UNEARTHING THE ISSUES IN SPORTS TODAY
Breaking News: Cam Newton really
That seemed to be every headline towards the end of the NFL season, as the Carolina Panthers’ historic, one-loss journey only served to highlight the antics of their star quarterback. Some vilified him, saying he was disrespecting the game; others defended him, maintaining that he was merely enjoying himself. But at the core of every article was the same question: There are celebrations of excitement and unsportsmanlike taunts, but where does the line fall
Take the Terrell Owens celebrations in Dallas in 2000. After scoring a touchdown on a short corner route, the 49ers wide receiver sprinted to midfield and stood on the Cowboys star, arms outstretched, face turned skyward. In response, or perhaps defense, Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith spiked the ball and knelt on the star after his own touchdown run. Later in the game, Owens scored another touchdown, and–you guessed it–headed for the star. Before he could repeat his gesture, however, Cowboys safety George Teague, who had decided he had had enough of Owens’ antics,
laid him out.
The case is widely regarded as one of the most disrespectful moments in football history. The star on that field stood for a lot more than some blue and white paint, and through his actions, Owens attempted to deliberately show up an entire organization.
And this is where I believe the line lies: in the mindset. I think we forget, sometimes, that sports are supposed to be fun, both for the fans and for the players. It’s okay for Newton to dance around a little in the end zone after a touchdown. It’s okay for the Warriors’ Stephen Curry to hit a shimmy after he hits a 28-foot three-pointer. These people are physically incredible, and have abilities far beyond the reach of the average person. We, as fans, enjoy these abilities; it’s perfectly okay for athletes to enjoy
But when an athlete “celebrates” solely in an attempt to put the opponent down, the joy and thrill of competition becomes corrupted. This is what happened in Dallas in 2000. It’s what happened in September 2013, when the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated a division-clinching victory at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field by jumping into a swimming pool beyond the outfield fence. These actions were deliberate. They were meant to rub victory in the opponent’s face. And they were entirely unsportsmanlike.
To every athlete, regardless of age, sport, or level: Enjoy yourself. You amaze us. It’s okay to amaze yourself, too. Celebrate. Have fun. But don’t taunt your opponent, or show them up, or put them down. Because once you do, you’ve corrupted the very heart of competition itself.