A good end zone celebration makes fans happy to see someone so excited. If there’s some artistic merit to the performance, all the better. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of these touchdown dances.
What is an end zone celebration in football?
Definition of End Zone Celebration: Also known as touchdown celebrations, end zone celebrations are celebratory actions performed by a player and team after scoring a touchdown. Some celebrations are straightforward. Others are more clever and rehearsed before the game. Whether it is a pre-rehearsed dance or something simple like a powerful spike or giving the ball to a fan, touchdown celebrations can be some of the most memorable moments of games.
- Elaborate end zone celebrations have been going on since 1965 when New York Giants receiver Homer Jones entered the NFL.
- Along with other limitations on touchdown celebrations, they can last no longer than 40 seconds.
- How players celebrate touchdowns is dependent on the moment in the game. If the scoring team is down 42-7 in the fourth quarter, that team probably isn’t going to celebrate much.
Here are some frequently asked questions about touchdown celebrations.
Are there rules for end zone celebration?
There are limitations on what players can do when celebrating their successes. Taunting, lewd, and violent gestures are not allowed in the NFL. It’s also a no-no to use the goalposts as a prop when celebrating. Prolonged celebrations lasting more than 40 seconds are illegal. Any of these violations will result in a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration, and that player could also face a fine or suspension, depending on the severity of the action. Additionally, tossing or handing the football into the crowd in the celebration will result in a fine for that player, but not a penalty.
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Who started end zone celebrations?
End zone celebrations were started by former New York Giants and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Homer Jones. Before Jones entered the NFL in 1965, touchdowns were celebrated very modestly by players tossing the ball into the crowd on occasion. This resulted in a fine of $50. After scoring an 89-yard touchdown reception in Jones’ first start for the Giants in 1965, he spiked the ball into the ground rather than tossing it into the crowd.
Jones had originally planned on throwing the ball into the crowd but opted to spike it instead because of the fine. He did that as his celebration for the rest of his career. Since then, touchdown celebrations have elaborated greatly over time, but the spike still remains one of the most famous celebrations.
Famous touchdown celebrations
Some TD celebrations have become a part of the fabric of sports fandom. Here are a few.
The Lambeau Leap
Former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler invented the ‘Lambeau Leap’ in 1993. It happened when he returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown before leaping over the fence and into the arms of Packers’ fans sitting in the front rows. Since then, many other players, including visiting players, have emulated this celebration in visits to Lambeau Field. This occurs in other stadiums in the NFL now as well.
The Lambeau Leap is so popular that team officials installed statues that enable fans to recreate a Lambeau Leap photo just outside the Packer Fan Shop.
Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez created his signature goalpost dunk touchdown celebration with the Kansas City Chiefs. He continued to use it when he moved to the Atlanta Falcons. Since then, it was a common end zone celebration for others until it was banned after New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham’s goalpost dunk slanted the goalpost in 2013. Still, players do it from time to time and face fines for doing so.
Ex-Carolina Panthers and current New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has been at the forefront of more elaborate celebrations in recent years, using modern gestures. Newton typically ends his celebration with the ‘superman’ pose, which has garnered others to follow.
Notable Touchdown Dances
- “The Bennie Biggle Wiggle” by Antonio Brown.
- “Prime Time” by Deion Sanders.
- “The Ickey Shuffle” by Ickey Woods.
- “The Salsa” by Victor Cruz.
- “Riverdance” by Chad Ochocinco Johnson.
- “High Stepping” by Elmo Wright.
- “Funky Chicken” by Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.
- “The Worm” by Johnnie Morton.
- “Row the Boat” by Steve Smith.
- “Salvation Army Bucket Jump” by Ezekiel Elliott.
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Some rejoicing moments have resulted in controversy. Here are a few notable incidents.
Randy Moss Mooning Green Bay Fans
Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss was among the NFL’s most elite receivers, but his celebration in the 2004 Wild Card game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers caused some controversy. In celebration of a touchdown to put the Vikings up by two scores at Lambeau Field, Moss turned his back to the crowd before ‘mooning’ the crowd behind him.
T.O. Celebrating on the Cowboys’ Star
Terrell Owens vs. Dallas Cowboys was an epic showdown of touchdown celebrations in September of 2000. T.O. was not shy of controversy, which reached its peak when San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens celebrated on the Dallas Star. Dallas Cowboys running back Emmit Smith followed it up by doing the same, but when Owens did it once more following another touchdown, he got leveled by Cowboys safety George Teague.
Touchdown celebrations generate some strong feelings. Many fans love them and hope that the NFL doesn’t live up to its nickname of the No Fun League. While old-time traditionalists prefer a more modest approach where players “act like you’ve been there before” and toss the ball to the referee and continue play.
So, do TD celebrations add to the entertainment value of the game, or are they a distraction to a competitive game? I guess the answer depends on how much you enjoy watching them. End zone celebrations are continuing to evolve as newcomers to the game are creating their own memories.
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