The Touchdown Celebration: When does it become excessive.

December 5, 2011

Political Theory

Before I even begin my argument, flashback for a moment sports fans. It’s the 2007 Tostidos Fiesta Bowl. Undefeated underdog Boise State (who is Boise State?) is pitted up against the Oklahoma Sooners, a top ten team at the time. At the time, it was the second time a team not affiliated with an automatic qualifying conference has appeared in a BCS bowl game, thus leading to the heavily favored Sooners. No one thought Boise State deserved to be on the same field as the Sooners and their starpower which included highly touted Runningback Adrian Peterson. However, Boise State battled and stayed within a close score differential with the help of some trickery on a “Hook and Ladder” play in the fourth quarter. Finally, on a two point conversion in overtime that was either win or lose for Boise State, Broncos quarterback Jared Zabransky fakes a pass and hands off to Runningback Ian Johnson in a “Statue of Liberty” trick play to ultimately claim victory over the Sooners. The ensuing celebration resulted in Johnson running over to his girlfriend and proposing to her: a storybook ending? or an excessive touchdown celebration?

Johnson proposing to his girlfriend for the ultimate touchdown celebration

This is merely one example of the everlasting debate regarding the touchdown celebration. However, this is certainly not the most excessive compared to some of the celebrations NFL superstars have performed. Most NFL fans are highly aware of the amount of money Patriots Wide Reciever Chad Ochocinco has paid in touchdown celebrations in fines. This is due to their limit on touchdown celebration in hopes to avoid excessive show boating.

It is of great debate as to whether or not the NFL is able to limit the players’ expression. On one hand, the NFL does not want to have a negative pubilicity associated to touchdown celebrations such as Terrell Owens famous popcorn celebration pictured above. By giving players the ability to perform such ridiculous celebrations could possibly lead to a slippery slope of more showmanship than actual athletic performance.

On the other hand, the touchdown celebration adds an element to the experience of watching a football game. It attracts a different demographic of the fans that aren’t as die-hard. Besides, how cool would it be to see your favorite player score a touchdown, sign that football and hand it to you while your in a crowd (see Terrell Owens again). In a way, it’s an excellent marketing strategy to allow some showboating, as long as it is not offensive. It really seems to all be in good fun, especially with players like Ochocinco and Owens.

The NFL’s implementation of these rules on the expression players are aloud to have following scoring a touchdown, you are ultimately taking away notions of free expression. However, do you think the NFL, being that they are a private business, has the ability to make such rules for its employers? Or, do you think that this is a violation of Mill’s notions of free speech and expression?




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7 Comments on “The Touchdown Celebration: When does it become excessive.”

  1. ymsyed Says:

    I personally think that there should be absolutely no restrictions on touchdown celebrations. I think that they had to the game and that players who score deserve to be able to express themselves. As long as they aren’t delaying the game with their celebrations, they should be fine. Some of the things I remember most about watching football are the celebrations of the likes of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. It is the only time that a player gets to express himself to the public.

    I also believe that the NFL’s current rules go against the principles of Mill that we learned about in class. As long as a party’s expression does not inflict harm on anyone else, Mill argued that people should be free to openly express themselves. Applying Mill’s principles in this specific situation, it would seem then that the NFL is wrong in restricting celebrations.

  2. rpsafian Says:

    I think this is a very interesting post that brings up an important discussion topic in football and through out the world of sports. I disagree with ymsyed’s notion that touchdown celebrations should be allowed. I don’t think a touchdown celebration is the right way for a professional football player to express themselves when millions of people are watching what that person is doing. Clearly they’re not going to score, take off their helmet, and say or do something so profound that viewers will be like, “Wow, because of that touchdown celebration he must be a really good guy.” Personally, I believe touch down celebrations are childish and pretty hypocritical. How many touchdowns do you think a professional quarterback, running back, or receiver has scored in their lifetime? 100? 250? 1000? If a professional football player is receiving millions of dollars to do his job, which is to score touchdowns, they should act like they’ve been there before as soon as they score. The most intimidating touchdown celebration I have ever seen was a player scored, immediately turned around and walked down the sideline of the opposing team. He wasn’t shaking his head, waving his finger, or jumping up and down. He simply was making his presence known to the other team and walked with an “all-day” kind of swagger. He scored and moved on because he knew he would score another touchdown, and I believe it should be like this for every touchdown, including those in the NFL.

    Even though I am against touchdown celebrations, they can be justified by Mill’s argument. It is true that many celebrations are completely harmless and rather entertaining, therefore Mill would say that a player should be able to do whatever he wants after he scores. FIFA, the International Federation of Association of Futbol (soccer), has taken more of a Millian approach when it comes to goal celebrations. They have fewer rules regarding what teams can do in celebration of a goal and in turn, FIFA goal celebrations make for some of the most creative and memorable celebrations in all of professional sports. They are many worse things in professional sports that fans and athletes should be worrying about, however I think that football celebrations are unnecessary and should be removed from the game entirely.

