The touchdown celebration has long been a staple in the National Football League. More recently, players like Terrell Owens, Steve Smith and Chad Ocho Cinco (yes his last name is still Ocho Cinco) raised the celebration dance into an art form while skirting the watchful eyes of the referees.
But football doesn’t own the franchise anymore. Nowadays, celebrations have spread to practically every other sport. In soccer, players slide across the field, shirtless mind you, while the announcer yells GOOOOOAAAALLL!!! NASCAR has its burnouts and Carl Edwards back-flipping off his car after a win. Even in golf, in what is considered a “sophisticated sport,” Boo Weekley rode his golf club like a bull at the 2008 Ryder Cup. And in the NHL this season, Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal, dropped his stick and pretended it was on fire.
While colorful and entertaining, not everyone loves the celebration. In 2006, the NFL cracked down on post-touchdown dances by tacking on a 15-yard penalty. And even with the penalties, celebrations haven’t changed much; players still use footballs and other players as props. (However, certain spikes, dunks, dances, and “Lambeau Leaps” are still okay.)
But how did such well thought-out, elaborate and comical celebrations become such a centerpiece in many sports. Are they showing off for their mothers? Do players love getting fined? Is there an entertainment clause in their contracts? I don’t think so.
Players celebrate for one reason: they love promoting themselves. It’s a rush. You’ve done something spectacular and you deserve a bit of recognition. They may love their team, but it’s understandable that they take an extra step or two (or three) on a stage of tens of thousands of screaming fans.
But I got to tell the truth: I love it. And I don’t think it’s ruining the game. It’s spontaneous, creative and downright entertaining. Fact is, plenty of guys don’t celebrate at all. Take Marvin Harrison. After catching a game-changing, clutch touchdown, he’ll just toss the ball to the referee like it’s pre-season.
Just last weekend the NFL Draft got me to thinking: Which drafted players have the potential to be big celebrators? My picks? Player Number 1 is wide receiver Percy Harvin, now of the Vikings. Here’s why. He’s flamboyant, explosive and he’s got superstar potential. What more could you want from a potential celebrator?
My second guess has to be wide receiver Michael Crabtree, drafted by the 49ers. It seemed the more he was talked about last year, the more game-changing plays he made. Remember his catch to score the go-ahead touchdown against Texas? His celebration that night was toned-down (celebration rules in college are even tougher than the NFL). Just think what he might do on a national stage with the Niners.
And since the NFL does it best, here’s my list of top five celebrations of all time:
5. The Lambeau Leap: This is a tradition unlike any other. Packer players jump into the rambunctious Packer faithful. This isn’t strictly limited to Packers, but beware opponents. In 2006, Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot attempted the leap only to be denied by the angered Packer fans.
4. Chad Proposes: Chad Ocho Cinco got down on one knee and proposed to cheerleader Daphne Williams during a 2005 game against the Colts.
3. Row, Row, Row Your Boat: This is exactly what Steve Smith did, mocking the Vikings after a 69-yard reception back in 2005.
2. Can You Hear Me Now?: In 2003, Joe Horn whipped out a cell phone underneath the goal post. It was an all-around good day for Horn against the Giants; he caught four touchdowns and delivered perhaps the most unique celebration ever.
And my Number 1...
1. Please T.O., I want your autograph!: During a 2002 Monday Night match up featuring the Seahawks and 49ers, Terrell Owens pulled out a Sharpie after catching a touchdown from Jeff Garcia. He autographed the ball right there in the end zone. Instant classic.