Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Greg Gee: Wide-receiver Steve Johnson Shoots Team In The Foot With Over-the-Top Celebration

How many times have we watched a blowout game and a player on the losing team scores, then celebrates like they just won the super bowl?

Excuse me, like he just won the super bowl.

And how about this...a player celebrating after making a hard hit even though the offense still gets the first down—celebrate what? Wasn't it his job to stop the first down?

The Cult of Personality - Hey, Look At Me

Most celebrations in NFL, unfortunately, celebrate individual accomplishments and for doing often a half a$$ job. Initially, the spirit of end zone celebrations was to entertain and share the team’s success with fans by having the scorer expressing that success with, i.e., a “dance”.

But now, it appears that the emphasis is on “let me get to the end zone so you can look at me entertain you, regardless of the score or if my celebration acceptable.” This “look me, look at me”, mentally is damaging the game and hurting teams.

Shut Down Corner: (click link)

After scoring a second quarter touchdown to give the Buffalo Bills a 14-7 lead, Stevie Johnson danced in the end zone then mocked shooting himself in the thigh, a move clearly targeting the arrest of Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress. Three years ago outside a New York City nightclub, Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg, was hospitalized and served two years in prison for the incident. As if that wasn’t enough, Johnson then flew around like a jet and mimicked a crash landing, drawing a penalty. The 15 yard call helped give the Jets good field position and they tied the game up four plays later, ironically via a Burress touchdown.

In all fairness to Johnson, he did not lose the game but his penalty was a huge contributor to the lost. And in his comments, he did acknowledge his error in judgement:

"Most definitely, it hurt our team. It was very stupid of me going through that and I feel like I cost our team the win by doing that. It was a bad decision," Johnson said. "It's irrelevant whether or not I rehearsed it or not. At the end of the day, it cost our team seven points. I have to apologize to everyone and talk to coach. I can't be doing that; I need to be more mature about the situation." source

There are others like Johnson such as Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson who caught a 52 yard pass to move his team from the one yard line two weeks ago against the New York Giants. The play was nullified because Jackson had to do a “look at me” move and get a 15 yard taunting penalty.

What’s up with these guys?

One explanation for Johnson’s generation self absorption is the ESPN highlights, especially their “love affair” with Deion Sanders highlights. Prime Time’s famous (infamous?) end zone celebrations are the blue print for this generation's self indulgent celebrations.

A celebration that places emphasis on “how I look”, over playing the game with passion. We can find someone every Sunday paying Deion homage with a Prime Time like dance to the end zone. These kids grew with ESPN bombarding them with the spectacular plays and celebrations. There was even a commercial called my ESPN moment where players dreamed of scoring and it being shown all over ESPN. The 30 seconds or less scoring sound bites became more important than the outcome of the game. A whole generation was raised on this misconception of what a celebration is supposed to be and devoid of the emotional aspect of the game.

I applaud the NFL for getting tough on celebrations. Football is an emotional sport and your celebrations should be spontaneous celebrations, not contrived. When you score that touchdown in a blowout, show that anger by spiking the ball because you’re losing! You give up the first down but get the big hit: spew some choice words at your teammates or yourself for the let down.


  1. I’m not much of a sports fan, but the sideline dance isn’t any different then slapping each other on the butt (basketball), or a high five, knuckle knock, chest bump etc. No matter how significant or insignificant the accomplishment, it’s just a way of saying, “I did it,” “I made it,” or “In your face!” It may show a little bad sportsmanship, but is it serious enough to penalize?

  2. You said it: it's bad sportsmanship. Plus, years ago players began to take celebration to the level of taunting, which led to fights; so the NFL stepped in to curb celebrations.