Doug Wolter: The new NFL: The 'Look at Me League'

I have a funny little rule regarding on-field football celebrations: If high school kids shouldn't do it, then NFL players shouldn't either.You know how it is in high school. Spontaneous celebrations are fine, but attempts to draw attention to on...

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I have a funny little rule regarding on-field football celebrations: If high school kids shouldn’t do it, then NFL players shouldn’t either.
You know how it is in high school. Spontaneous celebrations are fine, but attempts to draw attention to one’s self are another thing entirely. I’m one of those stick-in-the-muds who believe that spiking the ball in the end zone is cool, but gyrating the hips while doing it is going too far.
Call me old-fashioned. I admit it.
Which brings me to the National Football League. For years, NFL honchos have piloted what malcontents have termed the “No Fun League” because it frowned upon certain kinds of player celebrations. It was, admittedly, an almost impossible task to police these things, because no one really knew where to draw the line.
And it didn’t stop people from drawing comparisons to The Taliban.
So finally, in time for the 2017 season, the league has relaxed its celebration rules assuring that “fun” will return to the NFL once again (as if the games themselves aren’t entertaining enough).
My prediction is that controversies will continue. After all, the rules have been “relaxed,” not eliminated. Players still won’t be allowed to do “suggestive” dances. When demonstrations cause the game to be delayed, or are meant to demean or embarrass opponents, flags will fly.
Already, however, gray areas are being exposed.
The NFL says celebrations involving imaginary weapons are verboten, but cornerback Josh Norman is already complaining, saying his bow-and-arrow schtick is harmless and should be given a free pass.
“You can shoot a cannon in a stadium (Tampa), or you can shoot a musket in a stadium (New England),” Norman explains.
I just wish NFL players would learn to grow up a little bit. I mean, some of these guys practice their celebration routines in their off hours. After they go home at night, they lie awake in bed thinking not about the playbook but about new celebrations to debut. This is the kind of thing you should expect from a boy band, not from grown-ups.
I strongly suspect that there are many more stick-in-the-mud fans like me, and that there are many football coaches, too, who wish players behaved more professionally.
So naturally I spoke with longtime Worthington High School grid coach Denny Hale on Monday, asking his opinion. Sure enough, I knew I could count on Denny to be old-school.
“I’ve never been a fan of (player demonstrations),” he said. “I’ve always thought that if you score a touchdown, make it seem like you’ve been there before.”
He adds, “Everything is me, me, me with this celebration stuff. And here they’re playing a team sport which should be about team.”
Personally, I chuckled when I saw part of the relaxation letter Commissioner Roger Goodell sent to the players. “We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown,” he said, in his typically dissembling way.
Indeed, we all know that players love their “spontaneous displays” after every “unspectacular” touchdown, too. And after many other unspectacular plays. We still get the occasional linebacker who jumps up and down pointing to himself after getting a sack -- in the fourth quarter with his team trailing 34-7.
Surely there are high school players, said Hale, who are influenced by what they see in the NFL. “They see their hero celebrate like crazy, and they think it’s OK for them to do that, too,” he said.
Sigh. What a pity that you can legislate class in high school but not in the pros.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at
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