Weekly Sports Replay: They scored, so let them celebrate

by Shawn Annarelli

The sports world is entering an era where political correctness is taking the fun out of competition, and the athletes are getting the short end of the stick.

In the NFL, players may not celebrate touchdowns with the football in any way aside from spiking the ball.

Professional football players cannot even spike a football near an opponent. If they score and an opposing player is in front of them they must make a conscious effort to run away their competitor before they spike that pigskin into the turf below.

They also may not organize any sort of celebratory dance with another teammate.

While tens of thousands of fans erupt into celebratory chaos, the player who just scored is limited to pointing a finger in the air, high-fiving a teammate and doing a brief dance move as long as they’re not anywhere near an opponent.

In college football, players aren’t even allowed to show excitement as they run toward the end zone.

A fist in the air or a high-step before they reach the end zone will be penalized as unsportsmanlike conduct. That means no touchdown, no points and no yards gained. The would-be scoring team will be penalized 15 yards from where the play began if the scorer did anything but run into the end zone.

In baseball, outrage ensued five years ago when Mets rookie Lastings Milledge high-fived fans on his way to right field. Milledge hit his first career home run minutes before and was too elated not to pass up the opportunity to interact with a few fans.

In the NHL, Detroit’s long-time captain Nicklas Lidstrom left the ice in disgust before shaking hands with the Penguins, because he felt Pittsburgh’s captain Sidney Crosby was taking too long to celebrate winning the Stanley Cup.

Some of the greatest moments in sports have come from athletes and coaches reacting to achievements, but for some reason the sports world is gradually putting the brakes to celebrations.

In 1999, Brandi Chastain kicked the winning penalty shot in the Women’s World Cup. She rejoiced by stripping off her uniform with only a sports bra on her torso.

The moment exemplified the ecstasy of triumph in sports.

In football, former Atlanta running back Jamal Anderson invented the dirty bird dance. Soon enough his teammates joined in the dance in the end zone after each of his touchdowns, again showing the elation players get out of reaching a goal.

There is no one incident that sparked this new era of political correctness invading the sports world.

However, the new age of sensitivity is sucking the joy out of the sports, and the athletes who do all of the work are suffering the most.

Canyon High School’s Sea of Red

Canyon's gunslinger Austin Day might have trouble finding his receivers, but pass rushers might not see him either. (Photo by Marc Heymann / Canyon High)

Deep in the heart of New Braunsfels, Texas is a new red carpet rolled out for Canyon High School’s football team.

The Canyon Cougars are using their rosy home field as camouflage to go with their all-red uniforms, which is arguably a home field advantage not many teams decked in red have.

“I really believe it’s difficult for our quarterbacks to make reads in the passing game, because our receivers blend in with the field,” said Canyon’s head coach Matthew Elliot.

According to Elliot, the only home field advantage his team’s red carpet holds is when opponents make up a disadvantage in their minds.

“The biggest advantage for us is the perceived disadvantage by opponents,” Elliot said. “In reality, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Also, there are no rules in Texas high school football against having a field the color of the team’s uniform.

“Teams with green uniforms have been playing on regular grass and turf for decades, and no one has ever had an issue with them,” Elliot said. “We are no different.”

Canyon’s football team feels the field has given them an identity more than it will ever give them an advantage.

“This is just a way to give our team and players an identity,” Elliot said. “The field has drawn a lot of attention, so we’ve definitely added to our identity.”

An igloo’s meltdown

Deconstruction of the Mellon Arena began this week, and the Penguins’ former home will soon be nonexistent aside from the memories of moments that made the igloo so special.

The igloo was home to the first and only three championships won by the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the arena hosted so much more than hockey teams.

It served as a forum to politicians such as President Obama to speak before Pittsburghers during electoral campaigns.

Larry Holmes defeated Renaldo Snipes by technical knockout to retain the World Boxing Council’s Heavyweight Title in 1981 in the Civic Arena.

Then, the igloo hosted the 1983 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

The dome also hosted concerts by The Beatles in 1964 and Elvis Presley in 1973.

Lastly, the arena hosted Frank Sinatra.

I wonder if Sinatra sang “Summer Wind,” a song that symbolizes a couple breaking up.

This fall, the Mellon Arena is the Summer Wind, and Pittsburghers will not soon forget their original igloo and the affair they had.

Steelers stumble to victory

Pittsburgh went to Indianapolis wearing black and gold and returned home black and blue after a 23-20 win.

The normally vanilla Colts ran over every Steeler in Lucas Oil Stadium this past Sunday. Even James Harrison was steamrolled by Indianapolis tight end Brody Eldridge in the third quarter.

The Steelers were outrushed 97-67 and lost the turnover battle, 3-1.

Even the turnover the Steelers forced was the first one by the defense this season. The team’s turnover differential sits at negative nine.

Pittsburgh’s defense will have to cause more interceptions and fumbles, and the offense needs to start protecting its beaten and battered quarterback. Roethlisberger has committed eight of the team’s 10 turnovers under duress from opposing pass rushers.

The Steelers play the upstart Houston Texans this Sunday.

Pirates’ season ends in expected failure

Pittsburgh’s loathsome ballclub can end another paragraph in a long chapter of losing.

The Pirates initially showed life in the beginning of the season, but the promise shown in spring proved to be all but a mirage in autumn.

Through 100 games the club had a 53-47 record and was battling to stay relevant in the National League Central Division race.

Since then the Pirates have a 19-42 record, a major league worst .311 winning percentage.

Looks like those first 100 games were just a flash in the pan.

Sweet Play of the Week

Former Saints safety Steve Gleason blocked a punt in New Orleans’ Superdome five years ago.

The block and subsequent score by teammate Curtis Deloatch was the first Saints’ touchdown in New Orleans since the dome and city were engulfed by Hurricane Katrina 21 months earlier.

The play itself is one of the most significant moments in New Orleans’ history.

This past week, Gleason returned to the Superdome for the first time since he retired in 2008.

Since then the Saints folk hero has been diagnosed the ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig ’s disease.

Once he stepped back on the Superdome turf he received the Sweet Play of the Week.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees and teammates presented Gleason with a 2009 Super Bowl ring to honor Gleason for his contributions that eventually led to New Orleans’ only Super Bowl victory in 2009.

Sour Play of the Week

Baltimore second baseman Robert Andino handed the Red Sox another loss to tally in Boston’s sorry September.

Andino hit a fly ball to Camden Yards’ centerfield wall where Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury gave chase. The pop up momentarily landed in Ellsbury’s glove, but was jarred loose as the Red Sox outfielder collided with the outfield wall.

Andino followed teammates Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis for a three-run, inside the park home run. The rare play put Baltimore ahead for an eventual 6-3 win.

Boston’s major league worst 19th loss allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to tie the Red Sox for the lead in the American League Wild Card race.

Did You Know?

    • Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace is right on pace to reach his goal of 2,000 receiving yards this season. He has 377 yards through three games and is averaging 125.7 yards per game. He has to average 124.9 receiving over the team’s last 13 games to achieve his goal.
    • White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was officially traded to the Florida Marlins on Wednesday for two prospects.
    • Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners will open baseball’s 2012 season in Tokyo, Japan.
    • A new biography by Jeff Pearlman claims Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton abused drugs and considered suicide after retiring from football in 1987.
    • The Yankees will appear in their third straight postseason next week. The pinstripes have missed one postseason in 17 years.

Like it, Love it, Hate it? Email me at sma5189@psu.edu with any comments or topic ideas for next week’s Weekly Sports Replay. Have a good one, Shawn.

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