NCAA’s new rule is nothing to celebrate
Friday, September 22, 1995 at 12:00 PM
Shawn Plank in NCAA, athletics, rules

The NCAA is doing everything it can to eliminate fun.

They have prohibited college football players from celebrating after making a big play, such as scoring a touchdown. Players can no longer dance, pose, remove their helmets or even appear to taunt opponents after big plays or they will be flagged and penalized.

This crackdown on fun is supposed to help eliminate incidents that have led to antagonism and violence between opponents. God forbid, the last thing we would want to see in college football is guys hitting or grabbing each other and trying to throw one another down. 

The rule is silly. Young men are trained that the highest objective in football, a very emotional game, is to cross the goal line. How can players be expected NOT to celebrate in the end zone after achieving such a lofty goal? If I had ever scored a touchdown in my brief football-playing career, which was completely unfettered by any sort of achievement, I would have put up tables in the end zone, hired a caterer and sent out engraved invitations.

If the NCAA can make college football end zones into no-celebration zones, just think what they would do if they were in charge of other aspects of life. For example:

• No hugging zones at airports to celebrate the emotional arrival of long-lost friends or relatives.

• No Christmas caroling zones outside of homes.

• No swing choir zones, to eliminate performances by toothy, energetic, fresh-faced youngsters who dance and sing songs with names like “Celebrate!” and “Celebration!” and “Can We Possibly Be More Exuberant? I Don’t Think So!”

• No birthday or anniversary celebration zones in restaurants. The host, along with asking patrons if they want “smoking or non-smoking,” could ask, “celebratory or non-celebratory?” Then those of us who like to avoid a restaurant’s big embarrassing ritual of putting large hats on celebrants’ heads and having the entire staff come out clapping and shouting some birthday song at them (while they could be working on my appetizer), would be spared this annoyance.

The NCAA is already hearing complaints about its anti-celebration rule. Some say the ban infringes on freedom of expression and freedom of religion, especially since many players bow down for a moment of silent prayer after crossing the goal line. The NCAA decided to let players continue to bow in prayer, as long as the prayer was spontaneous. (For example, if you score a touchdown, pull out your rosary beads, kneel down and take communion, that would not be spontaneous.)

But now the NCAA will have to make concessions to those who say that praying in the end zone at public university football stadiums amounts to the unconstitutional state establishment of a religion. To balance it out, the NCAA can perhaps authorize certain players to teach Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution in the end zone to celebrate touchdowns.

Of course, the NCAA’s no-fun policy takes a lot of the fun out of watching college football. Fans like to see these celebrations, especially when it is not their team celebrating. This raises the hatred level necessary in any good rivalry.

Another reason the ban is bad is that our society is already too reserved and unemotional. Sports are one of the few areas in which society makes it acceptable for men to show passion and display emotion. In what other context can American men feel free to openly express affection for other men by patting behinds, cheering each other on and hugging each other?

Maybe instead of banning celebrations from football, we should authorize them in other walks of life:

• At work, when you exceed your sales goal, you should be allowed to do a little jig step, flip end-over-end and spike your briefcase.

• At school, when you ace a test, you should feel free to raise the test triumphantly into the air and go down on one knee, bowing your head in a moment of gratitude. 

• When your big raise finally comes through, you should feel uninhibited enough to grab the big water cooler jug and dump it on your boss.

But instead, we take these accomplishments in stride. We don’t want to seem to be resting on our laurels and feel we must keep working toward perfection, so we often don’t take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

College football players, especially those who defy the NCAA celebration ban, seem to have the right idea. We need more high fives, back-slapping and dances of joy, not less.

Article originally appeared on shawnplank (http://www.shawnplank.com/).
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