Friday, January 14, 2005

"End zone jackassery"

Who, exactly, is the model for etiquette in the end zone?
Jack Gordon
January 13, 2005 Minneapolis StarTribune

On Jan. 9, 2005, a date that evidently will live in infamy, Randy Moss pretended to moon Green Bay Packers fans after scoring a touchdown at Lambeau Field. This piece of end-zone jackassery enraged the entire football-commentating industry, from the Fox announcers calling the game to local TV and newspaper sports pundits throughout the known universe.
Fox announcers: "Disgusting!"
Howie Long, back in the studio: "Classless!"
Terry Bradshaw: "Weak!"
Jimmy Johnson: "Makes my two eyes like stars start from their spheres, my knotted and combined locks to part, and each particular hair to stand an end like quills upon the fretful porpentine!"
To date, the football-commentating industry has failed to enlighten us on the only really interesting question, which is this: What makes Moss' gesture more offensive, lame, juvenile, classless, dorky or tedious than all the other displays of jackassery we've been looking at in NFL games for the past 20 years?
Moss' moon was insulting to the Green Bay fans? So is every other end-zone bugaloo, sack dance and interception strut that takes place in an opposing team's stadium. So is the "holding my finger to my lips" gesture that means: "I just made a tackle! Me! Finally! So you hometown fans have to shut up now."
Juvenile? The whole point of modern professional football is to rub the world's nose in the fact that you occasionally do the thing you get paid millions of dollars to do. Like catch the ball. Or block somebody. Or run out on the field without falling over your own feet. Right?
There are those among us who could live without ever seeing another Lambeau Leap or Mile High Salute or Icky Shuffle. Hey, it would be OK with me if Daunte Culpepper threw a touchdown pass and forgot to do the cute little fist-revolving thing that means he's "getting his roll on." He could lose the treehouse and the GI Joe dolls, too. I'd be fine with it.
If a particular kind of celebration gave commentators the vapors, you'd think it would be the one where a player lays the ball on the ground and then squats over it. A Vikings defensive back demonstrated the league-wide technique after intercepting a pass during the same game in which Moss fired the moon shot heard round the world. The announcers didn't say a word.
The precise significance of the squat-over-the-ball celebration has been lost in the mists of time, and we can only speculate about what it is meant to symbolize. But after the first merely nerdy possibility, that speculation quickly takes us places that Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson ought to find disturbing:
The ball is an egg, and the player is the proud chicken who has laid it.
The player has relieved himself, and the ball is the result.
The player intends to sit down hard on the ball and draw it into his body in the manner that Mr. Slave absorbed Paris Hilton to win the "Whore Off" showdown in an unforgettable episode of "South Park."
When running back Barry Sanders was still playing for the Detroit Lions, the occasional old-school announcer had someone to point to and plead: "See? That's how you score a touchdown. Act like you've been in the end zone before. Hand the ball to the ref and go sit on the bench."
Alas, since Sanders retired, it's hard to figure who Terry Bradshaw has in mind as a player whose debonair scoring behavior makes Moss look particularly like a horse's ass. These things are graded on a curve, you know.
I blame "Jerry McGuire" for dooming us to dorkdom once and for all. In that tragically popular movie, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays an excellent wide receiver who refuses to do minstrel-show routines after catching the ball. "I don't dance," he says.
Well, thank heaven for you, Cuba Gooding Jr., the viewer thinks. But the viewer is wrong. The movie's great lesson turns out to be that Gooding will benefit both financially and spiritually when he sheds his silly prejudice and stages an end-zone display that makes Stepin Fetchit look as laid back as Perry Como. He doesn't just get a new multimillion-dollar contract for this. He grows as a person.
Nuts to the idea that the NFL should fine Randy Moss for fake-mooning the Cheeseheads and then resume business as usual. In the Vikings' first regular-season game next fall, Moss should run onto the field dressed only in his helmet and a fur-lined jock strap with a tiger tail on the back.
In the unlikely event that he won't volunteer, we could take up a nationwide collection and slip him a million bucks, under the table, to do it.
Then we fans, in our titanic outrage, could demand sweeping changes in NFL rules for game behavior -- changes that would put us out of the groaning misery we experience every week, in every game, all season long.
The new rules would be simple. All NFL players gather for mandatory meetings in which they watch a short film of Barry Sanders scoring a touchdown. The head coach then reads an official statement, as follows: "That's it. Anything dorkier, for any reason, and we'll have you killed."

Jack Gordon is a freelance writer and editor in Eden Prairie.


Blogger Martyr73 said...

I am so glad that you posted this, now I won't have to post on this subject. I'll just send everyone here to read Jack Gordon's article. Funny stuff, yet so true. :)

11:46 PM  

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