Saturday, 01 May 2010 00:00 Michael R. Shannon Editorial Dept - Philosophy

There is a story told about Vince Lombardi when he was still coaching the Green Bay Packers. During a game he sends in a rookie running back that scores a touchdown and then performs some forgettable end zone “celebration.”

Lombardi calls him over and says, “Next time, act like you’ve been there before.”

Eight words that sum up what it used to mean to be a professional. Since then football and athletic decorum has degenerated to such a degree that high school referees in Virginia are now instructed to penalize players who cavort after scoring with an unsportsmanlike conduct foul.

The National Federation of State High School Associations apt definition: “Any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself."

You might say Virginia is leading the way. Last year during a game between Broad Run and Potomac Falls, a Broad Run back was hit twice with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for excessive “celebrations.”


The first penalty was for a “chest bump” on the sidelines after a teammate scored. Instead of doing his best to make sure he did not do anything else to damage the team’s chances, this paragon of self–absorption decided to show the referees who was who. So when he scored he thrust his index finger aloft for the last ten yards in the “we’re number one” position; slapped and gestured with the ball and then chest bumped a teammate AGAIN!

It’s not enough that the stadium erupts in cheers acknowledging his effort; he wants to add his own ceremony. Here’s a guy that doesn’t hold with the aphorism that there is no “me” in team, because he spells it teame.

Naturally the “feelings” crowd thought two penalties was overly harsh and the subsequent suspension— that would have kept him out of the first round of the playoffs — was viewed as draconian.

League officials caved in and let the kid play. “Feelings” are evidently a solvent capable of dissolving the strongest resolve.

This incident is a capsule of the whole “hey look at me” ethos — made famous by toddlers — that has taken over sports in America. It shows why the NCAA instituting a rule change that bans end zone eruptions.

Many sportswriters and fans complained about the new rule alleging it takes the “creativity” and “fun” out of the game.

NEWS FLASH: If everyone is doing something it’s not creative — it’s derivative herdism.

Let me explain the concept of creativity, since there appears to be some confusion. This column is alleged to be creative, but if I took Mark Steyn’s column from The Washington Times and merely changed the byline and a few of the verbs that would not be creativity, it would be plagiarism.

I would suggest that if a “creative” player really wants to gyrate in front of a large crowd, then he should skip the halftime coach’s lecture and come out and join the cheerleaders and pep squad.

If “fans” like these little end zone jigs so much, why isn’t modern dance more popular? That’s an excellent venue for these activities and there is no waiting list for season tickets. Maybe if they served beer…

In our current Obama Age of Equal Outcomes, how can we limit the “celebrations” to receivers and backs? Athletic Justice cries out for recognition of linemen. Why not have the offensive line link arms and boogie like the Rockettes for a few seconds after every touchdown and long gainer? Games would last to eight hours but what a contribution to the nation’s “creativity” index!

I did find it surprising when coaches complained about the improv crackdown. I mistakenly assumed football coaches were islands of respect for traditional athletic values, beaten down by a heedless and hedonistic society. But no, many of them have thrown in with opposition.

The head coach at Broad Run actually said, “If you can't celebrate your hard work and success, I don't see the point in playing.” Tell that to Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Y. A. Tittle and Jim Brown.

These coaches need to get out more. My son’s played football for the Boys & Girls Club, Woodbridge Youth Football League, the American Youth Football League and Saunders Middle School. They don’t allow any of this posturing and chest–beating yet the leagues are full.

Another coach was confused about how to coach players to obey the rule. But that problem is easy to solve. Simply get a game film from the 60’s — before widespread decline set in — where a touchdown was scored. Show that play and what the player did with the ball afterwards. Repeat until the team grasps the concept. Go play your game.

Image Courtesy of DayLife - In this book cover image released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, "That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory" by John Eisenberg, us shown. - AP Photo

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