Major League Baseball embraces displays of emotion. The league thrives because it allows individual players and teams to exercise their natural right to celebrate countless plays. Younger players, especially, set the atmosphere and tone for fans watching in person and at home.
Conversely, players in the “No Fun League” – err, the National Football League – must engage in creative ways to skirt the rules of widespread celebratory censorship. Teams incur penalties when players express individualism and passion. The league prohibits player creativity at the expense of fan enjoyment and on field camaraderie.
Don’t get me wrong! At times I wish every player in all sports carried themselves like Mike Trout. Calm, but passionate. Poised, but vibrant. Confident, but humble. But I understand the value of signature celebrations like Jared Allen’s sack dance, Antonio Brown’s end zone dance moves, flamboyant first down celebrations from the retired Donald Driver, Cam Newton’s dab and Superman stunts, and countless others. Players use these celebratory gestures to commemorate outstanding feats of athleticism and perseverance. Fans love to emulate the moves performed by their favorite superstars and look forward to them every Sunday.
You don’t think Jose Bautista’s bat flip was good for the game of baseball at every level of competition? Visit YouTube, type in bat flip, and let me know how many players you see flipping bats after hitting dingers. Half of the guys and gals you see probably aren’t old enough to buy a beer, let alone vote in this year’s presidential election of lesser evils. Emulation from amateur players is great for professional baseball because that’s what sells jerseys. That’s what sells video games. That’s what people come to the park to see. That’s what keeps fresh young talent chasing the dream of becoming their favorite player.
The NFL competition committee voted in 2009 to curb end zone celebrations. Joe Horn’s hilarious, but excessive, cell phone celebration in the early 2000’s and Terrell Owens’ popcorn and sharpie episodes are surely a thing of the past. Yet, Lambeau Leaps, dunks, spikes, unoffensive dances, and simple celebrations were still allowed as of 2009. The dunk, popular celebrations for all-time greats Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez, was later outlawed.
What is a “simple” celebration? What is an unoffensive dance? I can see how Antonio Brown’s air humping and twerking can offend some people, but why the hell is the NFL succumbing to America’s Culture of Offense? I was certainly never offended by Jared Allen’s sack dance and I’ve been a Packer fan my whole life! Antonio Brown was fined over $24,000 for his Week 4 twerk session in the end zone. Terrelle Pryor was fined over $9,000 for incorporating the football in a King James-like celebration to commemorate his first career touchdown as a wide receiver.
The NFL makes money because it organizes competitive games and regulates rules to maintain integrity. I get it. But, the game is purely entertainment. ENTERTAINMENT! Other than intense competition, hard hits, and feats of athleticism in the open field, nothing is more entertaining than watching players celebrate.
The NFL is way behind MLB in this department. I don’t think we’ve reached the point at which the NFL is at risk of losing viewers. Perhaps the competition committee is emphasizing limited celebration to take the public eye off the enormous issues surrounding player safety and the long-term health effects of playing football. Whatever the reason, censoring individuality is not the solution in any society, and certainly not America.