Sunday, October 26, 2014

Football Celebrations

Football at its core is reminiscent to the gladiator battles in ancient Rome.  Gone are the swords and other weapons yet the chest armor and helmets still remain.  Gone is the inevitable death yet the terrible injuries continue.  Gone are the men fighting wild beasts to the death yet teams of men battle with the names of wild beasts such as Bears, Bengals, Lions and Rams continue to battle in spectator filled arenas.  Although I am not an expert on the gladiator games of old, I would think that after a gladiator slew their opponent there was some sort of celebration.  I can imagine that the gladiator stood over the vanquished and raised his sword to the sky while shouting with a hearty celebratory, raucous "Whoo hoo!"

While the exact language of the celebratory shout could differ from "Whoo hoo" you get the idea.  Its understandable if you think about it I mean this gladiator SURVIVED combat with another gladiator who was really trying to kill him.  Hey if some half-naked man wearing a helmet and is trying to poke me with a trident or swings a sword at me and I defeat that guy, I'm celebrating.

Let us advance a little in history to the kind of close to the present day but not and the gladiator games of the National Football League.  When I was growing up there were a few things you could be sure of when a player was tackled the other team never helped them up off of the ground.   By tackling that person and just getting up and walking away showed a sense of superiority over that player and helping them up made the tackler look weak.  The tackling team would get up and walk back to the huddle or sideline and they would act like it was something they did every day and at no time did they have to jump up and down, make up some stupid little celebratory dance or hop about like a duck on a hot plate (WKRP in Cincinnati reference).  Yes they may get "hi-fives" and yes they might be proud of their work but they acted like professionals.  Mark Gastineau, a defensive end for the New York Jets changed all of that.

That's really not fair, their were other other people that had celebrations (Billy "White Shoes" Johnson for example), but Gastineau did his celebratory "dance" after each sack.  The league didn't like it, nor did the teams he played against but it really seemed like that was a catalyst for defensive celebrations after anything they did.  Soon we had NFL players celebrating every sack, catch, first down, forced fumble, interception, tackle, punt and if you looked closely enough I'm guessing there have been celebrations for their first penalty.

Today its to the point where everyone does it and it makes them look dumb.  I can understand celebrating the "first" of any stat worthy action or game-winning play or a record-breaking stat (i.e., all time rusher, passer, etc.) but enough already.  I've been a Bear fan my entire life and I have seen some pretty great, humble performers that just do their job and after they do something, they get up and walk away like professionals.

I despise the type of player that feels compelled to dance about for no real reason and if you were to be near me when I was watching a game you would hear me say "Act like you have done that before" whenever a Bear (or any other player) decides to excessively celebrate the littlest thing.  I used to get so mad when Devin Hester would dance about because he scored a TD on a return or if he even had a long return without a score.  When Richard Dent sacked the QB he got up and walked back to the huddle unlike Jared Allen when he gets a sack and he does his "calf-roping" celebration, its silly and unnecessary.  Of all of the celebrations, Hester and Allen's are fairly mundane and are never of a concern to the physical well-being of the player.

When the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers played on Sunday, September 21st, 2014 the unthinkable happened.  Stephen Tulloch the starting MLB of the Detroit Lions got a sack on Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and following the sack Tulloch celebrated the sack and subsequently  injured his knee.  The injury was knee serious enough that Tulloch was placed on the season-ending disabled list.  Despite the fact that I am a Bear fan it is with a certain level of anger that I look at the loss of he player for the Lions.  Stupidity is a terrible reason to get hurt and now his actions have affected the season of the Lions.

If you watch football on any level, whether college or professional (hopefully not high school) you will see players jump onto piles of their players because they did something noteworthy but you also see "chest-bumping" or tackling teammates for whatever reason but the potential for injury should preclude the actions because of simple common sense.  The potential for injury while celebrating a performance that they make all of the time is asinine.

Despite the fact that such behavior has become commonplace in the NFL it thereby diminishes any potential "mind games" against an opponent thus accomplishing little more than making the celebrator look like a fool.  Another possible consequence would be making your opponent angry enough that they use it as motivation to embarrass the self-important lackey.  While such actions could be construed as simple, easily forgotten actions by a player that has overvalued their own importance, said actions could result in a negative response by their opponent thus cementing said opponent to bring forth the pain upon the self-indulgent performer.  Such actions are not mere whimsical fantasy by any stretch of the imagination.  A former NFL "bad boy" that played for the St. Louis Cardinals used to dole out his own special justice to defensive players that got on his bad side.  Conrad Dobler was notorious for special treatment to opposing players that tried to show his team up, or at times for just appearing on the field.

I would tend to think that the best way to really get under the skin of your opponent following a "celebratory action" would be to complete the play, get up and walk away without the fanfare.  If a player were involved with multiple plays in a game, or a season for that matter and they acted as if it those actions were common as the coming dawn that would bother an opponent even more.  If a player were to perform at such a level without pomp and circumstance that would cement their impression into the psyche of the people they were playing against.

I could care less about sportsmanship (shaking hands with their opponents or helping them up), but by acting like the world revolves around them through dancing and shaking their asses they open themselves up to the microscope of the NFL.  If you act like you've been there before then people will develop a healthy respect for you and what that means in the context of the NFL is that you will be under their skin and in their conscious mind.

To those players that still think stupid celebrations make you a better player, you would be wrong.  Show up, do your job and act like professionals because if you don't you will expose your skills and jeopardize all at the same time.  That is all. -----

Note:  I forgot to post this when I wrote it just a few weeks ago BUT it has become even more relevant to me as a Chicago Bears fan.  Today the Bears lost to the New England Patriots by the score of 51 - 23 and in the fourth quarter of the game a Chicago Bear player, Lamarr Houston, made one of the absolutely STUPID mistakes ever.  I'm serious, EVER.  The Bears DE made a sack with his team down 25 points, TWENTY-FREAKING-FIVE POINTS and he jumped up in the air in some type of celebration and upon landing he got hurt.  TWENTY-FREAKING-FIVE POINTS.  It's stupid, unnecessary, and asinine.  You Mr. Houston made yourself out to be a buffoon.  Can I make a small suggestion?  If your season is over because of the knee injury you suffered, give the money back to the Bears because your season has been a joke since it started and you have successfully proven to the fans of the Bears that you are not a professional and that you are not a team player.


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