Posted by: cornvillenutmeg | December 29, 2019

I prefer things to make sense.

For instance, if you want to take a bus from one place in a city to another, the place to stand is in the close vicinity of a bus stop.  That makes sense.  Or if you want a built-in bookcase made of dark cherry wood,  hire a carpenter, not a brick layer. (I speak only to the not-handy, otherwise, by all means, make it yourself with wood.  Dark cherry, if you like.)

From twelve to nineteen, I played club football.  At twelve, I was one of the bigger players; my coach told me I was a tackle.  Back then we played both offense and defense so I learned how to block and how to tackle.  By fifteen, though, I was taller and much slimmer, no longer tackle size.  Nor was I suited to quarterback, nor was I fast enough for running back.  What was left?  End.  I didn’t need to learn blocking or tackling, but I did need to learn catching and patterns.  I could do that.  I didn’t think it was hard.

At fifteen, I was no longer on a club team.  Instead I played on the junior varsity team. We scored touch downs on offense and defense. We tackled quarterbacks and running backs in their own backfield. We were very good and lost no games.

The end of the fall sports season always included a morning athletic assembly.  Members of teams, junior varsity and varsity, were called to line up in alphabetical order to receive certificates, numerals (of one’s graduation year), or letters.  At that season’s assembly, our coach gave a brief recap of our season.  He was very brief. He asked us to stand, and then announced to the student body that ours had been an undefeated team.  The entire student body and faculty applauded us.  We were celebrated.  We were acutely embarrassed and very proud.  All day long we were congratulated by our peers, upperclassmen, those in lower  school (grades 7 through 9), and by many of the masters, which was what we called teachers.

I know for a fact that never, not once, in any of the games of that undefeated season, did any of us celebrate a good play: touchdown, tackle, a long run, or a skilled catch.  We patted each other on the back, said nice catch, or good running, or way to go, great tackle.  We never danced, we never pretended to pose for a picture, we took no stance or posture and looked at the bleachers (there were almost always at least two or three parents watching), and we never spiked the ball.  None of that ever occurred to us.  What we did do was play the game we had been taught and coached to play as well as we could.  That was fun and rewarding, which was the point, which made sense, which was why we were there on the field in the first place.

I stopped playing football after high school – not big or fast enough. I did watch our team play.  I cheered for them, glad when they won, sad when they lost.  That was the fall of 1964, and I never saw any of the kind of celebrating that is nowadays impossible not to see many times over whenever a football game is televised.  To me, it’s unseemly, unsportsman like, braggadocios.

Professional athletes are paid astonishing amounts of money.  Surely that is reward enough, not to mention, what else are they hired to do other than play football well which includes, as it always has, tackling, blocking, catching, running, and scoring points?  Does it not make sense that a young man who is paid multiple millions of dollars to catch footballs actually does catch footballs?  Is that not what he expects of himself?  Isn’t that what his coaches expect?  Is that not what his owner, he who pays the salaries, expects?  Certainly fans expect that.  Does it make sense that doing precisely what you have been hired to do is cause for celebration?

Then finally there’s this:  celebrating successful football play apparently has nothing to do with your team’s success.  Even when a team is clearly going to lose the game, say, behind thirty points or more at the final two minutes warning, first downs are accompanied by the exaggerated sword thrust, hand gesture.  What exactly is that celebration meant to celebrate.  Certainly not the team’s play.  What’s left if not that one particular player’s successful play, albeit in a losing effort?

Other sports are not exempt, but no others celebrations are so elaborate, so emphatic and extravagant.  I enjoy watching football games more than any other sport (except for the UCONN Women’s Basketball Team), but I do wish most players would take notice of the handful of players who do what they’ve been hired to do, like handing the ball to a ref, and jogging back to the huddle.  I appreciate that, not the other.



  1. I kind of enjoy the celebrations – they are so silly! Looks to be an interesting post-season. Our Packers are still in it, though their level of play has been uneven at best. I’m sorry for your Giants, though it was nice to get another look at Eli.
    big hug!

  2. My ambivalent thoughts are this: To celebrate a tackle, a catch, a first down is ludicrous in more that one way. It is an ego burst, entirely personal, and it purports to celebrate an event that usually isn’t very important. But, I do look forward to the group touchdown celebrations. Thay are comical and seem intended to be so. I probably shouldn’t feel this way being a very long-time NFL enthusiast who remembers the day when a rugged player of old (Jim Brown comes to mind) would perform an outstanding play, get himself onto his feet and then run back to the huddle. But, nonetheless, I’ve come to enjoy these group antics. They are another element, a new one, in this game of spectacular performances and unbridled violence.

    • I’ll take it, and even agree with you both about the playfulness of the antics after touchdowns. Would that they all did that or leap into the fans (although I do fear someone will go too far one day).

  3. Jim, I do so enjoy reading your posts: well-crafted, perfectly articulated, with not an iota of effort apparent. (I assume you will neither spike your pen nor dance around your keyboard when you read my praise for your authorial skill.) Your point is a keen one… larger in scope than just football, or even sports for that matter. Thanks for sharing!

    • You make me blush, but with great pleasure.

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