By David Fleming
Page 2

"Welcome, everyone, and thank you all for coming to the NFL's first ever excessive Celebration Symposium."

(Clap. Grunt. Yawn.)

"I'm Dave Fleming and I'll be your host/moderator, or, haha, you can just call me the Czelebration Czar ... hey now, wait just a second Mr. (pretend) Warren Sapp. I saw that ... those kinds of gestures are not only rude and hurtful but also against the very NFL rules we're here to discuss.

"See, Warren's a perfect example of how celebrations have become so ugly and unoriginal in today's game. "That's right, I'm not here to tell you that celebrations are bad or that they're ruining the league. No. Please. To the contrary. I'm here to show you that lame celebrations are what's ruining this league.

"From an historical perspective, my guess is it all started with the Icky Shuffle. That set the standard for so-bad-it's-good celebrations. It just became a huge overnight sensation in Cincinnati -- but, then, so did Jerry Springer. When, really, it looked like some guy trying to get water out of his ear after he took a shower.

"Now I look around the league and I see Terrell Owens, the once-proud master of the genre who is here today, and he's doing sit-ups in the end zone. Sit-ups?? Then I hear Brett Favre may have aggravated his concussion because of a post-TD celebration? Around the league, I see silly fines and flags flying all weekend, but not for big hits or poor choices off the field. For ... excessive celebrations.

"Men, I'm here to tell you there is no such thing as an excessive celebration. There's only cool, real, funny celebrations and boring, unimaginative, lame celebrations. That's how the NFL Czelebration Czar would levy fines and flags. He wouldn't base them on the size or the nature of the celebration, but on the quality of said celebration.

Warren Sapp
If Warren Sapp ever performs this in Oakland, say good-bye to California for good.

"Warren? Hmph. Again with the finger? Okay. Fine. Tell me, who among us can shake the image of Warren's rump-quake TD dance in Atlanta last year? Uh huh, that's what I thought. None of us, right? Well, his former teammates are still haunted by the nightmares, too. They wake up in cold sweats thinking an earthquake has hit the Georgia Dome.

"I know a lot of you -- Terrell, Randy, Brett and Deion ... er, Deion? Has anyone seen Deion? Anyway, I know you don't want to be here right now, but this is important. The Bucs, for example, were 16-5 before Warren's excessive celebration, and they're 5-12 since. Coinkydink? I think not.

"See, fellas, as the self appointed Czelebration Czar, I want you to know that I differ greatly from the NFL in that I personally don't have a problem with spontaneous, wild, clever or funny celebrations. I actually kinda dig 'em. This is a violent sport. And if the NFL has no problem marketing that violence as entertainment, then I have no problem with original stunts like T.O.'s Sharpie Incident as a way to promote the entertainment aspect of the game.

"Hey, strong safeties who regularly try to decapitate slot receivers coming across the middle never seem to get fined. But Joe Horn has to pay a $30,000 cell phone bill? Or, perish the thought, three or four buddies who risk paralysis every week to help the NFL sell beer ads should dance together after scoring a TD? The league reacts with fines and flags as if they've threatened the very sanctity of the game!

"I mean, really, who is the NFL to decide what is or what isn't an excessive celebration? Puhlease. Toby Keith? Jessica Simpson? Bon Jovi? That's not a pre-game celebration. That's the next lineup of "Surreal World." (By the way, did anyone else catch Flava Flav making grilled cheese last week on VH1? You gotta fight the flour!) "Any way, please remember: Spontaneous. Clever. Funny. Real. Meaningful. Just remember the acronym, uh, scifurm, uh, scurfreem, wait, uh, sponclefualm ... oh, nevermind about the stupid acronym. "See, I love it when guys jump into the stands or power-slam the ball or boot it into the crowd or give it to a lineman to spike. Whenever I score in hockey, I pretend I'm kicking a grocery cart and yell out 'YOU KNOW IT!" like Frank The Tank at the very end of "Old School."

"So, as a review, Frank the Tank" Good. Gus Frerotte's butthead head-butt? Bad.

"Randy Moss handing that TD ball to the guy in the wheelchair? Good. Bill Gramatica blowing out his knee while celebrating a field goal? Bad. "Ray Lewis dancing? Good. Warren Sapp or anyone else over 300 pounds dancing? Bad.

Terrell Owens
Time to go back to the drawing board, Terrell.

