If I were head of office in the NFL, I would place an asterisked clause at the end of the celebration penalty section of the rulebook to excuse what a player does when he catches a bonker that could potentially win the game Hail Mary for a touchdown.
Aside from harming or maiming someone, short of making a really offensive, horrible gesture… if a player wants to eat their cleats? It’s good. When he wants to cross the end zone with backflips like a college football cheerleader? good for him If he wants to grab a mic, go to midfield, commandeer the PA system, and sing the first few bars of “America.” out Westside Story? I would allow it. Especially if he also does the original choreography.
They certainly didn’t miss the foundation for that take on Sunday: DJ Moore of the valiant Panthers, who refused to hit tanks, caught a stunning go-ball near the end of the rule to tie the Falcons at 34. After the game was over he stood up, unbuckled his chin strap and removed his helmet. He jumped into the stands and then rampaged with his teammates on the end zone turf for a moment before puffing out his chest and walking to the touchline.
He was flagged for removing his helmet, which is illegal thanks to NFL rulebooks. The Panthers’ extra point attempt was therefore relegated 15 yards, and their kicker parried the kick despite a clean snap and hold, sending the game into overtime. The Panthers lost after the same kicker, Eddy Piñeiro, missed an even shorter kick in overtime.
However, the rule makes it illegal to take your helmet off, just as smoking weed on your birthday is illegal (in some places). It’s illegal, like confetti is illegal in Mobile, Alabama (seriously, look it up). Are we really going to push this through regardless of the circumstances? Moore didn’t use his helmet as a weapon like some players do as the gameplay progresses; He just wanted the millions of people watching this catch to see the face of the man who made it. He didn’t hurt anyone, and television cameras later showed Moore burying his head in his hands as the Falcons charged the field as if there were some conceivable universe in which to blame us him for all of that.
While I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who preach self-control and know the rules and stay cool, they’ve almost certainly never caught a potential Hail Mary in a professional football game while tens of thousands of people yelled at them. If we had a way to map the human brain in those moments, watching all the neurons and synapses firing up like blinking Christmas lights, one would assume the pattern would resemble the result of chemically induced euphoria. This is one of the coolest on-field events to happen in Moore’s life. This is perhaps the greatest fun he has ever had on planet earth in a single moment.
If hospitals penalized you financially for crying when your firstborn was born, could you?
If the pastor at your wedding sworn to extend Mass by 15 minutes every time you smiled at your bride or groom, how many of us wouldn’t sit in that church all day?
That’s what’s ultimately so incredibly stupid about some NFL rules, especially when it comes to touchdown celebrations. They created this league that floods their players and coaches with unfathomable pressure, flattery and sheer joy, and then slaps them on the wrists when they put their bodies on autopilot for a well-deserved second and act like a damn human.
Moore had his skills in about as much control as you or I behind the wheel of a Formula 1 race car after a few Jagerbombs (on a safe, cordoned-off track, of course). He was excited. He wanted everyone to know. I’m surprised he left his helmet on for so long.
While there are many reasons for athletes to be cynical about the sports they play, nothing is more frustrating than watching them respond naturally to the conditions of an environment not created by people who control the feelings who can not experience them and then get punished for it. This wasn’t Odell Beckham Jr. pretending to urinate like a dog or Terrell Owens pulling a Sharpie out of his socks. That wasn’t Joe Horn and a cell phone. In a moment of sobriety, there was no pre-planning. It wasn’t even an inactive Vernon Hargreaves who ran onto the Super Bowl field with his Bengals teammates after a game he wasn’t involved in.
This was chaos, and Moore just wanted to look around for a minute at the sea of chaos he had just created. Those who cannot understand this must have more life experiences worth celebrating.
More NFL Coverage: