There’s nothing wrong with a man taking pleasure in his work. How he decides to do it can rub off on people the wrong way, be it with arrogance or cockiness. The art of enacting a goal celebration enthusiastically can be a slippery slope as the chosen moment and the act itself are taken into consideration.
Soccer, or football if you prefer, is the premier case study for this project because players enjoy their spotlight in various and usually creative ways. For the most part, they won’t pass up an acrobatic flip, sucking on their thumb, blowing kisses to the audience, pointing to the heavens as a thankful gesture to God or sliding across the pitch without a care in the world.
Why? No sport measures up in world popularity quite like soccer and the goals aren’t as easy to come by. Considering that millions of viewers have their eyes peeled onto the match and up to over 100,000 others could have the stadium at full capacity, it’s understandable that they feel a high and wish to express their joy in the few seconds available to be free. After that, it’s back to business as usual – until the next goal at least. But there’s a line to be aware of and it’s been crossed repeatedly. When Emmanuel Adebayor struck against his former club Arsenal, he sprinted almost the full length of the field to park himself in front of the visiting supporters who once rooted for him.
Trash was thrown, security had their work cut out for them in restraining the riled up Gunners followers and the press dedicated a fair portion of newspaper space to it. Going out of your way to infuriate others and rubbing it in their faces is maybe a touch too much. It’s worthy to note that Adebayor did apologize.
Very few NHL players own a trademark celebration, but none is more inspirational than Alexandre Burrows’ bow-and-arrow in memory of his former teammate, the late Luc Bourdon. When the defenseman was still competing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he would use it as a commemoration and Burrows’ dedication of the bulk of his goals to Bourdon is a nice touch. Two years ago, the 29-year-old began playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, scoring 28 goals which all amazingly came on even-strength minutes. Bourdon’s jersey number with the Vancouver Canucks was 28; safe to assume he’s keeping a close eye on his friend from up above.
Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta actually worked on his celebration with the help of his neighbour, Buffalo Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell, last season. He won’t ever be in the race for a Rocket Richard trophy, but he did score ten of his career 18 goals in 2010 and his explanation for rejoicing each with a passion is straightforward.
"When I score a goal, I treat it like I don't know when I'm going to score again or if it'll ever happen again. I treat it like it's my last goal." Kaleta said.
Fair enough. Alexander Ovechkin earned criticism from Don Cherry after reaching 50 goals and portraying his stick as one that couldn’t be touched because of its heat from all the scoring. While he was correct in pointing out that Ovechkin can sell tickets without the addition of his antics, a milestone like 50 goals is worthy of a special commendation. There was no shortage of disgust from the Tampa Bay Lightning squad that was forced to watch the episode in their own building, but that’s expected.
That night, Ovechkin became the second active player to have three 50-goal campaigns, joining Teemu Selanne, who was no stranger to marking his territory. The Finnish Flash, you may remember, made the term ‘rookie’ irrelevant when he fired in 76 goals and 132 points as a freshman with the Winnipeg Jets. Upon reaching the 54th goal to surpass Mike Bossy’s previous record, Selanne threw his glove in the air and resembled a hunter unloading countless ammunition on his prey. If there’s a doubt over Ovechkin’s class, the same cannot be said for the ageless forward whose demeanour is viewed with the type of respect that’s evident when peaking at his endless accomplishments. One of the elite players in the sport couldn’t resist concealing his emotions and he wasn’t judged for it.
If players have a desire to take it up a notch with their celebrating, by all means, let them. It’s their moment and who’s to state they cannot have fun with it? Will anyone ever forget Theoren Fleury’s slide across center ice following his pivotal overtime winner in the playoffs against the rival Edmonton Oilers? How about Mike Foligno jumping with all his might 355 times, once for each tally? Or Dave Williams riding his stick as if it was a saddle?
The answer is likely no, because their moments and others like them, are ingrained in the sport’s history. Forgetting them would be insulting, although Zigmund Palffy and Travis Green may want to turn back the clock on their episode.
These celebrations may not be deemed kosher or professional by everyone, but they do implant personality, and personality goes a long way in any business.