In my sports-watching career, there are some iconic moments that stand out that have nothing to do with the game on the field. There's the Dirty Bird, of course. There's the Ickey Shuffle. And then there's Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson's finest moment.
For those of you who don't remember, the oft-fined Johnson celebrated a touchdown in a unique way back in 2003. With snow banks dotting the field, Johnson had apparently taken the time to stash a sign beforehand, because after the score he hauled out an orange sign that read "Dear NFL, please don't fine me again!" It was a hilarious thing to watch, but you knew the outcome before it even happened. He got slapped with $10,000 in expenses for what amounted to a clever and harmless joke.
This is all too common, now.
The NFL's stern and angry taskmasters have taken the art of the celebration out of the NFL. Whether they cite safety concerns as they do for those bringing items into the stadium (cell phones and Joe Horn), showing up the opponent (Terrell Owens dancing on the Dallas Cowboys' midfield star) or anyone having any kind of fun (the Houston Texan follow up to Horn's celebration), the league has clearly taken a stand against celebrations of any kind. I guess I understand the thinking, but all I really see is the NFL depriving players of a chance to be creative and innovative in any way. I also understand that some people don't care about or completely loathe these celebrations, but I do think they're kind of a blast. Of course, the NFL itself would counter with talk of professionalism, uniformity and safety. When you have the power that league does and you're holding guys by the pay check, you can do whatever you want.
But why do we have to be uniform and bland? The league is filled with exciting, dynamic people, different people, who are being forced to wear exactly the same color socks and speak in the same bland platitudes. When players whine about that, they get slammed for being whiny, crazy millionaires. But is that what we want as fans? Does anyone like listening to Bill Belicheck drone his way through a postgame interview without once saying something insightful? Are we thrilled that not one player can tell us something that's more advanced than 110% effort and play the game the right way? Am I the only one baying at the moon about the fact that the league--and sometimes we fans--go out of our way to squash the quirky personalities in the league?
Maybe I am. But I can't help but think back to the day when Chad Johnson waved his sign defiantly at the cameras, a harmless gesture, a humorous David taking on a grim-faced Goliath. I can't help but think about the NFL's reaction to that, and a subsequent crackdown that stuffs everything outside of the huddle into a square hole. And at the end of this particular day, I can't help but believe, as I always have, that being a fan is still about having fun and enjoying the game of football.
Maybe I'm alone there, too. What do you think?