Celebrations used to be saved for special occasions in sports. Now they’re a dime a dozen.
In fact, when the NFL started cracking down on excessive celebrations, people joked that NFL represented the No Fun League.
The New York Giants started the Gatorade shower tradition in 1985. It gained popularity in 1991, when linebacker Carl Banks doused coach Bill Parcells after beating the Buffalo Bills 20-19 to win the Super Bowl.
Celebrating has slowly but surely become more contagious. Coaches get coolers of ice water or Gatorade dumped on their heads after big wins. Players celebrate everything from big hits to routine tackles. It’s as if after every play, someone feels compelled to celebrate. The most common celebration is a guy dancing by himself as teammates watch.
Celebrating routine plays is bad enough, but it’s almost laughable when the player celebrating and taunting an opponent is behind by four touchdowns.
Football, being one of the more emotional and violent sports, also results in some of the most bizarre behavior.
In 1997, Gus Frerotte ran for a Washington Redskins touchdown against the New York Giants and spiked the ball against the padded cement wall beyond the back of the end zone.
No problem so far. But then he butted the top of his helmet against the wall, recoiling on impact, resulting in a strained neck and concussion.
Baseball is best known for players spraying champagne after winning the World Series. And whenever a pitcher records the final out of the World Series clinching win, the catcher runs out and tackles the pitcher, followed by a huge dogpile.
But there are other celebratory moments during the course of a 162-game season. Walk-off hits are followed by a circle of guys jumping up and down in unison.
Basketball is a bit different. Teams that celebrate after making a thunderous dunk or a great shot often find themselves giving up an easy basket on the other end of the court because opponents take advantage of the defensive lapse by the team doing the celebrating.
Believe me, this drives coaches crazy.
And then there’s the obligatory hand slap with a player who sinks a free throw. I can understand why teammates of Shaquille O’Neal might celebrate whenever he makes a free throw, but normally a free throw is not worthy of a high five.
When a player makes a basket and is fouled on the play, you’ll often see the player strut back up the court, preen for the crowd and get chest-bumped by other people his size.
As a basketball official, I’ve often thought we should chest-bump one of our partners after a good call. The cynic would say, “When does an official ever make a good call?” And it would just be my luck that I’d get knocked to the floor by my partner.
In hockey and soccer, the scorer celebrates by gleefully skating or running away from the goal and getting mobbed by teammates.
Golfers aren’t quite sure how to celebrate. Typically there’s an awkward fist-pump followed by an even more awkward high-five with a caddy.
Tennis athletes tend to sink to their knees like they can’t believe what just happened.
ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons asks a legitimate question: “Are we happy with these matches of sport and celebration? For instance, I’d love to see baseball players adopt the tennis celebration: hit a homer and just sink to your knees in complete shock for five seconds as everyone angrily stares at you.
“Wouldn’t it be more fun if the winning tennis player sprinted 40 yards like a soccer player and acted like a crazy person? What if a golfer and caddy did a two-man jump-up-and-down celebration like baseball players after a walk-off?”
I think what sports need are more clever spontaneous celebrations, or is that an oxymoron?
And I’m sure you want to know how sports columnists celebrate after writing a scintillating column.
Trust me, if I ever write one, I’ll let you know.