On Monday, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield apologized for cinematically planting a Sooners flag at the center of Ohio Stadium after beating Ohio State on Saturday, saying he “got caught up in an emotional win.”

The thing about the apology is, you know Mayfield isn’t actually sorry. You know he feels like a badass for having pulled that move, that all his teammates and friends loved it, that he’s been getting pats on the back around campus for the last two days. Do we really believe the flag stunt was conceived in the spur of the moment? That he didn’t imagine it as he fell asleep in the nights leading up to the game, fantasizing about how cool it would be?

It seems awfully hard to believe that Mayfield apologized because he genuinely feels contrition about hurting his opponents’ feelings or something. More likely, he said he was sorry because someone told him to say he was sorry or because he felt like apologizing was the “right” thing to do. But here’s the question: Why?

By planting that flag at midfield in the horseshoe, Mayfield didn’t hurt anyone. He didn’t offend anyone. He didn’t disgrace anyone. He simply gloated a little bit about a huge win. It was the equivalent of a Mutombo finger wag or a Bautista bat flip. A little showmanship, nothing more.

Do Ohio State fans have reason to be angry at Mayfield? Sure! Sports are all about harboring silly grudges and resenting everything about the dude who just beat you. But why should Mayfield have to care about making the Buckeyes sad. The Ohio State players are adults. They won’t be permanently scarred by the image of Mayfield planting that flag. In fact, they’ll probably use it for motivation.

Sports are full of arbitrary lines about what is a fair celebration and what is excessive taunting. In reality, that distinction should be simple: Is anyone getting hurt by this action? No? Ok, then you do you. If Mayfield wants to rub Oklahoma’s victory in the Ohio State players’ faces, that’s his right. And if the Buckeyes want to return the favor if they run into the Sooners again, all the better.

This kind of policing player behavior makes sports less fun. There’s no good reason why NFL players shouldn’t be able to dance after scoring touchdowns, MLB players shouldn’t be able to stare awestruck at their home runs leaving the park and NBA players shouldn’t be able to dance after hitting late-game 3-pointers. Who is being hurt by these acts of exuberance? If it’s the opposing players, they have some awfully fragile egos. If it’s the kids watching at home, what’s really the concern, that they’ll grow up thinking it’s ok to celebrate winning a football game? Is that so horrible?

Baker Mayfield did something cool and fun and entertaining. Then he was forced to apologize because American sports are overrun with silly and purposeless codes of decorum. Really, the only people who should apologize are the ones who made Mayfield pretend he was sorry in the first place.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

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