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Bronko never had to dance

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This year's Fiesta Bowl was over, for all intents and purposes, by the time Colorado's Daniel Graham had his moment. After catching a meaningless scoring pass — closing Oregon's lead to 38-16 — he loped to the goal-post and "dunked" the ball, drawing an excessive celebration penalty.

It was a personal celebration, though, not a team one. The Buffaloes were already hopelessly behind. Graham should have dropped the ball and returned to the sidelines. He wasn't celebrating a team score, he was celebrating himself.

Don't get me started on the self-promoting antics that go on in the NFL.

Football fans everywhere have been watching similar conduct for more than two decades. But it has now evolved to where players don't limit their celebrating to the end zone. They celebrate routine tackles, easy catches, short runs and chip-shot field goals — whether they are far ahead or far behind. They celebrate everything short of attaching their chin straps correctly.

It amuses me when an NFL running back goes 2 yards off-tackle for an easy touchdown, then gyrates as though he had slashed his way for a 70-yard run. What isn't so amusing are other antics. For instance, the time Minnesota Vikings defensive end John Randle, sacked an opposing quarterback, then pretended to urinate on the field.

National champion Miami showed admirable restraint in this year's Rose Bowl, but other bowl games featured a generous dose of unnecessary celebrating. A Louisiana Tech player made a tackle for loss in the Humanitarian Bowl and ran off the field pumping his arm time and again, as though he had either saved the game or discovered gold in his compression shorts.

One can only wonder what he would have done had he actually made a game-saving tackle. They might have had to sedate him.

Over-celebrating isn't limited to football. The rim-hanging, trash-talking and chest-pounding in the NBA has become downright boorish. Dennis Rodman elevated the art of self-congratulation to a new level by applauding himself for such simple measures as drawing a charge or saving a loose ball.

Until recently, I've never been opposed to showboating. In truly significant cases, an impromptu dance in the end zone can convey the joy of the moment far better than any post-game press conference. I found nothing terribly wrong with Icky Woods' shuffling dance, in part because he usually danced in the end zone. At least he had done something to celebrate.

It didn't even faze me when players in the NFL started doing group victory dances or diving into the stands. It was all part of the spectacle. I thought excessive celebration rules in college took some of the spontaneity from the moment.

Former Ute Kevin Dyson's flying sprint across the end zone in the 1994 Freedom Bowl, after scoring the winning touchdown, was entertaining and appealing. What's more, it didn't appear to have been premeditated.

But now players seem to feel they must celebrate after every play, no matter what the significance.

Scoring touchdowns and making plays has changed a lot since the days of Bronko Nagurski. Legend has it the long-ago Chicago Bears tough guy once ran over an entire defense, man by man, before crashing into the brick wall beyond the end zone. Still, he didn't do a victory dance. All he did was mutter, "That last guy hit pretty hard."

He once told me in a telephone interview that if a player in his day had danced or head-butted after scoring, "they'd have let him out of the stadium."

Old-timers like Nagurski might even be laughing from some heavenly bleacher seats at what over-celebrating has wrought. For instance, this season Arizona Cardinals' place-kicker Bill Gramatica pulled his hamstring celebrating a field goal.

We can only guess where this will all end. We may soon see players cheering themselves for merely entering the game, dancing after completing a snap or moonwalking after a successful handoff.

There's an old saying about over-celebrating: When you get in the end zone, act like you've been there before.

Better yet, act like you're planning to come back.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com