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Touchdown celebrations are unusual and often humorous acts that American football players may do after scoring a touchdown.


NFL football

Taunting and extreme celebration are both offenses in the NFL; as a result, gaudy displays are often frowned upon. If the league views the act as highly offensive, large fines and even suspensions can be issued. In 2006 the NFL, in an effort to cut down on celebrations, amended its rules to include an automatic 15 yard penalty against any player who leaves his feet or uses a prop, like a towel, or more specifically the football.[1]. An exception is made for players doing a Lambeau Leap.

NCAA football

College football, governed by the NCAA also penalizes excessive celebrations with a 15 yard penalty. NCAA Football Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(1)(d) prohibits "Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)"; in addition, Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(2) asserts that "After a score or any other play, the player in possession immediately must return the ball to an official or leave it near the dead-ball spot."[2] Additionally, if a player's actions is considered "unsportsmanlike conduct" the result is dead-ball foul; a "flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct" foul requires player ejection. If a player’s nonfootball-related act (e.g. taunting or cursing) causes an opponent to physically retaliate, it is considered fighting and both players are ejected.[3]

Arena football

The rules for celebrations in the AFL are the same as the NFL; no props are allowed. However, choreographed or group dances are often seen after a score.

CFL football

The CFL is much more lenient than the NFL when it comes to touchdown dances. It often has very small, if any, penalties handed out to players who celebrate excessively.

CFL end zone celebrations often include more than one player, often a whole wide receiving corps of 4-6 players. The dances may not include much dancing at all, but instead a quick comical sketch. Recent dances include five Calgary Stampeders receivers celebrating a touchdown against the rival Saskatchewan Roughriders by holding out their hands and each pretending the football was a champagne bottle, popping the cork, pouring drinks for all and then stumbling around as if drunk. Their latest end-zone routine was a simulated bobsleigh run: receiver Jeremaine Copeland sat down and wrapped his legs around the goal-line pylon, the rest of the receiving corps tucked in behind him, and the players swayed together in a pretend trip down a bobsleigh track. A very creative sketch by the same team was the four person stationary bicycle, which all players played a role for the bicycle.

Edmonton Eskimos punt returner Henry "Gizmo" Williams had many punt return touchdowns over his CFL career. He celebrated each one by doing a backflip in the end zone.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have a celebration whereby players form a circle, toss a football in the air in the middle of the circle and then fall directly backwards in unison when the ball lands on the ground as if a hand grenade has exploded.

In the 2008 CFL Season, the Winnipeg receiving corps did a few celebrations, most notably a version of Duck, Duck, Goose, as well as a walking race across the endzone[4].

In the 2009 CFL Season, The Hamilton Tigercats did a memorable celebration in Winnipeg, as a fishing boat was at the edge of the endzone. Hamilton scored two touchdowns within a minute, both times got into the boat and celebrating as though they were fishing, literally showboating.[5]

