Monday, January 10, 2005

`Touchdown Theater' all goes back to Houston, Elmo & `White Shoes'

I admit it.

I laughed out loud when Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings caught a touchdown pass yesterday, then did a pantomime routine of pulling down his pants and mooning the Green Bay fans in the end zone seats. To top it off, he then proceeded to wipe (I guess that's the most accurate term) his derriere on the goal post.

The officials didn't throw a penalty flag for violation of the NFL's new "excessive celebration" rule. They were probably too taken aback.

Predictably, the Fox game announcer voiced his disapproval.

Post-touchdown celebrations can all be traced back to Houston. I'm surprised the Chamber of Commerce hasn't capitalized on this little-known sports factoid.

Elmo Wright, former University of Houston receiver, got the ball rolling with his high-stepping dance in the early '70s during the glory days of Coach Bill Yeoman, which he replicated with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Later, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson did the funky chicken after he scored for the Oilers.

New York Giants receiver Homer Jones was the first to "spike" the ball following a TD. That was eight years before Elmo Wright did his first end zone routine for the Chiefs. The spiked ball, of course, raises not an eyebrow in these days of endzone sports theater.

Last year, TD celebrations reached a whole new level, with Terrell Owens whipping out a Sharpie to autograph a football he just caught, and later, in another game, pulling out a cell phone to make a call.

After the cell phone stunt, Texans quarterback David Carr attempted to have some fun with the whole thing by pretending he was going to make a cell phone call after a touchdown pass, then calling off the supposed stunt. The National Football League fined him for it. Hence, in many quarters, the NFL has become an acronym for the No Fun League. Harrumph.

If nothing else, the latest act in endzone theater adds another layer of interest in the game, at least for those who need something more than pure football to amuse them.

What'll Moss do next week? He can't not do anything. It's not his nature, despite whatever fine he'll likely be told to pay this week by the NFL. It'd be tantamount to bowing down to The Man.

Besides, the Afro he's sporting now will go down as the greatest 'fro in sports history. Sporting that 'do, he's gonna politely hand the ball to the official?

Peter King of SI.COM reports on his lockerroom encounter with Moss in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column.

King, filled with trepidation, watched warily as the NFL's loosest cannon approached.

He has this incredibly wild hair, a wooly 'fro bigger than Linc's in Mod Squad and he's wearing a frayed Superman T-shirt. He's limping because of his sprained right ankle. And I'm thinking, Why is this lightning rod walking over to me?

"How you doin'?'' Moss says. "Good to see you.'' And he's gone.

A year ago, Pro Football Weekly asked players and sportswriters about their favorite celebrations.
PFW associate editor Eric Edholm:
“I believe Elmo Wright was the first to actually celebrate in the endzone, and Homer Jones delivered the first spike nearly a decade before Wright, so they deserve special mention in this discussion. And there have been some classics since then: the Redskins’ Fun Bunch, the Terrell Davis salute, the Lambeau Leap (LeRoy Butler) and Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson’s Funky Chicken. That said, the Dirty Bird is for the birds. And whatever the Rams did a few years ago stunk too. Although at this point, there’s very little left that’s original.”

Original? The possibilities are endless!

The frequently irreverent and somewhat profane offers possible future enzone routines.

1. Player holds ball behind his back, grunts audibly, and then slowly lowers ball until dropping it onto the ground.
2. Player gets on all fours and raises leg at goalpost.
3. Player actually moons crowd.
4. Player grabs female fan out of stands and they tango on field.
5. Player actually poops on the field.
6. Player leaps into seats, climbs over rail, and leaves building.
7. Player actually pees on field.
8. Player grabs female fan out of the stands and they tango on field . . . and then dance.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel did a long piece back in '98 on the origins of the modern day TD celebration, interviewing Billy White Shoes on how it all began, and noting how few pro players even remember Elmo Wright.

It all started rather innocently. In the early stages of his college days at Widener University in Chester, Pa., a Division III school, Johnson made a friendly bet with a couple of teammates.

"I said, 'If I score, I'm going to dance,' " Johnson recalled ...

After Johnson went on to the pros, the college coach halted the endzone routines, seeing that things were going too far.

Too far? Oh, brother, if he only knew then what we know now.

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