Protect the Celebrations

Originally published in The Fordham Ram on September 22, 2016.

antonio-brown

Through two weeks of the season, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has made headlines for both his catches and his celebrations. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Antonio Brown was really feeling himself after catching a touchdown pass. So much so that he transformed into his “nightclub on a bye week Saturday” alter-ego, Anponio Brown (after Ginuwine’s instant classic “Pony”), and had the audacity to start twerking in the end zone. He “pumped” five times and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct due to his celebration falling under the banner of being “sexually suggestive or otherwise be construed as being in poor taste.” Come on, Antonio, think of the children who were dancing to a drug reference just last season.

Continuing on their tireless crusade against hurt feelings (I guess), the NFL has renewed its crackdown on “choreographed” celebrations this year. Hence the Cardinals’ Chandler Jones and D.J. Swearinger getting hit with a flag for an abbreviated version of the Cotton-Eye Joe in Week 1, along with Cam Newton and the Panthers drawing one for a dance I assume was to “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” in Week 2.

That leaves me with two thoughts: first, are we going to see a Kid ‘n Play get flagged next week? Second, why are group choreography pieces more morally reprehensible than individual bits? Am I supposed to believe Victor Cruz spontaneously knows how to salsa after every touchdown? And besides the dab last year, Newton had at least seven other steps beforehand that I bet he practiced at least once. Dancing solo is fine apparently (within really boring boundaries), but the second you go from Nora doing her final show solo to Nora and Tyler blending the hip-hop and ballet worlds together, you draw a flag.

The NFL is also going the way of the NBA and trying to eliminate taunting. But the NFL can’t even get that rule right. Chiefs safety Marcus Peters drew a flag for finger wagging in DeAndre Hopkins’ general direction. But, as “The Countdown” pointed out, the NFL’s official twitter account posted a GIF of caricature-of-himself JJ Watt doing the Mutombo, which has become his sack dance, just hours earlier. Watt has never been flagged for this, and the man racks up sacks like a potato farmer.

Nothing endears fans to a player more than a little personality. Jose Bautista’s bat flip was one of the biggest moments in sports last year, purely because of how wonderfully disrespectful and petty it was. Cam dabbed his way to an MVP trophy. LeBron used to throw chalk dust around like it was the last day of school. All of these are iconic, but “the product” having personality is apparently too much these days.

Despite my chagrin, I’m proud of the NFL. They’ve really stepped up and thrown flags to stop the biggest problem facing the game today. The players with concussions are going to forget how to dance – along with maybe walking or talking or breathing – soon anyway.

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