Angry flames illuminate the sky, throwing crazy shadows across the neighborhood. Firefighters struggle to contain the blaze as concerned neighbors watch from down the street, hoping their homes won’t join the conflagration. Suddenly, a firefighter bursts from the front door, chased by a gout of smoke and flame. In his arms he cradles a small child, rescued from certain death.
The firefighter rushes to the nearby crowd, hands the baby to one of the throng, and immediately starts to do the chicken dance, as fellow firefighters abandon the containment efforts to join him in his celebration.
Rock-steady hands twirl the tiny thread. This is the last suture, the one that will ensure the patient survives this trauma. With one last tug, the repair is complete, the injured man will live to return to his family.
Spinning from the operating table, the surgeon whips off his surgical gown to reveal a tuxedo underneath. The entire room springs into a choreographed dance routine as the watching family cheers from the window. In the background, a suture slips, and the patient flatlines.
Hello NFL! The melodrama above is ridiculous and heavy-handed. I know, I wrote it. But, the sad thing is, it isn’t that far off from the spectacle we see weekly in your games. Just last night I watched Cam Newton strike a pose and glare at the camera, celebrating his first down, as 12 seconds ticked off the clock and the first half rapidly drew to a close. A play or two later, he threw an interception and lost his chance to score before the half ended.
I am well aware that my dislike of endzone and other celebrations is not the popular opinion right now. I’m also aware that asking players to respect the “dignity of the game” is a sad, sad joke. Despite this knowledge, I persist in asking that something be changed. Demanding Better, if you will. Let the boys celebrate. Let them have their silly choreography. Let them play Duck, Duck, Goose in the endzone. After all, football is a child’s game, so why not celebrate with one?
My only request is to turn the camera away. I don’t need to see every pompous celebration of base competency. Oh, you sacked the quarterback? That’s nice, since that’s why they hired you. You got a first down? Great job, your team is losing by 3 touchdowns, but make sure to act like this one minor success is equivalent to landing on the moon. You scored a touchdown! Unless you’re an offensive lineman, (or maybe the punter, but, hey, it could happen) you honestly should be expected to do that a few times in your career. Don’t act like you’ve never been there before. That just tells people how rare you succeeding is.
That’s what these celebrations are to me. You are telling everyone “Holy crap! I actually did what I’m supposed to do! That so rarely happens, I need to celebrate!” You are celebrating competency, reveling in adequacy, rewarding what is slightly better than simply showing up.
Plus it takes away from the team effort and makes it about you. That’s not exactly a lesson I want passed on to my kids who are watching with me. I’ll explain to them what they’re seeing. How these gigantic men are overly excited that they did exactly what was expected of them. I’ll explain that their success depends on everyone else, even the people who weren’t on the field right then, doing their job well. That this really was a team effort.
They probably won’t pay attention to me. I’m not the millionaire dancing like a cowboy riding a horse in front of millions.
So do I really need to see? Every single time? No, I really, really don’t. I’d like to demand better of these athletes. Ask them to act like professionals, even if they are playing a game. You can celebrate. A quick fist pump or a high-five. That’s cool. But act like you’ve scored a touchdown before. Like this isn’t the first time you’ve sacked the quarterback. Like this isn’t your participation trophy.
But, since that isn’t going to happen, can we at least point the camera at something else? Fans celebrating, the coach planning the next move, the opposite coach’s reaction. Just about anything else would be better. Cut away to the blimp! That’ll work for me.
Just, please, I can’t take another group of grown men posing for an imaginary camera like their mom was snapping a pic of them before they leave for the prom. I just can’t take it anymore.