"T.O. launching the ball against the wall? Good. T.O. driving it into the Cowboys' star like an oil well? Awesome. T.O. as a cheerleader? OK, I'll even give you that one. T.O. doing sit-ups like some kind of Jack La-lame? Bad. Very very bad. I guess when you score that many TDs, you're bound to run out of material.

"Ah ha, here's Deion now. Welcome Deion ... Deion ... no ... no ... please stop ... no ... that's not necessary ... please ... get off of my desk ... no ... stop ... no ... fine ... OK ... we ... get ... the point.

"OK, now, this is good. We all got to watch Deion's wild, explosive, 10-minute whirling dervish ditty-dance atop my desk. Not bad, really. But the important question now is, why? Why such a sudden outburst, Deion?

"A parking space? Deion says it was a parking space. Hmm. A parking space.

"See ... this is exactly what I'm talking about. Finding a good parking spot is cool, but it's no reason to exhaust yourself and waste our time doing a 10-minute 'worm/robot' experimental number on top of my desk. That's the same as returning a punt a ho-hum 23 yards against the Steelers then jumping up and helicopter-twirling yourself 56 yards downfield, on tender hammys nonetheless, as if you've just unlocked the secret to cold fusion.

"This is a good example of why fans are really getting tired of: guys exploding like narcissistic roman candles for, basically, doing their dang job. Special-teamers are notorious for this. A good rule of thumb for you guys -- let's call it the Deion Rule -- is you shouldn't spend more energy on the celebration than you did making the actual play.

"That's fair, right, guys? OK, I really think we're getting somewhere with this stuff.

"Now, I also don't want to see a possession receiver catch a 6-yard down-and-out, which we all learned in Pop Warner, then do that silly first-down, Greek-god statue pose. L.A.M.E. (Just make a mental note to yourself. Say, 'Self, I am a possession receiver. Making first downs is what I'm paid to do. The NFL actually employs people to make this silly signal for me. Save energy because we're ... LOSING BY THREE TOUCHDOWNS.')

Amani Toomer
It's a first down, Amani. Now go on and walk back to the huddle.

"I also don't want to see a corner take two steps and bat down a wobbly duck, then run around like he landed on an ant hill. I don't want to see a linebacker shoot a gap and basically sit on top of a confused, scared QB, then go all coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.

"Why? Why? Isn't it obvious, Ray?

"Because sometimes, man, I agree, it is all you. Sometimes, you claw your way through a double-team, pursue the QB to the other sideline, then make an amazing, gutsy, diving, one-in-a-million tackle. And when that happens, man, go crazy. I'm serious. Express yourself any way you see fit. With as many teammates as you'd like. Do that wild I-just-drank-some-orange-juice-after-brushing-my-teeth-dance you do during pregame warmups. Maybe I'll even join in. "But don't celebrate a routine play. It makes the world think you're the only one out there, when, in fact, the D-tackles held up their blockers to keep you clean, the ends flushed that guy right to you and the DBs locked down their guys so the QB couldn't get rid of the ball.

"Hey, I don't dance (I got mad skills -- think Rerun meets Beavis) every time I correctly spell a word. Our mailman doesn't break it down after each house. Birthdays are cool because we celebrate them huge ... once a year.

"So, in closing ... you may now put your finger down, Warren. Oh, nice. I see Brett has joined in as well. Keep it meaningful. Keep it real. Keep it funny. And, by all means, keep it spontaneous. "And remember, this is the NFL, dammit, not the sequel to 'You Got Served'."

FLEM GEMS -- NFL WEEK 4
30-SECOND COLUMN
Guest columnist on the Ricky Williams situation: Kruk, a buddy of mine from work who flew in for the Pearl Jam concert and is also a sick, die-hard, lifelong Miami Dolphins fan. "I always thought he was a bit crazy and aloof, off on his own Fantasy Island-type thing. Dreadhead to deadhead, that's cool. But this, this is the ultimate act by the ultimate selfish athlete. Well, it's not surprising. I mean, losing out on eight million bucks ... shoot, that's a lot of pot, man. I mean, that's, like, Nate Newton pot. I would give anything to see Jason Taylor's face when Ricky tries to walk back into that locker room. Not only has he dug his own grave in Miami, he smothered himself in the dirt, too. It's over for Ricky. Over. Unless you think we can get something for him in a trade. Then, yeah, come on back."
FLEM FILE FIVE
Top five worst sports celebrations.

5.) Detroit. 1984 World Series. The birthplace of the post-championship riot.

4.) U.S. Ryder Cup team's premature celebration on top of Jose Maria Olazabal's putt.

