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NFL Player Celebrations: Where Do You Stand?

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Over the weekend, 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he grabbed an interception in the third quarter against the Rams. After the interception, Goldson, Carlos Rogers and Larry Grant held out their arms (in the airplane/hawk way Goldson does) and did a modest little dance number. Basically it involved some head and shoulder movement and not much else. However, because it was three guys dancing celebrating together on the field, the flag was thrown.

On the scale over overly exuberant celebrations, that one was pretty far down the scale. For a long time now we've seen plenty of crazy celebrations, with several of Terrell Owens' leading the way. You could say it peaked (or valleyed, depending on your viewpoint) with Stevie Johnson poking fun at Plaxico Burress' legal trouble. Johnson was penalized and Bob Costas used his Sunday Night Football halftime pulpit to decry the end of humanity because of excessive celebrations.

When it comes to player celebrations, plenty of people use the "act like you've been there before" argument for not celebrating after plays. My own view is that I generally have no problems with celebrating after big plays. When you've spent a ton of time preparing and you suddenly find yourself juiced up on adrenaline in front of 70,000 people, who am I to tell you not to celebrate after you blow up a quarterback for a huge third down sack? While I respect Barry Sanders and others for their non-celebration of big plays, not every player acts that way, and I'm alright with that given the emotions involved.

I do see how ridiculous it can get when a player celebrates a first and ten play where he tackles the running back after a three-yard gain. If you're fired up so be it, but that can seem a little over the top I suppose.

The big problem is when you get into a situation that costs your team yards on a penalty as we saw when the 49ers got their unsportsmanlike penalty. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was asked about this on Monday:

Talking to some of your players, they showed, especially on defense, some excitement yesterday on the field for the first time. They said they're kids, they want to enjoy, too. What is your message to them, though, as they go into the playoffs, a place where many of them haven't been, to have fun but make sure the celebrations aren't costly. What's your philosophy on that?

"As I told you yesterday, my feelings on celebrations are that they should be spontaneous, not planned out. When it comes to the three guys dancing, that's going to draw a penalty. Get over to the sideline and dance. Dance all you want, really. That's not going to get a penalty. Just being really disciplined when it comes to doing things that might cost your team, that you don't want to do."

How do you feel about celebrations? Given the topic, I figured I'd include an old ESPN rundown when there was some discussion of further bans on end zone celebrations. They banned props, but dancing is still allowed. Sorry about the non-HD quality.