I was sitting comfortably on this past Sunday watching a fairly entertaining game between the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs. Alex Smith throws a touchdown pass to the flamboyant tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce, known for his end zone dancing and other moves, hurries to line up on the end zone sideline with two of his teammates in position as if to start a race. They proceed to then mimic a sack race with Kelce winning triumphantly while the other two feign falling by the wayside in disgrace.
Am I watching a football game or an episode of Battle of the Network Stars? As complex as the game of professional football is today with multiple sets and formations and audibles at the line of scrimmage, these guys really have the time and energy to choreograph this routine.
Until this year the NFL banned excessive end zone celebrations especially those that were thought to be preconceived or choreographed with teammates. Players and fans complained tagging the league with moniker, “No Fun League”. The league seemed to be selective in its enforcement. The huge windmill spike of Rob Gronkowski was overlooked and encouraged. Ezekiel Elliot jumping into a Salvation Army kettle was frowned upon and fined despite the fact that the act seemed to bring about a spike in donations at least in the Dallas area.
I have always enjoyed spontaneous celebrations clearly brought about by the heat and energy of competition. I could even buy routines that were consistent and trademark moves like the Icky Shuffle although I thought it looked a little odd. Then came Terrell Owens and his hi-jinx. Hiding a pen under the goal post to sign an autograph or eating popcorn in the end zone. I believe that is when the league began to take notice and curb the creativity of the celebrations. One could ask what came first. The leagues distaste for all things Terrell Owens or his creative and somewhat boastful celebrations that seemed to point to his star quality and less about his team.
I was one who felt that the league might have been taking some of the emotion and fun out of the game and bringing it closer to baseball where emotion and celebration might get you killed. When Antonio Brown stupidly decided to run into the goal post crotch first, that could have been punishment enough. When he decided to act out a sex act that clearly had nothing to do with football and everything to do with pushing the envelope and drawing attention to himself the line was crossed. Nevertheless, honest, emotional celebrations such as a receiver or running back leaping into the arms of a behemoth offensive linemen or traditions that honor the fans such as the Lambeau Leap, seem appropriate and about the right things.
Watching my Steelers celebrate by playing hide and seek was borderline embarrassing. People like Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene and other pillars of the NFL are probably covering their eyes and moaning every time they see one of these displays. Lambeau, Lombardi and Halas must be spinning in their graves. Even Rosey Grier, sitting doing his needlepoint, must be questioning what the hell is happening.
Dancing with the Stars is partially to blame for this travesty. When Emmett Smith, Jerry Rice and Hines Ward decide that dancing is a viable post-career move, and others follow while still active in their careers, the floodgates have been opened. Someone should remind Antonio Brown to leave the dance moves on the dance floor. Of course, the NFL is complicit as well when they have players strutting with Carrie Underwood on Sunday nights. I understand why guys want to see Carrie Underwood pretty much under any circumstances. We just don’t need the players prancing with her. She can handle it all by herself.
The NFL should go back to being the “No Fun League”. They were not exactly a failing enterprise when they restricted the post touchdown entertainment. Television contracts and viewership were at all-time highs and dwarfed the other three major leagues. Fan participation was growing and broadening including more women. As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Unfortunately, they may have broken it a little by relaxing the celebration rule. Please fix it. Bring the focus back to the game and the genuine effort and emotion that the players put into it. If the players want to choreograph something, they can always try their hands at So You Think You Can Dance.
Added for your entertainment or dismay: