From sharpies and cellphones, to jump shots and feigned bows and arrows. Since 2009, the league has fought excessive touchdown dances and routines and now – in 2016 – it appears it is intent on letting no celebration go unpunished.
It all came to a head Sunday. After scoring his first touchdown since 2014, Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis meekly took the ball he just caught and shot it over the crossbar, as if he were making a jump shot. It was more like a free-throw shot as he barely got off the ground. Nonetheless, Davis was flagged and penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The league’s senior vice president of officiating said Davis’ playful post-touchdown routine constitutes “mimicking a basketball action,” according to Dean Blandino.
“That’s using the ball and the goalpost as a prop. That’s a violation of the rule. You can’t dunk the ball over the goalpost, shoot the ball, finger roll. All of that is illegal.”
It’s 2016 and players can’t mimic a finger roll without drawing a penalty? What would vested veterans Tony Gonzalez and LaDainian Tomlinson say of said rules?
Initially, the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was put in place to avoid such scenarios as when Joe Horn pulled a cellphone from underneath a goalpost, Terrell Owens took a body check at midfield for celebrating on the Dallas Cowboys’ star, and eccentric group celebrations.
That seemed all well in good. No one wants to see a team put on a one-act play after a 2-yard touchdown, but how did we get to the point where demure, harmless acts are seen in the same light?
Two years ago, the league outlawed players dunking on the crossbar.
Jimmy Graham followed in Gonzalez’s footsteps and made the routine his post-touchdown staple. As Rob Gronkowski spiked the ball into the turf, Graham – a former basketball player in college – would dunk the ball over the crossbar. No longer, however. The league wrote into action the “Jimmy Graham Rule,” citing the time it would take to realign the goalposts.
While a passable explanation, it was clear then that the league was intent on eliminating any and all playful celebrations.
This season, Josh Norman celebrated a defensive stop by pretending to shoot an arrow into the crowd. It wasn’t directed at a player or an opponent, still, Norman was penalized and fined. Brandin Cooks went ahead and eliminated the act from his touchdown routine.
Then Davis was reprimanded Sunday.
The NFL is currently wrestling with a drop in television ratings that seems to have caught the league by surprise. The powers that be would do well to allow their clientele to show some passion and maybe draw a few more clicks and views in the process by allowing fun and imaginative displays from their talented players.
The league is run far too much like a business as opposed to a vehicle to entertain the masses. Lighten up, instead of lightening players’ wallets.