Michael Irvin’s point after a first down. Michael Strahan and the New York Giants “3 pointer” sack dance of the late 00’s. Spinning the football. The “Mile High Salute.” Jacoby Jones’ touchdown dance after scoring in this year’s Super Bowl.
All of these things are about to become extinct under the NFL’s new crackdown on “taunting” and celebrations to take effect in 2013.
In fact, all of the following things were added to the NFL’s list of unacceptable behaviors after the play heading into the start of regular preseason play on Friday:
- Sack Dances
- Home run swing
- Incredible Hulk
- Spiking/spinning the ball
- Throwing the ball
- Pointing (hand or the ball)
- Verbal taunts
- Military salute
- Standing over opponent
Of those ten actions, would any one of those cause you to turn off an NFL game? In fact are any of those ten actions worse than the fact that prior to the celebration, one of the 22 players on the field may or may not have suffered significant brain trauma? Something that, in fact, would cause many to turn off their televisions.
Yet for the umpteenth time Roger Goodell and the NFL have decided to do what every league administration before them has done and has decided to crack down on celebrations to deal with the bad PR the league has been getting. Because the problems the league are facing can’t possibly be league-caused, it must be the celebrations. As if Alfred Morris doing a home run swing and saluting the crowd is going to cause Joe Sixpack to turn off Sunday Night Football.
It is different when it is foul language or unsportsmanlike play, but the actions the NFL is planning to crackdown on have been a part of football for years now; something that you will see glimpses of in all levels of football as players celebrate a big play. After all, there is a reason why NCAA players and high school players still celebrate even if those celebrations will cost their team yardage and potentially points on the board. It is because you can’t bottle up the emotion of an athlete.
These rule changes attempt to take away something that football players and fans have grown accustomed to thanks to the league; pointing after a first down dates back to Michael Irvin in the 80’s and 90’s and likely dates back further to that. The military salute started in Denver where military families largely reside and has spread across the league, as has spiking the football.
Dancing is also a cultural celebration that transcends all sport, you wouldn’t penalize Usain Bolt for dancing after winning another 100m or 200m sprint and you surely wouldn’t call out a soccer player for dancing in celebration of a huge goal, so why is it any different for NFL players to dance in celebration, especially if it is a part of their personality? The answer is because the NFL doesn’t want any personality in its league.
Personality leads to bad personalities, and bad personalties lead to things like the Arron Hernandez saga and the Pouncey brothers wearing “Free Hernandez” snapbacks. Bad personalties lead to the Riley Cooper incident. So rather than allow personality into a game that players risk their livelihood for all while under the anonymity of being behind a facemask, the NFL would sooner crack down and see one of the more entertaining aspects be removed from the game.
The NFL refuses to admit that bad people can also be good at sports, and that unsportsmanlike players exist. In doing so it has devalued its product in the name of trying to reach an audience it will never attract, doing the same thing the NBA fails again and again at doing. Trying to change the minds of people who are always going to believe the “black athlete” stereotype and have left their passion for the game a long time ago once “fundamentals” left the game.
Those type of bigoted people are never coming back and will always harp on those stereotypes on their soapboxes for as long as someone will listen, so why cater to them?
People who don’t like celebrating and athletes appearing in the arrest pages will always prefer college sports (or no sports at all) over the NFL or the NBA. They will always tell you that college athletics “has more passion” that the players “care more” and point out prima donas like Chad Johnson, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens as the stereotypical NFL player who celebrates too much and demands the spotlight. In turn, these players and their bad reputations are allowing the league to believe that all celebrating will be negatively received. At one point those type of behaviors needed to be reduced due to too much of a “me” culture spreading too fast (specifically with Mr. OchoCinco, but that is for another day) and the league wanting to nip it at the bud.
Now the NFL is going too far down that rabbit hole, trying to now adopt the NCAA model of no celebrations and forgetting the fact that while being a professional sports league that they are in the entertainment business. Eschewing the fact that 10. 1 million people dedicated their Sunday night to watch mostly third and fourth stringers play a meaningless preseason game this week and attempting to make their product less fan-friendly.
Why allow outsiders to determine your product? Did anyone consult the fans or the players around the NFL before making this decision? If so, I can assure you that there would have been a much different outcome. At the moment, the NFL is making a grave mistake in insulting the intelligence of its target audience.
Keep the celebrating in football. Keep the passion. Keep the fun.