a stop to it. “The biggest thing that was occurring years ago — and it became a preseason point of emphasis to teams and officials — was the receiver who would get up after an incomplete pass and with arms extended while making a 360-degree turn looking for the nearest official, begging for the call and at the same time making a mockery of officiating. As I recall, the point the NFL was making was that had better come to a stop or officials would be told to flag the unsportsmanlike act of the beggar,” Carlsen explained.
So what happens on the field when officials detect a flop? “Many times officials simply say ‘get up, not big enough’ with a smile on the face. It’s amazing how many times the player gets up with that same smile, knowing he was trying to draw the foul,” Carlsen commented.
So how does an official separate legitimate fouls from acting jobs? Carlsen said that is where experience plays a big part in making the call. He added, “The hardest part, and most visible, is when an official is running through the play in those milliseconds immediately afterward, the player starts to beg for the foul, and the official now feels the flag is warranted. It appears the flag is coming out late, but that is not always the case. It happened to me once and looking back, I wish I had kept the flag in my pocket!”
So, not only do officials have to be rules experts, they also have to be acting critics!