• July 29, 2014

Allan Mandell On Sports Billionaire NFL owners are a no-fun bunch

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Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2014 12:36 am

The NFL owners met last month and decided that “dunking” the football over the goalpost after a touchdown in the 2014 season would be a violation of the “excessive celebration” rule and result in a 15-yard penalty.

A major reason given was, “this will protect the integrity of our game.”

This is what happens when you stick a bunch of pompous billionaires — who made their cash in oil or real estate or selling autos — into one city for three days to talk about “improving” a pro game that none of them ever played.

In 1965, New York Giant wide receiver Homer Jones raced into the end zone in a regular-season contest. So happy was Jones that he spiked the football.

And that was the birth of the spike.

In the ensuing years, plenty of NFL players did celebratory dances after scoring touchdowns. Did celebrating touchdowns really hurt the integrity of the game?

Of course not.

In the early 1980s, the receivers and tight ends of the Washington Redskins, among them Hall of Famer Art Monk, bunched together in the end zone in a semicircle after a score and celebrated with a choreographed six-second dance. They called themselves “The Fun Bunch.”

Sure, most citizens of Texas — and just about everyone outside of the D.C. area — dislike the Redskins. But what harm did “The Fun Bunch” do?

None. They were athletes competing at the highest level of their profession and celebrating a score in a football game.

And that is what football is, a game. It is entertainment. Yes, it’s serious business to those that play it. But it’s still a sport. Is there anything so terrible about celebrating success?

In 1984, the NFL owners came up with the “excessive celebration” penalty in order to put an end to “The Fun Bunch.”

It’s a stupid rule. And it is vague.

How do you define “excessive”?

The NCAA has a similar rule in place, only the wording is even more vague and thus far more confusing.

High school football has a similar rule. No “excessive celebrating.” Now what is so horrible about high school kids getting excited about a touchdown on a Friday night? Can’t we all agree that high school football, while certainly important to a community and school pride, is first and foremost about the athletes? And can’t we all agree that football, for those high school players, should be about having some fun?

Taunting? That’s different. Be it pro, college or high school, no athlete should be allowed to take a football and spike it at an opponent’s feet.

But is it so horrible if a couple of high school kids pile on top of each other after a score? Does that really hurt the integrity of the game?

The NFL owners gave a “for instance” on why it was important they ban dunking the football this upcoming season and forever more: A player could hurt his wrist on the goalpost.

Well, how about this for danger?

What if a helmeted football player, in full pads, jumps on top of fans? Is that dangerous to the fans? Is that dangerous to the player?

That’s the “Lambeau Leap.” In Green Bay, a Packer who scores a touchdown often leaves the field and jumps into the stands to celebrate with some fans.

That Packer player, during his leap, could slip, fall the wrong way on an ankle, sprain it or break it, and be out for a season or longer. Or a Green Bay fan could find his hand sandwiched in between the rail and a Packer player’s helmet.

But should the “Lambeau Leap” be outlawed? Of course not. It’s all in good fun.

The NFL owners should concentrate on what they do best. Own. Make money for themselves. Sign big and bigger TV contacts.

Not legislate the game. They aren’t capable.

Let the game of football be about fun.

It was during the 1990s that Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy was asked if the upcoming game his team was participating in was a “must-win.”

Levy’s father was a decorated World War I veteran. Levy fought in World War II. So Levy’s reply was, “This is not a must-win. World War II was a must-win.”

Levy was right. Football is not life and death.

This silly “excessive celebration” rule ought to be outlawed altogether. Let’s not take the fun out of football. What’s to debate?

It’s pretty much a slam dunk.

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