Schoolyard NFL: Look at Me, Everybody!

Rant time. Let me put something on the e-record as a longtime pro football fan, and one who is ready to voluntarily abandon that position: this celebration shit has got to stop. The little endzone dances with their rehearsed choreography turn a man’s game into a schoolyard display of immaturity and poor sportsmanship. It gets defended as being somebody’s “statement” or “self-expression” - I guess some players have a hard time with basic grammar, so they turn to mime to express themselves. And not wanting to be outdone by anyone, they feel the need to keep topping what’s been done before. I’ve got no problem with genuine celebration in itself, but if it’s premeditated and/or taunting, the player cheapens whatever it is they’re celebrating. The spontaneous celebration is exciting to watch because it betrays real excitement. The premeditated routines - which get worse when other teammates join in, and even worse when someone fetches a prop - tell the viewer that the game action was not satisfactory in itself. If I was a coach witnessing an involved endzone routine, it’d take about 0.00032 seconds before I realized that that player had actually taken time out of his workweek to devise this crap. I would be mortified (at the disrespect for the game and opponent) and I’d be pissed (at the player’s arrogance) and I’d have the fool benched if not showered before anyone could say, “That’s so damn naive of you.” Naive or not, sooner or later someone in authority is going to have to stand up for pride and dignity and accept nothing less from their players.

It’s not just the prima donna wide receivers that work on their dance steps; it’s the defensive players who get up from a routine tackle and put on a mini-show. Look, in all cases, the game performance is the “statement.” Putting six points on the board says it all. Tackling the quarterback seven yards behind the line of scrimmage informs the world of what a badass you are, not the moronic strutting afterward. Act like you’ve done your goddamn job before.

I’m waiting for the one NFL game where someone from the opposing team blindsides and knocks cold a showboat in the midst of their display. But then, I’m spoiled by sports that police themselves. If you try showing up the other team in baseball, you’ll spend your next at bat brushing dirt off your chest. If you try it in the NHL, you’ll spend your next shift tasting ice. There’s a real sense of respect floating around those games, and if you don’t have it, other players will quickly help you learn it.

The funny (and sad) thing about celebrations is that their perpetrators prioritize them over team performance. In other words, over the course of a football season, how many losing efforts are decorated with dance routines? And how many teams with losing records never fail to “entertain” when they manage a touchdown?

(EDIT 7/16/07: This was written sometime in early 2006. I'm keeping this page because I think it makes some good points, but off-field behavior can be a lot worse, so much so that I've since stopped following the league.)

(EDIT 7/17/08: A recent headline declares “NFL to review tape for evidence of on-field gang signs”. Nice.)

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