Column: Celebrate This

By Jon Gluskin

It’s not going to stop Chad Johnson.

Chad Johnson said it himself – so why must the NFL even try?

The NFL is far and away the most popular and profitable sport in America. Sports fans live for football Sundays and Mondays.

But on Wednesday, the league opted to take something away that the majority of fans love to see – the extravagant end zone celebrations.

The 32 NFL owners voted 29-3 in favor of officials giving out 15-yard penalties on the ensuing kickoff to anyone who dare engage in an “excessive celebration.”

Can’t, for once, a league do something for its fans? After all, we are the ones who pay exorbitant amounts of money to go to the games, buy NFL Sunday Ticket, play fantasy football and spend our money on NFL apparel.

A recent poll on ESPN.com asked if you were in favor of the NFL reining in on these end zone celebrations. Seventy-five percent of the respondents said “No.”

While 75 percent is a huge number, I’m wondering why the other 25 percent said “Yes?”

What’s wrong with the most talented and physically gifted athletes in the world having a little fun after scoring a touchdown?

There is nothing wrong.

The NFL can claim that it impeded on the integrity of the game, and that it overemphasizes the individual instead of the team and that it contributes to a lack of sportsmanship, but they’re taking themselves way too seriously if they think that celebrations are corrupting the game.

It’s one thing if these celebrations are becoming more and more distasteful or degrading, or even bordering on obscene. But that’s just not the case. The most controversial or closest thing ever to obscene was Randy Moss fake pulling down his pants and mooning the Lambeau Field crowd. If that’s too obscene for you, you need to consider finding a sense of humor.

Professional athletes are entertainers. They put on shows for the crowd. These post-touchdown celebrations are just finales to the show. These celebrations have come to define many of these players.

When you think about Johnson, you don’t think about all of his acrobatic catches and ability to keep two feet in bounds at top speeds – you think about him holding up a sign asking the NFL not to fine him; you think about him using a pylon to “putt” the football; you think about him getting down on one knee and proposing to a cheerleader.

Some people would have no idea who Joe Horn was if it weren’t for the greatest end zone celebration of all-time – the cell-phone he whipped out from under the goal post after going for six.

Terrell Owens is known for a lot of things – both good and bad – but at the top of the list are his celebrations, too. The Monday Night Football Sharpie incident? The pom poms?

It’s a good thing that these images come to mind when thinking about professional athletes. It’s a good thing that we get to see these athletes as more than just athletes. We get to see them as actual human beings with actual personalities.

“I think it’s needed,” San Diego Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer told The Associated Press. “The game is about the team, not the individual.”

He’s right in principle, but wrong when he thinks these celebrations are deemphasizing the team game. Every time Johnson does a crazy dance, he’s just helped his team by adding six points to the scoreboard.

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, the players are still going to give the fans what they want to see. The NFL is making an issue out of something that should be a non-issue, and something that won’t go away anytime soon.

Before the NFL reached its final decision, Johnson had this to say to the Cincinnati Enquirer: “Of course you cannot stop someone as creative as me. How can this bother someone as creative as me? Tell the competition committee that Chad said you can’t cover 85, and there’s no way you can stop him from entertaining.”

A 15-yard penalty isn’t going to stop him – it’s a good thing, too.

We’re all anxious to see what he’ll do next.

Jon Gluskin is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]