Quick, name your favorite NFL signature touchdown dance from the last 10 years. Ok, I’ll make it easier, the last 5 years. That’s right; I only came up with one as well. Sure, there were “memorable” celebrations like T.O.’s signing the football with a Sharpie, Steve Smith mimicking kayaking in the end zone. I’ll even give you Ochocinco’s brief run of costume changes and random stunts. But to me, there’s only one “signature” dance and it’s not even a dance: it’s the Lambeau Leap. Which begs the question – what happened to the signature end zone celebration?
When you were a kid playing football in the park with your buddies and you score a touchdown back in the day, what did you do? Depending on what era you grew up in, you mimicked your favorite end zone move of the day. Whether it be “The Electric Slide” of Ernest Givens, the high stepping of Deion Sanders down the sideline and subsequent two-step in the end zone, the “Ickey Shuffle” (no explanation necessary) or even the “The Dirty Bird” of the Falcons from the late 90’s. Nowadays, what do you have?
Wish the ‘No Fun League’ would go Retro and allow Celebrations
The NFL has sucked all the fun out of the game. If you score a touchdown in the 2011 NFL, you have to genuflect before the referee and present him the ball, before heading to your sideline. You could try to do a half assed spike and celebrate with your teammates, but if it lingers too long you could risk a penalty, so you better not do that. Hell, it’s even permeated the college game. If you start “celebrating” before you get to the end zone, it’s a spot foul and the score doesn’t count. I understand that some of the all time greats didn’t have a dance when they scored (Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, etc.). They acted “like they’ve been there before”. I understand and respect these players and this point of view. If you’re mocking an opponent before/after a score, there’s no room for that in the game. But, there’s a difference between “mocking” and “celebrating”. It seems that the football powers have decided that they are one in the same, merged the two together and grabbed the fun with it.
What the NFL doesn’t understand is that the game is a communal experience. The fans want to be part of the game and entertained, while they cheer for their beloved home team. Sure, the Bengals fans of the 80’s and Falcons fans of the early 90s went to the games to cheer for their team, but how many were there to see Ickey and Prime Time do their thing in the end zone, so the fans could be in the stands having fun doing their versions of the dances with them?
That’s why the Lambeau Leap is the only “true” end zone celebration right now. A Packer jumps in the stands and lets the fans experience the touchdown with them. That’s what a fan wants – to feel like part of the game and enjoy it even further with their team’s trademark jump, dance or celebration. With the exorbitant sums of money fans are charged for parking, beer, food, souvenirs and the works – they still show up to every game in droves. Fans drive this game.
Let’s hope that the NFL realizes this and loosens up the fun rules again, so the uniqueness and greatness of that special end zone dance returns. Where the players can celebrate and be kids again. And the fans can become kids again as well, and celebrate and dance with them.