The Entertainment of Sports

Thursday, August 31, 2006

2006 NFL Rule Changes: New Restrictions for End-Zone Antics

Over 50,000 screaming fans surround him and Who Let The Dogs Out? is playing through the speakers, yet he must think twice before he can celebrate his act of greatness. This is the situation in which NFL players will find themselves after scoring a touchdown this 2006 season. The competition committee of the National Football League has voted this March to limit end-zone celebrations. Players who use props or perform stunts that are argued to delay the game, like Terrell Owen's football signing, will be punished with a 15-yard penalty. Although the NFL has good intentions in placing restrictions on touchdown celebrations, it is irrational to assume that players will adhere to these guidelines in the highly commercialized world of American football.

It is understandable that the league needs to implement these rules to encourage sportsmanship rather than showmanship. The new limitations on end-zone celebrations passed because many coaches felt similar sentiments to San Diego Marty Schottenheimer’s, who said, “The game is about the team, not the individual.” Like it or not, the game is hardly about the teams anymore. Halftime shows, the cheerleaders, the commercials and the uniforms define what the audience perceives as entertainment. While the NFL old-timers are trying to preserve what little sanctity of the league is left, all other influences are encouraging players like Steve Smith and Terrell Owens to perform in the end zone. These players receive more attention from the fans, more airtime on SportsCenter, and more endorsements. Sport’s columnist Chris Russell complains that the celebration of players is immature and unsportsmanlike, but the players are merely catering their actions to the media interest, which ultimately leads to a large paycheck.

Fans of Chad Johnson’s pylon putting and other shenanigans should not despair. Touchdown performances for football players remain as irresistible as a juicy t-bone steak is to a pit bull. The players know that they can entertain and attract viewers more easily with an original touchdown dance than an incredible catch. Coaches may argue that football players are paid to win games. The truth is that players are being sold the commodity of the NFL. They will continue to sell this commodity by finding the loopholes in the new 2006 rule changes. Chad Johnson told a Cincinatti reporter that he was already planning to meet with fellow players to brainstorm some ideas for the new season. He also told the press, "Tell the competition committee that Chad said you can't cover 85, and there's no way you can stop him from entertaining." Despite all the controversy, audiences should be ready for some very creative end-zone celebrations this 2006 NFL season.


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