  3. finkelbr Says:

    The NFL seems to be getting more and more strict as the years go by. Wide receivers seem to be “untouchable” and a touchdown celebration can cost a player enough to buy a Mercedes. I disagree with the NFL putting these restrictions on the touchdown celebration. Unfortunately, I do believe that the NFL has the ability to attempt to put such rules in place..I just do not agree with them. Companies have rules on how one should act in the office so why cant the NFL have rules on how their players should act while on the field? That being said, I think the NFL has gotten way too strict. I do not see a problem with an excessive celebration as long as it doe not harm anyone. Scoring a touchdown in the National Football League is quite the accomplishment for a player and having a celebration after, even if it is somewhat excessive, should not be penalized. There is no harm to the game nor fans because of Terrell Owens celebrations. An extra ten seconds of celebration so he can sign a football or throw popcorn at his face has no negative effects on the game. I would have to say that this would be considered a violation of mills notions of free expression. Since there is a fine associated with a player expressing themselves after a touchdown, their freedom of expression is being violated. It is not up to the NFL to be able to decide how long a celebration should be or how “excessive” it can or can not be. Have a little bit of fun NFL and lighten up a little bit.

  4. lmaren Says:

    I agree that the restrictions on game celebrations are too tight. However, that does not mean that they are wrong to create these rules. The NFL is not a government, so they don’t have to follow the same rules that the government has. In the NFL, all members must agree to play by the rules that they make. And since they made restrictions celebrations, they have a right to do so. But, it is definitely a restriction on the freedom of expression. Celebrations are a form of entertainment for the viewers.
    Television broadcasters and the NFL really should welcome it because it makes the game more thrilling and exciting. If the players were not as excited, would you be as excited about their victories? Many colleges have a tradition of the students running onto the field after the team has won. The University of Utah’s field was rushed by fans when they made it into the fiesta bowl and each year after their last game. It is simply fun for the audience and everyone has a right to celebrate if they want! I think that sports on TV are an entertainment business just as much as a sports business.

  5. benjadler Says: (ESPN commercial for Chad Ochocinco) (ESPN’s Sports Center top 10 touchdown celebrations)

    I agree that it is freedom of speech and should not be limited (especially for the sake of entertainment in the game). However, I also think that the NFL, as a private corporation, has the right to limit the freedom of its employees and if they want that changed, then they need to restructure their union contract. That being said, some celebrations can be quite offensive (a la Steve Johnson’s fake shooting himself this season, Randy Moss mooning Packers’ fans, and Steve Smith mocking the Vikings boat scandal) and can hurt the reputation of the game as many people change their views on football. When this was a controversial issue a few years ago when the NFL changed its celebration rules, many people believed that it would be good for the sport to increase the class and remove some of the showboating of overpaid players.

    Personally, I love the creativity and think there should be no restrictions. People were always on edge to see what Chad would do next.

  6. jpstern Says:

    While I do feel that celebration is a great aspect of all sports, I can understand why the NFL is trying to limit how excessive the celebrations are. Professional soccer players are known for the ridiculousness of their goal celebrations and fans live to see something new and exciting, yet often the players are carded for expressing their joy for scoring the goal. There is no reason that soccer should be able penalize, but not NFL, so this is why I feel like the NFL is justified. Also, often the celebrations are performed with such adrenaline that the player injures themselves or the players may greatly embarras the organization if they do something stupid. While I do feel like the limitation may be justified, I really don’t agree with actually following through with it. Celebrations make sports exciting because when the player expresses their joy, its impossible to not feel pretty good for them too.

  7. collinam Says:

    I think that the NFL has every right to limit the touchdown celebrations of players in the NFL. NFL players willingly submit themselves to the rules of the NFL. The players could leave their jobs at any moment they wanted to if they thought that the rules were unfair. Since the players willingly play in the league, then they must abide by the rules that the NFL establishes.

    The question is then: should the NFL limit the players celebrations? I think they should to an extent. Personally, I think the touchdown celebrations are often very witty and well thought out. As long as the celebration is just good-natured fun, I don’t have a problem with it. When the players begin to taunt members of the other team, and sportsmanship is lost, then the NFL should penalize the players. This goes against the ideas of Mill, but I think that it’s best for the league. A certain level of sportsmanship needs to be maintained in the league and it’s the NFL’s job to uphold that standard. If the players are trying to taunt the other team with their celebrations or are doing something lude that doesn’t belong on TV, then the NFL should penalize the players. I think this penalty should come in the form of a fine however. A 15 yard penalty is not the answer to this problem. The outcome of games should be decided by the play of the players, not what they do in the endzone. The players should just be fined by the league in a progressive nature if their celebrations are unacceptable. This way the players are free to express themselves, but will be penalized if they are out of line.

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