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Excessive celebrations in the NFL: Who cares?

Excessive celebrations in the NFL often draw 15-yard penalties. But why should they? And why would you care about such things?

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

You might have taken a look at that title and thought, "With the NFL Combine happening and free-agency just a couple of weeks away, why should I take the time to read an article about excessive celebration?"

Good point. But that's kind of the point, too. Why should anyone ever care about excessive celebrations after touchdowns, sacks or interceptions?

Is celebrating excessively unsportsmanlike? Yes--if your team isn't the one celebrating. However, if you're a Steelers' fan, and you're watching on TV as William Gay and Joey Porter are knee-walking towards one another on the turf of Paul Brown Stadium after Gay's pick-six gives your team a 16-point lead, you're probably laughing and enjoying every second of it. Heck, just a few seconds earlier, when Gay began his Touchdown Celebration Extravaganza, you might have even stood up in your living room and emulated.....whatever it is Gay always does that includes waving his hands in the air like, well, he just doesn't care. (I just watched the Youtube link of Gay's interception of AJ McCarron and subsequent touchdown in the just referenced game between the Steelers and Bengals last December, and I don't know what made me belly laugh more; Gay's weird dance with Robert Golden or his other weird dance with Mike Mitchell that ended with a handshake--and all that happened before the Gay and Peezy bromance took place.)

This offseason, when the players, coaches, officials and everyone else involved with the NFL are discussing the excessive celebration rule, the video of Gay's display that mid-December day in Cincinnati that might as well be re-named The William Gay Variety Hour will probably be shown during a presentation as the perfect example of why the rule exists.

In-case you don't know, celebrating excessively is a 15-yard infraction, and if it occurs after a score, the penalty is assessed on the kickoff, meaning, it will take place at the 20-yard line, and the return-man might actually be able to do something in this, the era of no kickoff returns.

That's great for the kickoff return man, who, if he's really good at his job, could take advantage of the situation and either score a touchdown or give his team premium field-position. But should a game potentially swing a certain way because a player celebrates a little too much?

Isn't sports supposed to be fun? I remember when I was a kid, and I'd watch Billy "White Shoes" Johnson do his Funky Chicken dance after scoring a touchdown. Every kid in America was doing that move whenever he or she scored a touchdown in a pick-up game. What about the RedskinsFun Bunch or Mark Gastineau's sack dance?

Those were fun times, and I don't remember anyone I watched football with complaining about excessive celebrations. Then in 1984, the NFL instituted rules that prohibited group celebrations such as the Fun Bunch and other forms of excessive happiness following a score. And according to Wikipedia's page on excessive celebrations in football, in 2006, the NFL "amended its rules to include an automatic 15 yard penalty against any player who leaves his feet or uses a prop, like a towel, the goal post, the post base or more specifically the football."

Isn't that wording just silly? And wasn't it silly when, during a game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati at Heinz Field in December of 2012, defensive end Brett Keisel was penalized 15 yards for dropping to one knee to do his signature "bow and arrow" move following a sack of Andy Dalton? In a game that had huge playoff implications, the Steelers lost by three points and were eliminated from contention.

Did Keisel's excessive celebration penalty alter the course of that game? Can't say for sure, but the fact that I even have to ask that question is, well, kind of silly.

Speaking of silly and speaking of props, did you know there are many people (mostly Cardinals fans) who thought Santonio Holmes should have been penalized 15 yards for using the football as a prop following his epic game-winning touchdown catch in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIII? Seriously, there are people out there who wanted to potentially change the course of NFL history just because Holmes celebrated too much after making the greatest play of his life.

You don't think a 15-yard penalty would have mattered at the end of that game, with the then unstoppable and in his prime Larry Fitzgerald and his all-world abilities having a much easier shot at out-jumping everyone for a last-second Hail Mary pass in the end zone? Sure, LaMarr Woodley stripped Kurt Warner of the football anyway, but much better field-position at the start of Arizona's final  drive could have meant a change in strategy for both teams.

Maybe you're one of those people who hates excessive celebrations, but in your heart of hearts, do you really think an NFL game should be altered because of such things? Sure, maybe players should act like they've been there before, like their predecessors did decades ago. However, we're all products of our influences, and I'll bet even the mild-mannered and humble Bart Starr would have a signature touchdown move similar to Aaron Rodgers' "Championship Belt"  if he was the Packers quarterback in this day and age.

But, since we're in this day and age, not only do players celebrate excessively, they get criticized and their character judged for stuff  that has nothing to do with anything.

Did you know Cam Newton, the newly crowned NFL MVP, has an array of touchdown celebrations? If you didn't know that, you weren't reading, watching or listening to any of the media coverage during the two weeks prior to Super Bowl 50.

Did you know Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin lost control of his team last year because people like Gay and Antonio Brown were celebrating too excessively?  Speaking of Tomlin, here's his post-game quote regarding Brown's goalpost landing following a punt return for a touchdown in a blow-out victory over the Colts at Heinz Field on December 6: "I didn't see it, but I'm sure we'll rehash it and rehash it 1,000 times in the next six days and suck all the life out of it."

Sums it up quite well.

Why do they call it the NO Fun League, again?

I'll leave you with this excessive celebration clip produced by the comedy duo, Key & Peele.