Imagine for a moment this scenario:
Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge launches one of those mammoth home runs they have produced so frequently this season. It’s what happens next that is interesting.
Our slugger watches the ball sail deep into the seats. Then he majestically flips his bat high in the air like Jose Bautista.
Next, he flexes his muscles like Charles Atlas and then begins a long, leisurely trot around the bases.
Between first and second, he does a somersault.
Between second and third he points derisively at the other team’s pitcher and then the other team’s dugout.
Between third and home he starts clapping, applauding his accomplishment.
And when he reaches home plate, he jumps on it with both feet, an emphatic exclamation mark for what used to be an ordinary home run.
Now Stanton or Judge would never pull a stunt like this. And most baseball players wouldn’t. They’re too modest. It could lead to a beanball brawl. But football is another story, where players feel the need to carry on in the end zone after scoring a touchdown, an activity endorsed by the National Football League.
The dancing and preening has become part of the touchdown ritual in this “Look At Me! Look At Me!’’ generation of players. Part of it can be traced to our friends at ESPN with its nightly package of highlights. The theory among some players is they have to do something to stand out, something to separate themselves from the pack, something to earn a spot on SportsCenter’s highlight package.
So instead of simply spiking the football and moving on, they dance and they dunk. Sometimes they spin the football like a child’s top. And sometimes, as in the case of “Is he suspended or isn’t he?’’ Ezekiel Elliott, they do something really special like he did last season when he jumped in the Salvation Army kettle at the back of the end zone. It should be noted that he did not leave a donation when he climbed out.
Years ago, when respect for the game was a celebrated quality, the NFL tried to get a handle on all the end zone zaniness. Carrying on in the end zone could earn your team a 15-yard penalty so keep a sock on the touchdown celebration. The proprietors of the league were immediately called Fuddy Duddies, interfering with exuberance. And the NFL became the “No Fun League.’’
Well, we can’t have that, can we? Of course not.
So now, the league has loosened the rules on celebrations. The football can be used as a prop, like the spinning top. Group demonstrations are permitted, like the old Washington Redskins Fun Bunch wide receivers. Going to the ground to celebrate is OK.
Forget the old 15-yard penalties. We want a happy-go-lucky time in the end zone. Just don’t do anything offensive, like taunting an opponent or mimicking the use of a weapon, both of which have been employed before. That would be in bad taste and the league wants nothing of bad taste.
There is also a time limit. Get the fun done in 40 seconds and then we can get back to the rock’em, sock’em stuff.
All of this plays to the millennial generation and thumbs the league’s nose at old school football fans who prefer the game be played without the histrionics.
It was ex-coach Bud Wilkinson who, when he became a broadcaster, watched the end zone carrying on and suggested a solution. “Act like you’ve been there before,’’ he said.
Sounds like good advice.