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Rabbi Joshua Hess

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NFL Playoffs: Let the Showboating Begin!

Posted: 01/06/12 11:50 AM ET

With the NFL playoffs beginning this weekend, and the bright lights focused on every team and each of the final 11 games, it is time for the players to shine and put on memorable performances. Perhaps even a few of them may entertain the fans with one of their patented dances after a touchdown, sack, or maybe even something as pedestrian as a first down.

But if you expect Bob Costas to watch with glee as the players engage in "mindless exhibitionism," then you've got something else coming. You see, a few months back, Bob Costas appeared in a halftime monologue in which he derided and decried the silliness of touchdown celebrations. As a football purist, he could not tolerate the antics which, in his opinion, reinforced the notion that our society is concerned more about keeping up with the Khardashians, than participating in important and worldly pursuits.

He yearned for the day when players would emulate the classiness once exhibited by the great running back, Barry Sanders, who simply tossed the ball to the umpire after scoring one of his many touchdowns. In this day and age, he noted, players are more concerned with "calculated displays of obnoxious self indulgence" and "showboating," than class and professionalism.

Is showboating something that should be discouraged on the football field, like Costas preached? I'm not so sure. I believe that a football game is no different than a movie or a Broadway show, whose purposes are to engage and entertain the audience. Therefore, touchdown celebrations and the like, should be encouraged! In fact, when a player on the home team does his signature celebratory dance, it gets the crowd even more excited. It would be a mistake to discourage players from expressing themselves in that manner.

Self-expression, besides being an inalienable right, is what differentiates humans from animals. According to the bible, God placed within our bodies a Nefesh Chaya, a living soul, which the famed Jewish commentator, Onkeles, translated as Ruach Mimallilah, an ability to communicate. Be it through speech or dance, self-expression is a God given gift which must be utilized and enjoyed. If football players desire to entertain fans with fun and unique touchdown celebrations, I say, "more power to them."

Having said all this, I do want to make one caveat. Like every other constitutional or God given right, there are limits and guidelines for its usage. While self-expression is encouraged, it cannot be used with reckless abandon. Players who showboat by mocking or degrading their opponents, are abusing their gift and should be reprimanded and penalized for their behavior. Indeed, the NFL has instituted a penalty for "taunting" which has largely eliminated celebrations that mock or demean a player's opponents.

Mindless exhibitionism is fun. Most fans enjoy it and it's done in good nature. But celebrations that are done in poor taste and with intent to incite or offend another person are reprehensible. It goes without saying, that a player who receives a 15 yard unsportsmanlike-like conduct penalty for his antics is simply stupid.

One of the greatest gifts God has given mankind is the ability to communicate through self-expression. This type of gift must not be kept under lock and key; it should be used as much as possible, including as a form of entertainment. But it mustn't be used in a hurtful or harmful manner.

Let the playoffs begin!

 

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