WHY CALLING IT TARGETING IS A MISTAKE. I have posted a number of times about the dangers, especially the possibility of concussions, from a football player’s delivering a blow with the top of his helmet to an opponent in a vulnerable position. Here is a helpful summary by Jason Kirk of the rule for college football that deals with what is called “targeting”. Kirk observes at the beginning of the article that: “Fans and media are often frustrated with the rule’s seemingly inconsistent usage….”
I think that one reason for the inconsistency arises from the use of the word “targeting”. The purpose of the rule is to prevent certain types of contact which are considered dangerous. The obvious way to prevent that contact is to impose the penalty for the contact—whether or not intentional. The intent of the person who is penalized should be irrelevant.
Unfortunately, using the word “targeting” has a strong suggestion that a bad purpose is required for a penalty to be imposed. The result is that there is too much attention paid to trying to get into the thought process of the player who made contact with the top of his helmet. But it’s injuries we are trying to prevent. We want to prevent blows whether they are accidental or deliberate. So the focus on purpose is on an issue that is irrelevant. And a reluctance to call a player a bad person introduces errors in assessing penalties.