The NFL's Weird Relationship with Celebrations

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By Denton Day

With just five weeks to go in the NFL season we are soon going to go from watching 26-30 teams play each week to no more than eight. Because of this we will see a decrease of end zone celebrations, one of the best things that happen on a weekly basis on Sundays.

I am a huge advocate for celebrations. I absolutely love them and I always have.

When I first fell in love with football in the mid-2000’s it was celebrations galore after a touchdown.

Chad Johnson was doing irish dances, playing golf with the pylon and the ball and advocating for his own Hall of Fame induction (which has yet to happen and may never), Steve Smith was fencing imaginary people and rowing an imaginary boat, Joe Horn made a phone call, Terrell Owens danced with pom poms and threw popcorn in his face and just about every running back ever gave the ball CPR.

Realistically I could write a column dedicated to my favorite celebrations of all time. Like Bills’ wide receiver Stevie Johnson scoring a touchdown against the Jets and mocking Plaxico Burress by pretending to shoot himself in the leg after he scored. Burress shot himself in the leg at a New York night club a few years prior. Maybe I have a twisted sense of humor for laughing at another player mocking that incident while playing the team that, that particular player is now on, but I can accept that.

Somewhere down the line the NFL decided enough was enough. There was a set of rules in place that put an end to all celebrations by dishing out lofty fines to a player that decided to celebrate with basically anything more than a spike.

The group of people in the world that believe, “act like you’ve been there before” is a life motto and not just a phrase you say to your 10-year old so he doesn’t do a backflip after he scores his first touchdown, breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

Meanwhile for everyone else, a dark cloud of blandness and zero personality covered the league.

The fines the NFL would hand out for celebrations were ridiculous, and to an extent revealed where the league’s true motives were.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with just handing the ball to the official and acting like you’ve been there before. I think it’s great that there are players who handle themselves that way, but it should not be a requirement.

To put the fines into perspective, in 2016 Redskins tight-end Vernon Davis scored and proceeded to shoot the football like it was a basketball and was fined $12,154. Later that year fellow Redskins tight-end Jordan Reed was fined $9,115 for throwing a punch at Panthers safety Kurt Coleman.

Be honest, which deserves a bigger fine? The answer should be obvious. Even those who firmly believe “act like you’ve been there before” probably want the guy who punched someone to have a bigger fine.

Less than a year later, the dark cloud has moved on and the light is shinning once again on the NFL. Players are allowed to express their emotion through celebrations following a touchdown.

Only instead of getting solo celebrations like the ones listed above, we now have team celebrations. Planned, choreographed and practiced throughout the week, we now have a front row seat to the creativity of the NFL players.

It is an aspect the league that had been missing ever since the celebration rules were clamped down.

While the residents of “act like you’ve been there before”-ville pour onto social media in outrage and claim to never watch football again, I partially feel for them.

Not because I agree with them whole-heartedly but I must admit to being very annoyed when seeing a team celebration while said team is down multiple touchdowns. That is dumb.

The idea of the celebration is to gloat that you are ahead of an opponent, it is a luxury. If your team is down multiple scores in a game that you will likely end up losing, stop celebrating.

To be fair, that does not happen often but it is still something that deserves mentioning.

Secondly, the celebrations need to be good. The Vikings celebration of eating as a team on Thanksgiving was awesome. It was funny and relatable because odds are if you were watching it you either had food or were waiting for you chance to eat food.

However, a few weeks earlier they did a leap frog celebration that was not great. Now, yes, the leap frog celebration did come after they scored against my beloved Redskins. But we have to face the facts, the celebration just was not good.

It was poorly executed and came off as forced. And it happened against the Redskins so I hate it. (Okay I only hate it because it happened against the Redskins, leave me alone.)

But there have been plenty of great team celebrations and that shows us what we’ve been missing for so long.

Allowing the players to be creative in a unique way that is not only safe for them but safe for the kids watching. No one is performing obscene gestures or spelling out profane language. It is all in good fun.

So if by some chance you are still a resident of “act like you’ve been there before”-ville, just tell your child not to do a backflip when they score to protect them from breaking their neck.