FAB 2. NFL Is No Longer “No Fun League”

May 23 was a day of celebration for NFL players in more ways than one. That was the day when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell penned a memo to fans letting them know that the league was going to ease up on its rules regarding player celebrations, especially after touchdowns.

After decades of being called the “No Fun League” for cracking down on celebrations through the years, Goodell spoke with more than 80 former and current NFL players about relaxing the celebration rules.

It’s about time.

“We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown,” Goodell said in the letter. “And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.

“We saw a lot of interest in liberalizing and allowing the players a little more freedom to be able to express their joy, their individuality and frankly celebrate the game. So that’s what we think we’ve accomplished here.”

Goodell has been criticized – and rightfully so – for many things, including being slow to address the issue of domestic violence regarding NFL players, Deflategate and the suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady and the league’s ongoing fight to suspend Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott – some say without proper cause.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Getty Images

But Goodell got this one right – thankfully.

In Sunday’s 29-7 win we saw Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Mike Evans elaborate on their celebratory basketball moves. The two began the celebration a year ago by running by each other and doing a lay-up.

“I think it’s cool that the league relaxed the rules,” Evans said. “It’s good for the game. Jameis and I have been doing that since last year – he just dunked it this time. It’s the ‘Euro Filaay.’”

I’m 45, not a Millennial, and not nearly as hip as I used to be – and I considered myself kinda hip back in the day (damn, I sound old). I had no idea what “Euro Filaay,” and if you are over 40, chances are you don’t either.

So I looked it up – in the Urban Dictionary, of course.

“Filaay” means “When you make a tough ass layup.”

The “Euro” part of it is making a “Euro step,” which is a basketball move where an offensive player picks up his dribble, takes a step in one direction, and then quickly takes a second step in another direction, according to Wikipedia.

With the relaxed rules, Evans and Winston took the celebration to another level after their touchdown against the Bears, doing the “Euro Filaay” with Evans throwing an imaginary ball up in the air like a lay-up and Winston acting like he was reverse dunking it.

“It looked good to me,” Bucs wide receiver Humphries said. “They’ve been doing that for a year now and it looked smooth. Mike is smooth. He is a great basketball player. I’ve never seen Jameis on the court, but I’m sure he can move it around a little bit. It looked good and whatever edit they did to the video was cool, too.”

BleacherReport.com had an interesting article called “The Death Of The NFL Touchdown Celebration,” which essentially documents the beginning of the “No Fun League.” The NFL began cracking down on end zone celebrations in 1984 when it targeted the Washington Redskins’ Fun Bunch, which consisted of tight end Rick “Doc” Walker, receivers Art Monk, Charlie Brown, Alvin Garrett and Virgil Seay and running back Otis Wonsley. The group formed a circle in the end zone and began doing a big high-five after touchdowns.

When Monk scored a touchdown in a 31-10 win at Dallas Stadium in 1983, two Cowboys, cornerback Dennis Thurman and safety Michael Downs, took issue and interrupted the Fun Bunch by getting in the middle of the circle. The NFL outlawed group celebrations in the 1984 offseason as a result, although the NFL never implicated the Redskins as the culprits.

Cincinnati running back Elbert “Ickey” Woods became famous for doing his “Ickey Shuffle” after scoring touchdowns, but in 1989 the “No Fun League” struck again, banning premeditated celebrations in the end zone, the field of play or the area near the end zone out of bounds. Woods found a way around that by going over to the sidelines and doing it for the fans.

The NFL then notified Woods that he couldn’t do it within view of the Bengals’ opponents or it would draw an unsportsmanlike penalty. So he limited it to doing it behind the Bengals bench and only at home games.

Although the rules were still on the books in the 1990s, the league didn’t enforce them nearly as much when Paul Tagliabue replaced Pete Rozelle as NFL Commissioner. Deion Sanders, who played for Atlanta, San Francisco and Dallas, was allowed to strut and high step into the end zone, Atlanta’s Jamaal Anderson was allowed to do the “Dirty Bird” after scoring touchdowns for the Falcons and Chiefs defensive end Neil Smith was allowed to pretend to swing a bat and hit a home run after sacks in Kansas City.

Former Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins - Photo by: Getty Images
Former Bucs TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Photo by: Getty Images

It got extreme in the 2000s when Terrell Owens grabbed a Sharpie and autographed a football after a touchdown in San Francisco, while New Orleans receiver Joe Horn hid a cellphone in the goalpost padding and acted like he was making a call after one of his touchdowns.

In 2014, former Bucs tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was flagged for a costly unsportsmanlike conduct for doing the “Captain Morgan” pose and standing on top of the football after scoring a touchdown against the Falcons. Because of the NFL’s rule change regarding celebrations, players can now use the ball as a prop, as Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt did after scoring his second touchdown against Philadelphia last week.

So if ASJ were to do the “Captain Morgan” pose today he wouldn’t get fined.

