The N(o) F(un) L(eague)

A touchdown is scored.  The scoring player politely hands the referee the football.  A penalty flag is thrown. The player has been flagged for handing the ball to the referee.  Turns out, he handed the ball to the wrong official.  He should have handed the ball to the back judge.

This is might sound far fetched, yes, but there may one day be an NFL in which we witness this happening.  The decline of play on the field has already grown to be quite frustrating this year. (The Yellow Flags Fly High) Recently we've seen a player flagged for falling to his knees in prayer (NFL already apologized for this one, but the damage has been done.  It's okay for Tim Tebow, though).  Add in fines for how a player accessorizes after a game and we are seeing a clear change before our eyes.  Welcome to the corporate future, NFL players.  You are now part of a machine that is slowly sucking away your personalities.

This all began in the year 1988.  A man that would go on to finish his career with 1,525 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns became a sensation and forced the NFL to re-evaluate on the field celebrations.  In the 1988 season, this man began a touchdown dance that captured a nation's heart.  That man's name is Ickey Woods and he can be seen here.

That's right.  The Ickey Shuffle took hold of a nation.  The NFL promptly told him that these celebrations could no longer be held on the field of play.  Probably why very little video can be found of him celebrating on the actual field.

Woods and his Ickey Shuffle were never the same.  A year after shuffling his way to 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns, Woods ran for a mere 94 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Now, this was due to injury, but is it so hard to fathom that the young man's spirit was broken by this ban on celebrations?  Woods would eventually retire after the 1991 season, never to recapture that golden year of 1988.

Fast forward to the 2000's.  A new wave of entertainers have stepped onto the field.  You may remember them as Terrell Owens, Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson, and Joe Horn.  These three men brought to the field a new level of the touchdown celebration.  Time had forgotten the Ickey Shuffle, so at first, these receivers were allowed to celebrate with ease.

Owens, as many famously know, took a sharpie from his socks and signed a football.  He gave the signed football to a child in the stands.  Johnson once famously used the end zone pylon as a putter to putt the football.  Horn had a cellphone hidden in the padding around the base of the goal post and made a phone call after scoring a touchdown.

These are only a few examples of celebrations at this time (see also: Randy Moss), but the NFL was fed up.  They laid down new rules and disallowed the use of props in touchdown celebrations.  Penalties and fines would occur if the league deemed the celebration excessive or against their new rules.  With it, Sundays lost a little bit of their luster.

This year, the NFL competition committee came up with a new rule.  This rule prohibits players from dunking the football over the crossbar of the goal post.  If a player does so, a fine must be paid.  Ask Jimmy Graham about this rule.  He shelled out a cool $30,000 for dunking the ball over the crossbar twice.  Both occurred in the same preseason game.  Preseason.

The No Fun League took things to a new level this past week and it didn't even have to do with an on field celebration.  They decided to fine Colin Kaepernick $10,000 for wearing Beats by Dre headphones.  Kaepernick was wearing these headphones after the game.  Even though Kaepernick has a deal to promote Beats by Dre, he is not allowed to do so until 90 minutes after the game.  If the press conference he was at had occurred at the 91st minute, it would have presumably been okay.

The NFL is a business.  The company needs to look out for its investments and business partners (in this case, BOSE headphones).  Beats by Dre probably received all the marketing it needed by the NFL fining Kaepernick.  As it goes, if fans are watching a press conference, they are probably not tuned in to see what the quarterback is wearing around his neck and most likely more interested in what he has to say.

Part of the fun of watching a football game is the different types of celebration a player has.  It brings out the creativity (or in some cases, a lack thereof) that is not often displayed on the field.  Many of these players are phenomenal athletes.  By allowing creative celebrations, we often see a lighter and more personable side of the player that fans can identify with.  Keep the penalty flags for taunting, but let the players have fun out there.  Perhaps if the players had more fun on the field then they might act more professional off of it.  Having fun is certainly not the answer to fixing the NFL's off field problems, but hey, it might just be the tiniest of starts.

If both the on field product suffers and the bad behavior off the field continues, televisions will begin to be shut off by the fans.  At this rate, when it's all said and done,  fans may end up telling Roger Goodell and the NFL to go take a Lambeau Leap into the great abyss.

At least the leap is still a legal celebration.  For now...


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