The NFL has always had it’s share of showboating. There are the innocent, Ickey Woods, Billy “White-Shoes” Johnson, and everyone in Green-Bay who does the “Lambeau Leap“. Then, there is the egotistical celebrations that have turned a fun simple touchdown celebration into a penalty. Terrel Owens and the “sharpie“, the star, and the popcorn, and of course Randy Moss‘s “mood” dance to the Green-Bay crowd.
The NFL cut down on end-zone celebrations, tossing the ball after a first down, and myriad of other harmless celebrations. Now, we know why. One look at the actions of rookie WR Deshaun Jackson and it all becomes rather clear.
Jackson is not a bad kid. He had his off-field issues that dropped him in last April’s draft, but it appears that both he and the Eagles are getting the last laugh out of that one. Jackson has tied a 60 year old record for a rookie WR by posting two consecutive 100 plus yard receiving games to open his career. It was the touchdown that he didn’t get that had people talking on Monday.
Jackson had split the Cowboys defense and was clear for an easy 60 yard touchdown catch, Jackson tossed the ball behind him as he crossed the goal line. The ball however did not cross the plane and Jackson lost his touchdown after a Cowboy challenge. It was not the first time, but likely the last, that Jackson has fell short of a sure touchdown. Leaping into the end-zone in a high-school game, Deshaun Jackson came up short.
While is celebration of his touchdown on Monday night was not Terrel Owens slamming the ball on the “Star” at mid-field in Texas Stadium, it speaks volumes to the mindset of today’s youth that is brought up in a culture of ESPN highlights and “Show me the money” attitude. It used to be enough to play the game, enough to hug your teammates after a great touchdown play. A fist pump in the air, a high-five, a Barry Sanders style handing of the ball to the referee. That is all leaving the youth sports we know little by little.
What does it say to you, not as a parent, but as an observer when a 10 year old crosses the goal line, stands straight up, chest out, and arms locked towards the sky or folded across his chest while his head nods a defiant yes up and down? What does it say when an 8 year old kneels in the end-zone and prays, then points to heaven? Is he truly thanking God for his given talent and his safety or is he imitating his favorite NFL players on TV?
The problem is not that these kids are doing these things, it’s that they only stand to escalate. While little Tommy Dover on the field may not become an NFL star, somewhere in the sea of youth football some 1700 kids will. What happens when they get to the NFL? The “Ocho Cinco” type kids? Do you think they will just sit back and say “Wow Neon Deion Sanders was the best”? Not likely, instead they will likely have a formulated plan about how they will out shine them in that celebration regardless of the NFL rules.
Deshaun Jackson simply tossed the football, it was an arrogant display of showmanship and nothing else regardless of what he says. He blew a sure touchdown and was bailed out minutes later by Brian Westbrook. The NFL is often referred to as the “No Fun League”. Yet football is a business and that business takes a hit when a player beats his wife, drives drunk, pops pills, and a full slate of other off-field issues.
College players are suddenly thrust onto the center stage of the NFL. Telecast to millions around the globe. A first round draft pick will often see more money in that first deal than they will ever see again in their lifetime and it comes with consequences often associated with bad judgements and home town peer pressure. It would be great to watch the TD celebrations of old when they were innocent and done for the sake of entertaining the crowd instead of entertaining he highlight reel. Back then it seemed natural and a team unified response. Now, it’s a “how am I gonna top that one”. The signature is gone.
Then again, thanks to ESPN and the rest of the covering networks, we can always see that high-school WR who will someday be picking up your garbage, pull a Sharpie out of the goal post padding and sign his name on the football. At least Deshaun Jackson only dropped the ball. He made a mistake that won’t be repeated. While part of me misses seeing what new “thing” Chad Johnson would do when he scored the other part of me is glad that the celebrations haven’t escalated to some player running to the 50 yard line and pulling a “peeing Calvin” sticker on the opposing teams logo…and you know what? Someone would have.