“I understand the thought process on both sides of the rule change,” Bucs backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “I think it’s good that they relaxed it, but there is a timing element of it and I think the Steelers got burned with it this week in terms of celebrating and focusing too much on that and then getting a delay of game called. They wanted to go for two points, but got a delay of game penalty and then had to kick it.”

Despite the rule change, the NFL starts the play clock for the extra point immediately after the touchdown. In other words, the league doesn’t mind if players do a skit – just don’t put on a Broadway play.

“That adds an interesting element to it where the celebration isn’t going to take over,” Fitzpatrick said. “They are limiting the props that guys can use. I think it’s a good thing for these guys. It’s tough to get in the end zone in this league, so to allow their creative juices to flow is good. This league is driven by superstars, and this allows a light to be cast on them. Some guys will incorporate teammates, and maybe it’s a lineman that wouldn’t necessarily get to do something like celebrate, so I think that’s good.”

Last year, Bucs safety Chris Conte may have been close to being flagged for falling down in the end zone and being surrounded by his teammates after his dramatic pick-six against Chicago, his former team in the 36-10 blowout win.

“I wasn’t thinking about it then, but afterwards I was thinking ‘Shoot, hopefully I don’t get fined for that,’” Conte said. “I don’t think I did get fined for it. Things like that, it would be nice to not have to worry if I’m going to get fined or not.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

“It’s an emotional game, a game that you want to play with your personality and let that out. The rule change allows guys to express themselves without making a fool of themselves, or disrespecting anyone else. It’s nice to let guys show their personalities and some emotion out there.”

The league has a long way to go to generate more fan interest as attendance in NFL stadiums and television ratings are on the decline. I’ll share some of my thoughts on ways to fix the NFL – along with some of the opinions on the Bucs players I spoke with this week in the locker room – next in SR’s Fab 5. But allowing the players to have fun after scoring was a much-needed fix that was long overdue.

“I think it’s awesome they changed the rules because of the amount of work that goes in to scoring a touchdown – it’s hard,” Humphries said. “You used to have to worry about a flag and a fine. How much the fines are depends on how involved the celebration is. I’ve never had to worry about it because I’ve always been more of a hand-the-ball-to-the-ref guy. You work so hard to score that you want to celebrate with your teammates. It’s cool that they’ve relaxed that rule.”

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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wnb0395
2 years ago

Scott, another great fab 5. As to part 3 about the ratings. I agree with what you have but I have to add that I believe the athletes not standing for the national has had a major effect on the ratings. Following facebook and twitter I see many posts about how many Americans feel its disrespect to our military forces who are currently serving and have died for this country to not stand and honor them. I get that athletes want to protest and have the right to protest and them not standing is not to disrespect our military forces,… Read more »

BucWild02
2 years ago
Reply to  wnb0395

I am not a fan of hijacking the national anthem for a discussion on race relations or politics or policing, especially at the expense of offending those who have sacrificed and served. Also, football is my entertainment. It’s my getaway from the reality of everyday life. I am a white, middle aged, middle class guy who has served. I am not a racist. Colin Kaepernick is mixed. He is probably wealthy. He is a public figure with a platform, only because he is a part of the NFL. By taking a knee during the national anthem, he has risked his… Read more »

wnb0395
2 years ago
Reply to  BucWild02

I can think of a more effective way. You can do what the Dallas Cowboys did last night. I loved it. They protested before the national anthem, then stood up for the anthem so they didn’t offend anyone, while still holding arms. It was a non offensive protest that also promoted unity. My Grandpa Died serving this country. I never got to meet him. I was raised in a different era with respect. Majority of the kids now days don’t have any respect or morals. I was taught to always stand for the national anthem to honor those who are… Read more »

Iowabucfan
2 years ago

I was just shocked last year that David had no tackles in the Arizona game. I still find it unbelievable. He is too good of player for that to happen. I am definitely glad to see that he is back. My favorite touchdown celebration was Billy “White Shoes” Johnson of the former Houston Oilers. It was unique, yet simple. I also liked Barry Sanders. He get into the end zone, which was often, and just flipped the ball to the referee. He acted like he been there before and it was par for the course. To me, that was more… Read more »

e
e
2 years ago

To chime in on #3, Scott… I would say that Goodell, over his tenure, has turned an institution into a commodity. I think that when you look at the overall arc of the popularity of the game, the NFL has reached, and is now surpassing that profit-pushing saturation point. NFL games don’t feel like they used to back in the day. I believe that when you are watch CFB these days, you get a feeling that those players are fighting for something a little more, even though it’s still a business. I agree that they need to only have one… Read more »

cgmaster27
2 years ago

Great Fab 5. It’s funny as a fan , when a player is so good for so ling, you kind of take them for granted. David is one of those players. We all agree he had a bit of a down year last year, but when you see his career stats so far, that is eye opening. I think he continues and has a big week this week with a pick. I love the f act that the NFL relaxed the rules on scoring celebrations. I love them. Scoring a TD has to be an exhilarating experience, let them enjoy… Read more »

tpeluso
2 years ago

Please, let’s not go down the road of college’s overtime rules. I hate how they take special teams play (save for field goals) out of the game, I hate how they gift the offense a shot at a makeable field goal without doing anything, and I hate how they artificially inflate scores (which you mention, but it’s important when scoring still factors into half of the NFL’s tiebreaker criteria, even if they’re the ones that are the last resort). The NFL’s existing overtime system has produced plenty of exciting and controversial moments, and is not screaming out to be messed… Read more »

