Often it seems that Commissioner Goodell and company are content on slowly leeching the fun out of football one new rule at a time. The latest example being the recent announcement that the NFL will penalize dunking celebrations after touchdowns next season. While it is not exactly clear if Vernon Davis’ patented fade away jumper is safe, somewhere Jimmy Graham is likely saying ‘you stole my move’. Meanwhile, the recently retired Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer and crossbar rocker extraordinaire, took to twitter stating that he does not understand the need for the change, and that it appears he “got out just in time.”
Dean Blandino, the NFL vice president of officiating, essentially cited the excessive celebration rule that was put in place back in 2006, stating that no player can use an object as a prop, or the the ball as a prop in anyway during a touchdown celebration. Only now the league will consider the ball a prop if it is dunked over the crossbar, and penalty will ensue. The question is why did it take so long for the league to change their ruling on the celebration? One has to wonder if Jimmy Graham’s thunderous slam that rocked the upright in Atlanta factored into the decision, and if it did, it is interesting that it comes on the heels of league discussions to raise the posts by five feet.
Blandino also discussed on The Dan Patrick Show how some celebrations have been grandfathered in, such as the Lambeau Leap. But if running through the end zone and jumping into a frozen Green Bay crowd is okay, then what is wrong with slamming a ball over the crossbar? There was reason for the rules implemented back in ’06, as some players put so much focus on touchdown celebrations that they began making a sideshow of their teams, displaying a childish look-at-me mentality, and attracting cameras with sideline antics rather than performance on the field. It would have been fitting if the rule originally stated that the NFL will penalize dunking celebrations back then, when everyone was trying to one-up the next man, but not now after so many stars have added the dunk to their post-touchdown repertoire.
It is understandable that the league would like players acting with a certain level of conduct but how far will it go until the fun has been sucked out of the game so many sports enthusiasts love? What Atlanta Falcons fan did not enjoy the first time they watched Deion Sanders strut the ‘Prime Time’ dance after an interception return? Or a Giants fan when Victor Cruz danced the salsa? Or even Chad Johnson when he busted into a Riverdance? There is nothing wrong with athletes celebrating the game they love, as long as the focus is on the game and what is best for their team. Even some of the most famous prop-centered celebrations like Terrell Owens’ Sharpie, or Joe Horn’s hidden cell phone, though premeditated acts, they were just as quick as a Lambeau Leap and did not disrupt the flow of the game. They were simply two stars performing at their best and celebrating the results of their labor. Not everyone can be Barry Sanders and hand the ball to the referee dismissively after scoring. Some players are very expressive and take pride in their talent, and why should they not be allowed to? Besides the celebration is not only fun for the fans, but fun for the players and teams. The season is a long and grueling, filled with injuries and close calls, and a little bit of fun sometimes can lift a team out of a slump, and remind players why they chose to play the game of football.
The league has already put rules in place that have lessened the amount of celebrations, and why they wish to take away more is anyone’s guess. Tony Gonzalez no longer needs to worry about how he will celebrate his next touchdown, but Jimmy Graham on the other hand, will have to return to the old drawing board to figure out what to do now that the league has nixed his patented move. Though, one thing is now certain, and that is that all high-flyers best beware, the NFL will penalize dunking celebrations.
Commentary by Kalen Skalesky