By Mike Botticello
In the season that Gangnam Style became an international sensation, and a stadium fixture, dancing and celebrations have become a thing of the past. Over is the era that the touchdown equated to a rehearsed, anticipated end zone jubilee. We have entered the time that the touchdown dance is no more.
The league’s top players aren’t known for their end zone dances, they’re known for…of all things…scoring touchdowns.
To officially say good bye to the end zone celebration, we should first remember where it came from. The godfather of the touchdown dance was Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, who made his living as a kick returner and his name with his take on the funky chicken. No group had a better time scoring in the 80’s than the Redskins’ Fun Bunch, who has been credited with the league’s ban on excessive celebrations. And, of course, recall the Ickey Shuffle and you will find no finer, timely and beloved scoring routine in the history of the game.
Still, the golden age of the touchdown dance was ultimately besieged by the turn of the century version of the touchdown celebration. Sharpies, cell phones, popcorn and cheerleaders became props, and what was once good, wholesome fun was now forced and over thought.
Chad Johnson was creative, a student to the end zone stage. He worked to usher in a new age of the touchdown dance, which was anything but routine. It was a sideshow. From Michael Flatley to Tiger Woods, a marriage proposal to a Hall of Fame jacket, Chad constantly had to top himself. Yet, as is star faded, so too did his celebrations. And the torch had been passed, but was ultimately too burdensome to maintain. With a continuous quest for new material, the creative well ran dry.
All was not lost for us to look forward to when the game’s best players reached pay dirt. Much to the game officials’ delight, celebrations would become far less excessive.
Former NFL vice president of officiating and current NFL on FOX rules analyst, Mike Pereira, points to coaching as the main factor, “it has everything to do with coaches and it’s because of the penalty, “ Pereira says. “It’s not just a penalty on one player, but it affects the whole team.”
A look at the top scorers in the league, Arian Foster, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Calvin Johnson and Victor Cruz, we see a subdued, dignified scoring reaction. Foster’s bow, Graham and Johnson’s dunk over the uprights, Gronk’s spike, Cruz’s salsa dance (a tribute to his grandmother), and even the unthinkable, a toss of the ball to the referee (see Adrian Peterson: class act) have become the norm. They do the job, capping off the scoring play and getting the stadium rocking.
It’s not that a touchdown cannot be fun, it’s the best moment in a football game, but good players now understand something essential in scoring. They’ve done it before, many times. They’ve been there before and they know it. They score often and expect to.
So is the party over? Have we seen the end of the fun? For now, yes, but for a sport so infused with energy and passion, the joy of the touchdown will always be great. As for the dancing, that will be up to us in the stands.