There are certain things in life that are never going to happen, even though they make sense. There should be a three-day work week in America with a mandatory siesta. There should be a summons issued to anyone who abandons a stray shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot. And the NFL needs to promote and not punish its player for celebrations.
The NFL, the ultimate killjoy, aggressively goes after enthusiasts the way the IRS hunts down tax cheats. This is absurd. Nobody likes this. Not players. Not fans. Not even referees.
Recently, NFL Referees Association head Scott Green told SiriusXM Radio that the league puts referees in a tough spot in calling excessive celebration penalties due to the arbitrary nature of the rules.
It’s so silly. The NFL has become a Key & Peele sketch.
We live in a football world where Victor Cruz can salsa but Antonio Brown can’t twerk. Huh? Heck, you can’t even hug a referee. Outrageous.
The NFL says there were 30 excessive celebration penalties called in 2016. According to The MMQB, there were 34 over the previous three seasons – combined. Roger Goodell, the least liked commissioner in sports history, apparently wants to talk with players before possibly relaxing the rules.
What’s there to discuss? Are Roger and the Stonecutters – the 32 league owners – going to brainstorm a list of 10 approved TD dances/celebrations? What would that list look like?
1. The Spike
2. Lambeau Leap
3. Going to the Ground in Prayer
4. Spinning the Ball
5. The Charleston (dance)
6. The Twist
7. The Bunny Hop
8. The Boot Scootin’ Boogie
9. The Loco-Motion
10. The Carlton
These could be the only celebrations allowed. Any deviation from this list will immediately put the offending player on the Commissioner Exempt List for a minimum of five games.
Can’t you just see Terrell Owens weeping for this generation of players?
Owens didn’t invent the touchdown celebration, but he surely perfected it. T.O. became infamous with his Sharpie TD way back in 2002. His antics were original, funny and polarizing. In a Washington Post piece about the league’s crackdown on celebrations, he said, “I think that’s what is really taking the joy and the enjoyment out of the game.”
At this year’s Super Bowl in Houston, Goodell briefly addressed the issue of celebrations:
“[It’s] something we’ve been dealing with for well over 35 years that I’ve been in the league. In the same concept is balancing sportsmanship, avoiding taunting and trying to allow players the ability to express themselves in an exuberant way and to celebrate. We think that’s great. We want to see more of that.”
If that’s true, Goodell needs to rethink that entire idea of celebrations. The NFL should do a reverse and incentivize the players to demonstrate their creativity and personality. For your consideration, a modest proposal:
Turn end zone celebrations into a contest. Starting with Week 1 of the regular-season, players who score will be challenged to come up with new, different and fun ways to punctuate TDs. At the end of the week, a committee of former players will choose the 10 best celebrations. Fans will then vote on the best. The weekly winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000,000.
Yep, that’s right. Not a misprint. One million dollars.
There is a slight catch. The player must donate half of his winnings to a local charity in his team’s market. You can call this ambitious. You can call it unlikely. You can call it ridiculous. Just don’t forget to call it sheer genius.
The NFL will now stand for the New Fun League. The players get what they want: freedom of expression. America’s most popular sports would get an enormous boost in public relations. Yes, $17 million in payouts over the season isn’t cheap. But considering that NFL revenues are expected to reach $14 billion this year, $17 million is a pittance.
Patriots owner Bob Kraft probably has $17 million in loose change underneath the cushions of his couch. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spends half of that amount for a private helicopter just so he can avoid rush hour traffic.
But millions would be a serious influx of cash for local charities. Think about how happy Meals on Wheels in Pittsburgh would be to receive one of those giant oversized checks from a smiling (and twerking) Antonio Brown.
Brown is a hero. The NFL is a hero. Heck, Goodell would polish up his tarnished image.
Obviously, there need to be some ground rules so that things don’t get out of hand. The contest would only apply to touchdowns. Players could still get a flag for unsportsmanlike conduction for celebrating non-scores. The celebrations must also be subject to a time limit, 30 seconds or a minute, tops. Nobody wants to see anyone do a 12-minute choreographed dance.
As for props, players probably should be limited to objects that are already part of the field. However, I’m willing to bend a little on this rule if it’s something original. Also, there cannot be a cross-marketing ploy behind the idea.
Rob Gronkowski would not be allowed to celebrate by jumping into a parade float made to resemble his Gronk Party Ship. He certainly couldn’t grab a mike and say “And remember, if you sign up for the cruise right now, one lucky fan will have a chance to win a discounted admission price of just $69.69.
Heh. 69. Love that Gronk.
Football features spectacular athletes with compelling stories and personalities. Allow them to shine. Make the NFL great again. Give us back our pursuit of happiness. Give us back our TD celebrations.