I provided this answer to the question How do NFL players know a fair catch has been called?

It was downvoted by 2 of the moderators since

it's just your supposition, and not something from either your personal expertise nor documented in the rules or official commentary

I do agree that I hadn't originally provided a reference, and so it was not complete. Though I don't see how one self declaring they have expertise on a field is relevant or can be verified!

Anyway, I do agree the answer was not originally sublime due to lack of resources. What I'm trying to understand is why was it downvoted by mods? I've been around for a long time here, and our practice has been to downvote bad/wrong answers; otherwise if an answer is not up to expectations we leave it.

So have we set a precedent to downvote answers that don't have a reference? I was off for a month, so maybe I missed that. Doing so is harsh, specially for a site that doesn't get that many posts and is gonna nip activity of any new users in the bud immediately. Also users will pick up this kind of behaviour when it's clearly declared by the mods in the comments. Unless we wanna downvote any answer that lacks a resource moving forward, I don't think we should be downvoting posts just due to lack of resource.

  • No time now really to expand but briefly: no, this is several circumstantial things that together tip me to a downvote, not a single change in approach or policy.
    – Nij Mod
    Dec 24, 2021 at 4:33

1 Answer 1


I think I was the first to downvote, and I'll share a few reasons, but, first: mods are not "special" in their voting. We have a relatively high mod to user ratio, unfortunately, so it makes more of a difference in the score, but my vote is the same as anyone else; and I try to not comment in ways that suggest "I'm a mod, listen to me", although the diamond makes that impossible. "I" statements are the best way a mod can do that ("I have to downvote..." etc.). A mod downvote doesn't have any special meaning beyond that. If this stack were to change to be more strict (like many stacks are), we'd use mod tools to add a post notice. I didn't do that (and won't, as it doesn't seem like that's wanted here).

My reasoning as to why comes from a few places.

First, the answer did not, and still does not, really provide an answer to the question at the level I would expect of an answer to a technical question. I'll be honest here; we probably don't have anyone who can give a good answer to a technical question like this anymore, and that's unfortunate, but nonetheless; if there is no written referee guidelines or such that provide for referee instructions, odds are we won't get an answer to this question - and that's okay. Hopefully that will change. The problem with answers that provide a "guess" is that they end up discouraging other answers, and they end up reinforcing "common knowledge" that's often incorrect. You added some rules links, but they're actually not helpful: they're explaining the players' penalties, but that doesn't mean there isn't a ref signal.

Second, I'm not sure I agree! I only played (American) Football very briefly in middle school, so I'm not super familiar with the little things that you'd notice as a player or a coach and not as a viewer; but I am not sure there isn't a ref's signal. Unfortunately, you nearly never see the back judge on television, so it's hard to see what they're doing (or to hear). You might be right, but I'm not sure - and that's why I didn't answer this question when it was first asked, even though honestly I'd default to roughly what you did say.

Either way, a mod vote is just a vote - don't worry about it beyond that. If you agree with the comment, change it, if you don't, ignore it. We'll use more official methods if it's a violation of a rule.

  • I see what you're saying. Given the way the question is asked, and what the rulebooks mention, I don't think we can provide a definitive answer, unless an NFL player or coach themselves answer such question. And that's a very high bar. One needs to read between the lines, and apply observations. The refs have some signals, ex throw a thing (like the yellow flag, but darker) signaling the location of the catch. But (speculating) that can't be what a gunner looks at running full speed towards the catcher. Unless it's some sort of continuous motion by the ref.
    – alamoot
    Dec 24, 2021 at 5:51
  • 1
    I actually am not sure they don't make a hand signal themselves or call out - but I can't see clear evidence they do. I suspect you're right (that they don't), but I'm not sure. I tend, though, to err on the side of not wanting to answer a question when I'm not sure, and vote accordingly. I do think that a person who's coached in or reffed in any level of football could probably answer the question - at least for other levels if not the NFL - and it's common for stacks to have experts of that nature (Money.se has realtors, stock brokers, and traders on the site, for example).
    – Joe Mod
    Dec 24, 2021 at 5:53

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