Some memorable celebrations

  • The "touchdown spike": New York Giants wide receiver Homer Jones is credited as the first player to throw the ball into the field at his feet after scoring a touchdown. He first did this move in 1965, calling it a "spike", and it is said to be the origin of post-touchdown celebrations.[6]
  • The 1980s Washington Redskins "The Fun Bunch": For years, players like Billy "White Shoes" Johnson demonstrated in the end zone after scoring a touchdown. The 1984 Washington Redskins raised the bar on celebrations by performing a group high-five after scoring. The NFL had made previous attempts to curb celebrations but, after the 1984 Fun Bunch, they changed the rules and "excessive celebration" was disallowed. This is one of the few offensive squads that have managed to acquire a nickname.[7]
  • In his rookie season of 1988, Bengals running back Ickey Woods gained media attention with a touchdown dance that became known as the "Ickey Shuffle." He had plenty of opportunities to do this, as he set a rookie record with 15 touchdowns in the regular season and added 3 more in the playoffs en route to Super Bowl XXIII.
  • In tribute to his father's boxing career, Ken Norton Jr. would strike a boxing stance in the end zone each time he scored a defensive touchdown and throw a punching combination at the goalpost pad.[8]
  • Arguably the most famous NCAA celebration was Desmond Howard's end-zone move after returning a punt for a touchdown against Ohio State in 1991. In his since-copied celebration, Howard mimicked the pose of the figure on the Heisman Trophy. Howard won that same honor later that year.
  • During the 1998 NFC championship season Jamal Anderson and other members of the Atlanta Falcons did the Dirty Bird dance after touchdowns. This dance consisted of gyrating like a chicken.
  • During their 2000 playoff run, the St. Louis Rams offense would circle up in the end zone and crouch down and weave from side to side after touchdowns in a performance eventually dubbed "The Bob and Weave". However, after the dance became a more regular occurrence, the NFL declared it (and all celebrations involving multiple players) illegal and began to hand out fines for them.
  • Receiver Randy Moss, then with the Minnesota Vikings, was fined $10,000 after a short touchdown dance that ended with him pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay crowd in a 2004 playoff game. Moss claimed he did it because the Green Bay crowd often moons the bus of the opposing team when it pulls into Lambeau Field.
  • New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn performed a highly publicized touchdown dance after he scored a touchdown against the New York Giants in the 2003 season. Horn spiked the ball after scoring the touchdown and then went to the upright, where he pulled a hidden cell phone out of its padding, and then used it to call his children. He was fined $30,000 by the NFL.
  • In 2000, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens ran out to the midfield and spiked the ball on the Dallas Cowboys' star at Texas Stadium after a touchdown. An opposing player celebrating on the Star is considered an extreme faux pas, and the Cowboys fans loudly booed him. Owens repeated the taunt after a second touchdown, but was chased down and tackled by Cowboys free safety George Teague[9]. Owens was suspended for one game by head coach Steve Mariucci for his actions; Teague was ejected from the game. In 2006, Owens- a Dallas Cowboy at the time - did the same midfield sprint to the Star after his first Cowboys touchdown, which was met by cheers by the fans.
  • During the 2002 season, Owens had two memorable touchdown celebrations. After a score in a Monday Night Football contest against the Seattle Seahawks, Owens pulled a Sharpie out of his sock and signed the game ball which he then gave to his financial adviser, who was sitting in a seat close to the end zone; Owens was fined $20,000 by the NFL for defacing the ball. After scoring a touchdown in a December contest with the Green Bay Packers, Owens celebrated with a pair of pom-poms borrowed from a 49ers cheerleader.
  • In 2004, playing for the Philadelphia Eagles in a game against the Ravens, Owens mocked the dance of linebacker Ray Lewis. Also while playing for the Eagles T.O. would move his arms up and down like an eagle. In 2006, playing for the Cowboys, he was penalized for sleeping at the end zone after the touchdown against the Washington Redskins.
  • Joey Galloway shows his biceps after most touchdowns that he scores.
  • Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson had a number of original celebrations in the 2005 season. After a touchdown early in the year against the Chicago Bears, he performed his version of the "riverdance". In one game against the Indianapolis Colts, he knelt down on one knee and pretended to propose to a Bengals cheerleader, who accepted the mock gesture. After he had been fined several weeks in a row for excessive celebrations, Johnson celebrated his next touchdown by holding up a sign that read "Dear NFL, Please don't fine me AGAIN!!!!!!" (and was subsequently fined $10,000 by the NFL). Other celebrations included performing CPR on the football, picking up a pylon in the end zone and using it to 'putt' the football into an imaginary golf hole then pumping his fist in a loose imitation of Tiger Woods (for which he was fined $5,000), doing an Irish jig, and even went so far as to do the Chicken Dance. Before one game, he wore a nameplate that said "Ocho Cinco", and was fined by the NFL (Chad Johnson legally changed his surname to Ochocinco in 2008).
  • On Opening Day 2007, Johnson wore a jacket that read "Future HOF 20??". The next week, in Cleveland, he jumped into the Dawg Pound after a touchdown (and had beer poured on him by the fans in attendance). On November 25, 2007 against the Titans, he pushed a cameraman aside and pretended to film the players, which drew a 15-yard penalty for using a prop (in this case the TV camera) during touchdown celebrations.
  • Like Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers was known for his touchdown celebrations (Smith and Ochocinco were teammates in junior college). Some of his more memorable celebrations included treating the football like a baby on multiple occasions, going so far as to change the football's "diaper", wiping it down, and rocking it to sleep. He also posed like a supermodel in the end zone, made a "snow angel", and on one occasion against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, used the football as a sword and made swashbuckling motions, mocking the Bucs' mascot. However, by 2007 he had stopped doing these, not wanting to be a distraction.
  • Sometimes touchdown celebrations borrow from other sports. Wide receiver Alvin Harper liked to slam dunk the football over the goalpost crossbar after scoring a touchdown.

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has also adopted that as his trademark (probably because he played basketball in college). In 2006, the New York Giants defensive players celebrated by mimicking a turnaround jump shot as a reference to the Jim Jones song "We Fly High". Running back Harvey Williams often celebrated his touchdowns by pretending to swing a baseball bat and hit a home run.

  • Rams (former Chiefs) KR Dante Hall, nicknamed "the X-Factor", makes an 'X' out of his forearms after a touchdown.
  • New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, in a game against the Chicago Bears in 2006, stuck the ball under his shirt to mimic being pregnant. He received a 15-yard penalty and a $10,000 fine from the NFL. He later claimed he did that it because his pregnant wife was in the stands.
  • During a preseason game against the 49ers, Raiders wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins, after scoring on a 97 yard punt return, did a roundoff and a backflip.
  • San Diego Chargers Outside Linebacker Shawne Merriman, who has a tattoo of a hand deactivating a light switch on his right forearm, does the "Lights Out" dance for every quarterback sack he makes, which consists of him jumping up and down and switching the tattoo of said light switch on and off.

It has been argued that celebration penalties have affected the outcomes of games. The September 6, 2008 game between Washington and BYU saw the Washington quarterback, Jake Locker, score a touchdown, putting Washington within one point with two seconds to go. Upon entering the endzone, however, Locker threw the ball high in the air, for which his team was penalized, the referee applying NCAA Rule 9-2, Article 1(a)(2), which asserts that "after a score or any other play, the player in possession immediately must return the ball to an official or leave it near the dead-ball spot," paragraph (c) of which expressly forbids "throwing the ball high into the air." BYU blocked the ensuing 38-yard extra point attempt and won the game.[10 ]


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