SALT LAKE CITY — Let me think. Do I use the small fork for my salad, or the big one? Should I tuck my napkin in my shirt collar? Am I supposed to order for my wife? Is it all right to mop up my plate with a dinner roll?
It's a minefield.
I bring this up because there are some pretty daunting sports etiquette issues that are out there, too. I can't enumerate the times I've heard a fan, coach or player say, "You just don't do that" when a boundary is crossed.
America has actually become politically correct in athletics, as well as politics. This occurred to me last weekend when I saw where BYU beat San Francisco 81-56. The Cougars built the lead to 31 points and finished it off in style. Or not. On one hand, BYU kept attacking after the game had long been decided — albeit with the reserves. But the Cougars did commit a no-no when Nate Austin grabbed a missed shot and exuberantly dunked with two seconds left. He could have just passed the ball out, but guys want to score.
Unless your name is Rodman, that's why you play.
Meanwhile, USF coach Rex Walters called four timeouts in the final four minutes of a hopeless game. Another no-no. He joked he had done so to annoy BYU fans, but later said it was a valuable coaching moment.
In any case, I've compiled my own list of do's and don'ts regarding sports etiquette/political correctness. Breach them and you're definitely in Charles Barkley territory:
DO say "We just seemed to want it a little bit more" after obliterating an opponent. Never mind the fact the officiating may have sabotaged the other team, or its best player was missing, or it played terribly. And certainly don't admit your team was a lot more talented.
You can never breach sports etiquette by saying you wanted it more, even though you might have rather been napping.
DO show off in the end zone. NFL scoring celebrations are as old as Ickey Woods and beyond. They're so commonplace that they've ceased to be considered icky. Never mind it's one of the most blatant kinds of taunting. It's not bragging if you've done it, I suppose.
DON'T run trick plays when you're up 43-0. That happened when Utah coach Kyle Whittingham called an onside kick against Wyoming in 2007. He ended up getting a vulgar salutation from Cowboy coach Joe Glenn.
Coaches love to say no lead is safe, but apparently some are.
DON'T stand and admire your home run as it leaves the ballpark, unless you're Reggie Jackson, who never hit a home run he didn't admire. Staring at homers is like quoting yourself, the worst kind of self-aggrandizement.
DO pound your fist on your heart and point heavenward when you sack the quarterback or score a touchdown. It makes you look both tough and religious — even Tebowcious.
DO step over a fallen opponent. It shows you're mean and unafraid to compete. But DON'T offer a hand to pick him up. It's a sure sign of compassion, which is the sure sign of a soft player.
DO run up the score in football, getting a zillion points in every game, like Boise State. DON'T make it look like you're doing it on purpose.
DO talk about the records your quarterback is setting. DON'T act like you're intent on breaking them. And be sure never to return him to the game just to set a record. That's like going back for seconds in the buffet line.
Heaven knows none of us have ever done that.
DO play all-out, every minute. As the coaches say, the full 48. Except of course when it looks like you're piling on, in which case you should only give them 40 minutes. Understand?
Neither do I.
It's an odd balance. I can see where beating an opponent by 100 points in anything is overkill. At the same time, why pull back in a 63-3 football game?25 comments on this story
How much worse will the other guys feel if it's 70-3?