Growing up a Miami Hurricanes fan, I tend not to mind players who display on-field exuberance. Of my favorite memories of Cane football, two stick out:
• The six-shooter routine from wide receiver Randall Hill during Miami’s thrashing of Texas in the 1991 Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns spent the week before the game taunting the Canes only to spend 60 minutes being terrorized by them. Hill’s celebration came late in the third quarter to put Miami up by 30. Amazing.
• The next season, the 10th-ranked Houston Cougars, with record-setting quarterback David Klinger, came to the Orange Bowl for a hyped-up early-season match up. Late in the game a Cougar receiver (no, his name doesn’t matter) scored a touchdown and began a celebration dance. Menacing Miami linebacker Michael Barrow walked up to him and yelled “Look at the scoreboard!” It read Miami 40, Houston 9. He stopped dancing.
I point out these two moments because while they share the same team, they don’t share the same sentiment. I love the Cotton Bowl win – LOVE IT – because it epitomizes Cane football during those days, mean and merciless. But as I grow older, Barrow’s moment is more poignant since it remarks on a standard greatly missing from sports today – acting like you’ve been there before. Sure the Cotton Bowl was great, but the next year the Canes were national champions. Which one means more?
Does a defensive player really have to celebrate making a tackle for loss during a routine play in the second quarter? Does every touchdown have to become the James Brown church scene in The Blues Brothers? Do we have to be reminded by a wide receiver when he makes a first down that it’s a first down? Isn’t that what the invisible yellow line tells me?
Look, I understand I sound like one of those “Guys get off my lawn” curmudgeon, but can we agree not all good plays should be feted like they’re a David Tyree masterpiece? When every play is special, then no play is special. And the problem now is players are getting hurt by other’s, and sometimes their own, foolishness.
Remember kicker Bill Gramatica? After booting a first quarter field goal to put the Cardinals up 3-0 in a 2001 game, he celebrated with a giant leap but was carried away with a torn ACL. Career over. Last week Georgia’s top receiver Malcolm Mitchell was sidelined for the season after enjoying a first quarter touchdown run by teammate Todd Gurley. Losing Mitchell is one factor why Georgia lost to Clemson. Who’s celebrating now? Was it worth it? Is it ever?
And it’s not just athletes getting lost in the celebratory haze.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel gained the ire of many last week for his on-field taunting antics, showcasing a “show me the money” gesture while pretending to sign mock autographs in the air during the win over Rice (you know, that football powerhouse Rice). His antics were mimicked by A&M President R. Bowen Loftin in a picture shared virally on Twitter, which came a week after Texas A&M system’s chancellor John S. Sharp declared Manziel “innocent” of NCAA allegations.
Why wouldn’t Manziel act the fool, even the president of his university doesn’t mind. Success, it seems, is an intoxicant that keeps sober people from acting accordingly. To paraphrase Bill Cosby, Manziel’s success allows him to intensify his personality – it doesn’t help he’s an asshole.
During Thursday night’s NFL game between Denver and Baltimore, Bronco linebacker Danny Trevathan intercepted a Joe Flacco pass and waltzed into the end zone, except his desire to exalt in the score resulted in him dropping the ball before he crossed the goal line. In the scramble for the ball, Trevathan’s teammate Wesley Woodyard was injured as the ball rolled out of bounds for a touchback.
It’s bad enough any play can spell the end of someone’s career, but now, with giant players boasting massive strength, a career can end after a play is over. Football has enough problems.
Trevathan said after the game he would never do that again, but I think it has less to do with remorse and more to do with respect for a teammate. Late in the game, with Denver holding a huge lead against the Super Bowl champs, quarterback Peyton Manning threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, his seventh scoring pass of the game. It’s a feat done six times in NFL history, and the first time in 43 years.
Did Manning run down the field and celebrate with Thomas? Did he stare down the opposing defense? Did he raise a number one in the air?
Nope. He walked off the field, seeking the film of a feat he just performed, a feat he’s performed hundreds of time.
He’s been there before, it’s a shame it’s a lonely place to be in today’s sports.