Look, Ma, I'm In The End Zone!

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Hear ye, hear ye: The court of public opinion will now come to order in the class-action suit by disturbed football fans against dopey football players who act like imbeciles in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.

Your honor, the plaintiffs call to the stand a man of great taste, good manners and exquisite judgment –– namely, me.

What is this?

Why is football the only sport where every score –– and most mere tackles behind the line of scrimmage –– now produce extravagant dramatic exertions that we haven't seen since silent movies went out? And it's only getting worse. Mary Pickford is rolling over in her grave. Not to mention the 360s that Vince Lombardi is doing.

For comparison's sake, think about how other athletes celebrate achievement. In baseball, just a bashful tip o' the cap. Fans who catch foul balls carry on more than actual players who hit home runs. In hockey, teammates wearing gloves rub the helmet of the guy who scored the goal. It's very sanitary, hockey exultation is.

The most memorable basketball emotional outburst was simply a midcourt shrug that Michael Jordan offered after an especially spectacular display. Golfers momentarily raise their club in modest salute after sinking a long putt. Tennis players can't even bring themselves to smile.

True story: I am sitting in Charles Barkley's house with him, watching Pete Sampras win a tie-breaker with one extraordinary shot after another. Sampras just lowers his head each time. Barkley is screaming at the television set –– literally screaming: "Come on, Pete, come on. Stop playing with your strings. At least look up. Please, please."

But football is different. Football players prance and preen, and stomp and strut, and even put on extended little mime routines like Marcel Marceau on a real bad day.

It's terribly puerile. It drives the purists crazy. We've gone from three yards and a cloud of dust to chorus boys in the end zone. In football! In the manly game! There's no dancing in football! ... Five-six-seven-eight.

But, hey, purists, get over it. Because it doesn't seem to bother the opponents –– the very ones being ridiculed. They just wait for their own turn to act like clowns. Doesn't seem to bother the coaches. They never seem to fine the players who get penalties for "excessive" celebrating, whatever "excessive" has come to mean. Doesn't seem to bother the announcers. They never criticize the goofballs. Doesn't seem to bother most of the fans.

By now, in fact, rude end zone choreography is just part of the game, like busty cheerleaders, and concussions, and tailgating.

The court thereby rules that all football players who act like creeps in the end zone are guilty — but out on appeal, because the truth is, to most fans, that childish showing-off is ... appealing.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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