Naplesfan
2 years ago
Reply to  tpeluso

The college football playoff system is fine, it’s very entertaining. But I don’t think it works so good for NFL. Better to keep but tweak the existing rule … no team should lose a playoff game just because they lost the coin toss, even if the other team scores a TD. After all, everyone knows that defenses are usually all gassed out at the end of four quarters, so whoever gets the ball first is most likely to win without the other team demonstrating whether it can score a TD too. After one possession and it’s still tied,then whoever scores… Read more »

surferdudes
2 years ago

Could the down ratings have anything to do with the fact millions of people were affected by two massive hurricanes? I know I didn’t have power for five days, and no internet, cable, for 12 days.

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Naplesfan
2 years ago

On making the NFL more entertaining: 1 – too much of a good thing ain’t good … Thursday night football cheapens the product, get rid of it asap 2 – adding more reviewable plays, nope … we spend far too much time watching flags fly, ref’s chin-pulling and staring at video screens, and waiting for the faceless person back in the review booth to issue the Ten Commandments. Speed makes excitment 3 – too many late night games (again, partly “less is more”) … for people who have to get up early the next morning, an 8:30 kickoff results in… Read more »

cobraboy
2 years ago

#6: Stop the political baloney and Social Justice Warriors from alienating fans. As a former player and lifetime fan, the politics and SJW in the NFL the last couple of years just about has me ready to just walk away from it. That, IMO, is the #1 reason the NFL is slipping and unless the NFL draws a line in the sand, will continue its slide. The #’s 1-5 are peripheral problems to the core issue. Thay6 may be irritating, but #6 pi$$e$ me off. I am a football fan to get away from that crap. Why would I tolerate… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago

Next Owner/Player Contract requires both sides to wake up that they might be over pricing their product; younger people have more toys for options than in past decades. Kids aren’t playing football like they use to; therefore the present and future watching market is shrinking; it’s as simple as that. I have never supported individual celebrating when this is a team sport; it’s just not necessary. Just my opinion.

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spartan
2 years ago

The biggest argument against the “we know the risks” is that is not the current players who submit the lawsuits. It’s either those who are now retired and broke or a family member after the fact. Case in point the concussion settlement. Do you honestly think that is going to be the last one?

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XpfcWintergreen
2 years ago

This is an old-timer’s response to what I see as short sighted trends in today’s NFL. This is an open plea to the owners and the NFL brain trust. Eliminate the Thursday night games. Do NOT expand the schedule to more than 16 games. (After all the payers are just human beings. They are not really supermen.) Do not ruin this game. Don’t let greed ruin the product. Find some other CREATIVE way to squeeze out the extra $$ you think you need. Do not follow the lead of what happened to major league baseball. MLB used to be America’s… Read more »

gafikdetail
2 years ago

the NFL has plateaued… it’s as simple as that… has nothing to do with politics or social justice… kids these days are too busy playing in their phones & trying to be social media stars instead of watching or playing football… as profitable as the NFL has been and still is where murders, rapes, domestic violence, racists rants, DUIs, vehicular homicides & dog fighting didn’t make a dent in it’s popularity but a silent protest is it’s death knell? ROFL get the hell out of hear!! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

scubog
2 years ago

The NFL might not be as popular as it was a few years ago, but it’s still one of America’s favorite pastimes. Almost as popular as posting stupid stuff on social media about which the recipients really don’t care. Instead of hitting the LIKE symbol, there should be a pile of bull crap symbol indicating that you don’t give a shit. And that my friends is what has happened to the NFL. Many former fans have become apathetic and no longer have the passion. Too much of a good thing. Back a few years ago most of us football fans… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  scubog

Scubog, we getting older and are more conscious in prioritizing our time. My hat is off to you four still going out there in the hot sun and supporting the Bucs; I myself passed this effort a few years ago. I still love the Bucs and support them.

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spartan
2 years ago

By trying to be everything to everyone, and not being offensive in way, they end up being nothing to no-one.

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drdneast
2 years ago

Scubog, once again I agree with many things on your list, but the Vikings horn? Come on, I hate it when it’s blowing against us, but during the rest of the games I love it and I have even heard some players say they love it as well. So I’m going to quit watching NFL games because a washed up QB and Michael Bennett, who I respect as both a player and a person, decide to sit down during the National Anthem. Why” They don’t even play for the Bucs. What do I care what they are doing in San… Read more »