2008-10-16 / Sam Bari

The art of celebration

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

This time of year offers a smorgasbord of choices for sports fans. The summer sports, like baseball, are finishing, football is slightly into its season, and basketball is starting to play exhibition games.

Occasionally, I enjoy watching a little assault and battery on the football field, and those tall guys jamming basketballs into hoops can be entertaining.

While flipping back and forth between football, baseball and basketball, I noticed that the teams all had something in common - the celebration. Whenever someone on a football team scored a touchdown, the players would get together at the end of the field and jump up and down. At the end of the basketball and baseball games, the winning teams did the same thing.

The reality is, they look like a bunch of schoolgirls who regularly partake in such activities for no good reason. The only thing that was missing was the squealing and giggling.

The athletes also do the jumping up and down routine as a pre-game warm up. I suppose it gets the blood flowing and the leg muscles working.

Some athletes, like golfers for instance, are somewhat reserved about exhibiting excessive celebratory enthusiasm after their victories. Golfers are just wound a little too tight to publicly display that kind of emotion. It would not be dignified by their standards.

Nonetheless, "excessive" is the operative word about the celebrations that occur after an athlete or team experiences a moment of victory. It seems that some uptight offi cials have deemed it necessary to curb this kind of behavior by declaring it to be unsportsmanlike and "excessive."

Personally, I thought Billy White Shoes Johnson was funny when he did the funky chicken after scoring a touchdown for the Atlanta Falcons. And, who could not be amused by the choreographed TD celebration dance staged by the Oakland Raiders in their heyday? It was all in good fun, and certainly better than watching a bunch of 300-pound behemoths acting like a giggling group of schoolgirls jumping up and down.

The powers that be made their point by imposing heavy penalties on any athlete who had the effrontery to be too happy after accomplishing a major score or victory in front of their enthusiastic fans. Players risk paying five-figure fines along with penalties, and even suspensions, if they are viewed as partaking in excessive celebration in the official's eyes.

This week, on Monday night football, I must admit I was delighted when Cleveland Brown quarterback Derek Anderson threw one of his two touchdown passes to wide receiver Brayton Edwards.

During pre-game introductions, Edwards announced his team's return to the NFL's prime-time weekday slot by performing a cartwheel and back flip. He then made the Giants look foolish by helping his team with their 35-14 win over the Super Bowl champs.

The officials couldn't fault Edwards for excessive celebration because the game had not yet started.

Maybe the officiating body that makes the decisions to suppress athletes for having "too much fun" would prefer that they take the corporate high road and follow in the footsteps of companies like insurance company, American International Group (AIG), Inc.

The company spent $440,000 on a posh California retreat for its executives to celebrate being bailed out of financial ruin by the $85 billion loan from the government to avoid bankruptcy.

Their celebration came complete with spa treatments, banquets and golf outings, according to investigators.

The resort tab included $23,380 worth of spa treatments for AIG employees.

I would say that celebration was slightly "over the top," maybe even "a bit excessive." Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California) said there was evidence that the former CEO of AIG, Martin Sullivan, changed the bonus schedule in order to insure that top executives would continue making multi-million dollar salaries, even as their company went broke.

"Mr. Sullivan and the other top executives should have had their bonuses slashed due to poor performance," said Waxman.

According to ABC television, Sullivan received a $15 million golden parachute payment when he was let go last June.

In my less than humble opinion, that is excessive celebration at taxpayers expense. Now, does anybody out there actually believe that one of those executives will actually give their bonus back? I would put my money on, "That ain't gonna happen."

I guess inequitable standards for "excessive celebration" is just another one of those things we have to accept when we live in a system we can't understand.

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