3.) TIE: Post-victory dances by the Lakers' Mark Madsen and the Pats' Robert Kraft.

2.) Gus Frerotte's butthead head-butt.

1.) Ricky Henderson's "I am the Greatest of All Time" speech.

(T)FLEM FILE
Titans FB Troy Fleming checked in on Tuesday morning while waiting for some routine follow-up X-rays for his hand. (Everything is fine. He's not even wearing a cast anymore.) On a three-game losing skid, the Titans are struggling a bit.

But TFlem (thanks to Flem File karma) had a great week. After going to the coaches to ask for more opportunities, Troy was promoted to deep man on kick returns. He dropped his first kick (against the Colts), but picked it up and returned it for 12 yards. "Nerves," he says. Against the Chargers, TFlem returned his first kick 27 yards. "It was a return left, and I was one tackle away from taking it to the house," says TFlem. He finished the day with 101 yards (16.8 yard average) on six returns.

T also had a huge hit on coverage and made a nice, diving, one-handed catch that was later ruled an incomplete pass by ref Mike Carey, who will now be the first 2004 victim of the Flem File CURSE. TFlem says the talk amongst the players is that the team has started a season 1-4 before and then won 10 of its last 11 to salvage the season. They can do it again.

"We're just making small mistakes," says T. "It's time for us to step up and stop playing like a 1-3 team." Well, it might not be quite that easy for the Titans, but at least they don't have to worry about their kick returns anymore.

WHYLO
I'll let OU Bob bat lead-off this week, because of the smack I talked about my Lil RedHawks, who, yeah, got spanked pretty bad by Marshall last week.

Bob begins, "Well, Mr. Purveyor of crap, Mr. Grand Poohba of Journalistic Ineptitude, what have you got to say now about your beloved Miami Redscum? Not only did they lose, they embarrassed your school on national TV. Let me guess: Miami had its plaids and khaki all out of whack, and thus its color-coordinated chakra was in flux, right? I mean, seriously, could a team look any worse playing an 0-3 team? You predicted a 78-3 blowout; and had it not been for Marshall subbing in its second team, the score would've been much higher. But, alas my poor friend with horrible highlights in his hair, your team lost.

"Invariably, you might ask who helped me log on, right? For the venom we spew, you have only yourself to blame. You and your poor excuse for writing. Your words spoke to me, and my sense of right and wrong drove me to write this email."

Tim says, "While I don't think you are the greatest writer ever, I do think you have a unique sense of humor, even if I don't think it's funny half the time. It still is a break from reality."

Worried about my welfare, Brett writes, "I don't know if there is an official vote going on or what its relevance would be, but just in case: I vote that you keep living."

Brian adds, "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Un-freaking believable. You compared that euro-trashy pop tune from U2 to "I Will Follow"? Have you lost what was left of your freaking mind?!?"

Rich stays on the U2 rant with, "You devoted four paragraphs to a U2 single? Can there be more than maybe a dozen people, not currently institutionalized, who give a rats ass about a single from a band that hasn't produced anything even remotely listenable for the last 21 years or so? Reading a sports columnist's opinion of music strikes me as being almost as useless as listening to Bono's opinion on world issues. Other than that, not a bad article."

Practicing some tough love, Mike writes, "After reading yet another dud from you, I went back and re-read an archived article you did last year (Tuesday, October 14, 2003). This was a wonderful piece of insightful comments and analysis about the games from the week. Now ever since you joined the evil yellow and black decor of page 2, well, you suck."

Josh has got my back. "You have a new Flem File mascot. Why don't you get a new slogan? 'Don't condemn the Flem!'"

And finally, for this week's WHYLO, we go back to an old standby: the city rip. This one was really not so original or bright, since, duh, I GREW UP IN DETROIT. Barry (not Sanders) begins, "First off, the Lions aren't underdogs at all, they are simply another loser. As for Lions fans, what can I say? Why in the world would anybody in their right mind want to live in Detroit? I think most of those folks are like Gerry Ford as LBJ described him: 'Nice guy, just played too much football without his helmet.'"

Barry, by the way, never did say where he resides. But I can tell you where he'll be living in cyberspace for the next week: in WHYLOville.

Barry, Who Helped You Log On?

THIS COLUMN WRITTEN WHILE LISTENING TO: Pearl Jam (as a warm up for tomorrow night's Vote For Change show in North Carolina).

David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Contact him at Dave.Fleming@espn3.com.




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