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Starkey: The war on sports celebrations

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 10:24 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Cameron Heyward celebrates with Lawrence Timmons after Timmons' fourth-quarter interception against the Jets on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, at Metlife Stadium.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders flips into the end zone during the third quarter against the Jets on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell dives into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown against the Vikings on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, at Wembley Stadium in London. Coach Mike Tomlin has now banned what he calls such 'silly' celebrations by his players.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers reciever Antonio Brown celebrates a first-down catch against the Jets on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Clearly, I'm in the minority here. I loved Emmanuel Sanders' midair somersault, even if his coach and everyone else on the planet hated it.

I like to be entertained. I didn't care about the injury risk, minimal as it was, because I'm not a coach, teammate or fan. I don't think every touchdown needs to end with the player handing the ball to an official. I appreciate spontaneous and flamboyant acts of exuberance.

Imagine a world that never had Robbie Brown's windmill, T.O.'s pompoms or Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.

They say to act like you've been there. What if you haven't? Sanders had gone 12 games without crossing the goal line. It was cathartic. And it led to this fun little exchange at Mike Tomlin's news conference Tuesday, when I asked if it's true we won't see any more of these flying somersaults.

“That would be very correct,” Tomlin said.

Me: “And that comes down from you?”

Tomlin: “Absolutely.”

Me: “Why don't you like them?”

Tomlin: “Because it's a potential for injury. It's silly.”

I get that. Really I do. Every coach I've ever met is highly paranoid (although I'm not sure why this edict wasn't delivered when Le'Veon Bell did the exact same thing a week earlier, or when Mike Wallace did it years ago). What's everyone else's problem?

What's with the war on sports celebrations?

You can't even smile in college football anymore. I've spoken to people who don't the like the Pirates' outfield jump after victories, for goodness sake.

I'm with noted New York Jets fan (and Penguins defenseman) Rob Scuderi, who took the Sanders flip in stride. Scuderi's been on the wrong side of far more outrageous acts, like Nail Yakupov's slide of insanity last season in Edmonton.

“I didn't think (the Sanders flip) was all that big a deal,” Scuderi said. “Most of the stuff guys do is really not that big a deal. They're just having fun. They're in the moment. Are there guys who take it too far? Probably. But I think they're few and far between.”

Alex Ovechkin throwing his stick on the ice and pretending it's too hot to pick up probably falls into that category, although I enjoyed that. The Yakupov slide was cool, too. He'd just scored his first NHL goal and tied a game against the Kings with 4.7 seconds left in regulation. You'd be excited too.

“I think he went end to end on us in the celebration,” Scuderi said. “It was probably a bit much, but I didn't lose any sleep over it.”

Me neither. On the other hand — call me hypocritical — I'm not wild about a $42 million receiver celebrating every first-down catch as if he just won Powerball.

I don't claim consistency or logic in judging sports celebrations. It's instinctive. Either I like it or I don't. My rating system is riddled with holes at least as big as the ones Stevie Johnson pretended to shoot into his leg while mocking Plaxico Burress in a memorable TD recital a few years ago.

It's easier to explain what I don't like, rather than what I do:

The Premature Celebration: This could be dropping the ball before you cross the goal line (hello, Danny Trevathan), flipping your bat to admire a triple (paging Yasiel Puig) or dumping Gatorade over your coach just before the other team scores the winning touchdown (Kentucky football, 2006).

The Illegal Celebration: Santonio Holmes is remembered as the hero of Super Bowl XLIII. He could easily be remembered as the goat. Holmes enacted one of the most idiotic TD celebrations of all-time. The NFL later would fine him $10,000. Luckily, no official saw him use the football as a prop in a LeBron James powder-on-the-hands imitation, or the Steelers would have been forced to kick off from their 15 — and might have one less trophy in their case.

The Profane Celebration: Think Darrell Strong giving the USF crowd a one-fingered salute in 2006? Or Andrew Ference doing the same in Montreal five years later.

Somebody's Hurt: Arron Asham did CM Punk's “Go to Sleep” act after knocking out Jay Beagle. Gus Frerotte rammed his head into a concrete block. Donald Brashear scored a goal and immediately punched Brendan Witt in the face. That type of thing.

You Didn't Really Do Anything: Antonio Brown loving him some first downs. Sean Avery doing push-ups after a lucky goal.

Other than that, I'm on board with pretty much anything, from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers playing duck-duck goose in the end zone (it happened) to Randy Moss's fake moon to Evgeni Malkin's glass-leap to the Jagr salute to Mike Rupp's-mock-the-Jagr-salute to the Dodgers jumping into the Arizona Diamondbacks swimming pool.

And, yes, even the Sanders Somersault.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at

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