Throughout my life, I’ve always been intrigued and captivated by sports. It seems like a given since I’m joining the cast of Sun sports columnists with this first column. What I love about sports in particular is the unique personalities in sports. With the many characters in the sports world, there are countless antics that occur on and off the field. Although many people claim that these celebrations are silly and are getting out of hand, these celebrations serve as windows into the people these athletes are, and have become inseparable aspects of the sports world.
The best example against celebrating is that of the Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendry Morales. On May 29 against the Seattle Mariners, Morales hit a walk-off grand slam against Brandon League. Like any other walk-off hit, the crowd erupted and Morales rounded the bases while his teammates eagerly awaited to celebrate at the plate. It wasn’t just a walk-off hit; it was the first grand slam in Morales’ career. Except, within moments, everything went horribly wrong. Morales dropped his helmet before leaping high into the pile of his teammates, and after a couple minutes simply could not get up. He had landed awkwardly on home plate and fractured his lower left leg. He was placed on the disabled list and missed the rest of the season following surgery.
Morales became a victim in what is often a tradition in baseball celebrations. A walk-off hit is usually followed up with a huge celebration at the plate, no matter the significance the win may have. Florida Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan also injured himself by hurting his knee while giving his teammate Wes Helms a shaving cream pie to the face for a different walk-off incident. Although these two players suffered injuries while celebrating, these cases are definitely not the norm. These two cases definitely should not be ignored, but the concept of celebrating shouldn’t be blamed for these injuries. The celebration seems to be the culprit here but the athletes stress their bodies day in and day out. Injuries happen in odd ways that can’t be avoided sometimes and the celebration merely serves as a catalyst.
Some people say that celebrations over a meaningless regular season game or an emphatic dunk are foolish and don’t serve a purpose. A single goal or a touchdown doesn’t warrant excessive shows. But these celebrations are often part of the game and may even be necessary for a winning environment. They serve as a great way to pump up the team during games and let everyone know that the player is letting everything out. They also show that the athlete is enjoying the moment and having fun. And there isn’t a greater moment, or greater feeling for that matter, than celebrating with the rest of the team for being able to pull through as a team. What other way is there to show the camaraderie and team chemistry than sharing the moment together?
These big shows aren’t the only things that qualify as celebrations. Take Steve Nash and his high fives. He is notorious for high fiving everyone on the team, even the benchwarmers, to keep the team atmosphere friendly. Soccer players celebrate after a goal to congratulate the great play. Football players spike the ball to let loose their emotion. Baseball players high five each other as they cross home plate. All these small things count as celebrations and are just small congratulations within a team to keep spirits up. This positive reinforcement makes the game fun for the athletes to play and contribute to better performances.
Some celebrations do actually become a show though. Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon and Yankees relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain both are criticized for their fist pumping and screaming antics after what could be argued as trivial outs. Wide receiver Terrell Owens was tackled during one of his touchdown celebrations by a Cowboys safety for spiking the ball on the Dallas star on the middle of the field. And you can’t talk about celebrations without mentioning Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and his countless antics. He even got fined during a celebration for holding up a sign that read: “Dear NFL, Please don’t fine me AGAIN!!”
However, through all the criticism and fines, these celebrations are all part of the game. They give each of these athletes a personality that people can talk about. The players are more than just athletes that contribute to a part of the game — they’re just people who want to have fun. Not only that, but these players are also paid to entertain an audience. And that is exactly what they are doing every time they celebrate. They are getting a chance to share their excitement and joy, no matter how short-lived, with the rest of the world.