definitive: Signature TD Celebrations


Welcome to the first installment of my new series, which is titled “definitive.” Lists and listicles (could they not think of a better name for these things? could someone please think of a better name for these things?) and other clickbait-y rankings-type articles are all the rage these days. But they often fall short of what the reader deserves. Having an opinion or a take on how things stack up doesn’t mean you should write an article about all of the things in that category. Rankings are important, and generating a list should not be done haphazardly. The People need to know where things stand, but they also need to trust that the list they are consulting matters. They need to know that the work was done, that no corners were cut, and that those with other viewpoints can and will be cowed into agreement once they gaze upon the work. They need to know, without doubt, that the list they are viewing definitive.

In the first column under this monumental undertaking (my hands are trembling as I think of the importance of the article ranking all the “definitive” articles!), I will take a look at the rankings on signature touchdown celebrations.

Some Notes

First, we are only considering touchdown celebrations. This means we are only looking at the sport of football, and it means we are not looking at 1) sack (hahahahaha) celebrations, interception celebrations, first down celebrations, fumble recovery celebrations, or even game-winning field goal celebrations. We are only concerned with touchdowns

Second, we are only considering touchdown celebrations in the NFL. College football touchdowns happen more often than NFL touchdowns, but the rules that limit our amateur (hahahaha) athletes during their celebrations are far too restrictive. I am only guessing as I have not done any research on signature college football touchdown celebrations, but I highly doubt they’d make this list anyway.

Third, we are only considering active NFL players. Yes, Terrell Davis’ Mile High Salute was iconic, but it belongs to the past. Let’s leave it there. This makes the list much easier to maintain. The other reason to limit it to current players is twofold: 1) as a fan, you will be able to anticipate these signature celebrations when you see a ranked player score and 2) it gives current players more of an incentive to enter the contest as they have a reasonable chance of breaking into the stratosphere (of signature touchdown celebrations).

With those caveats and rules out of the way, I would like to first make two very important mentions before getting to the Top Five Signature Touchdown Celebrations.

Honorable Mention

Antonio Brown — This is meant to be a very honorable mention, and I was tempted to use the British spelling of “honourable” so you knew exactly how honorable this mention is. If you have not been following the issuance of fines in the NFL, touchdown celebrations through the first two weeks of the season, the best ways one could spend $9115 ever, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Shea Serrano, the NFL in general, or tumblr pages about NFL referees with no sense of humor, then you may have missed this:

Antonio Brown twerked (using five incredible pumps), and it was majestic and antediluvian and orthogonal and has caused me to use words that don’t apply to the situation because I cannot function after watching it. It’s too perfect.

But it drew him a penalty and a fine and is against some Goodellian and esoteric and draconian rule because the league stands firmly against anything that is fun. And even though I didn’t mention this in my notes above, celebrations that earn you a fine or a penalty are not under consideration because winning is important and doing things that harm your team (even if the rule isn’t very good) is not cool.

Dishonorable Mention

Aaron Rodgers — There is a player in the league who is the brother of Jordan Rodgers, and once upon a time this player had an incredible touchdown celebration:

He would pantomime the donning of a championship belt a la the WWE whenever he scored a touchdown, and no one had done this before (please click here, Freddie Mitchell fans), and it was incredible to watch. It was impossible to copy as it was so uniquely his, yet it was ubiquitous to the point that fans across the nation would borrow it for their Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowls and their pickup basketball three-point makes but it was fun and no one was too bothered that lay people copied it so much because it was amazing.

It was so ubiquitous, however, that State Farm decided to capitalize on its easy recognizability by making a series of commercials focused on move that featured Aaron Rodgers (the player that did the celebration). In the ads, State Farm representatives and their customers glowed over the fact that State Farm double checked your rate and the discounts you got. They were so overjoyed that they did this touchdown celebration, and they renamed it the Discount Doublecheck.

Selling something cheapens it, but sadly this sort of thing happens all the time (perhaps most famously on Community when Troy and Abed sell their super cool chest thump/hand slap combination to Pierce only to discover that once they sold it to him the move lost all of its coolness). I will admit that I can’t remember if Aaron Rodgers does this move when he celebrates touchdowns anymore, but that’s only because I don’t care. It’s no longer the championship belt dance, it’s State Farm’s Discount Double Check. And that is neither cool, ubiquitous, nor something remotely worthy of making our list (save for being listed for its ignominy).

With those mentions out of the way, onto the list: The Defininitve Current Top Five Signature Touchdown Celebrations in the NFL.

5. Cam Newton, Superman

Cam Newton is an incredibly confident/arrogant NFL player who is very good and was last year’s MVP and almost won the Super Bowl. I include both “arrogant” and “confident” because he is a very polarizing figure: you either love him or you don’t. One guy who doesn’t is my dad, and my dad would say he doesn’t like Cam because Cam is arrogant. My dad liked that Cam Newton didn’t win the Super Bowl, and he liked that Cam was essentially chased out of his own Super Bowl press conference because players on the Denver defense were talking copious amounts of sh*t to him from just behind the curtain. My dad doesn’t see this as a hypocritical stance. That being said, you can most likely trace the existence of the “arrogant” moniker to his Superman touchdown celebration. In the celebration, Cam pretends to pull his shirt apart, thus revealing that beneath the imagined shirt is the S of Superman’s costume (is “costume” correct here? I mean, “uniform” isn’t correct, but is “costume?” I ask because it sounds wrong =/ ). The S isn’t truly there, but the celebration is a very memorable one, and it posits that Cam is as strong/invincible as Superman himself (which intimidates his opponents). A great celebration, even if last year’s Super Bowl proved the claim that it makes to be false.

4. Jimmy Graham, Goalpost Dunk

The above video is the “Blair Witch” version of Jimmy Graham’s last (excluding preseason games) goalpost dunk touchdown celebration. And it’s fitting that it’s so “Blair Witch”-esque because that remake is coming out soo…, er…, because it’s HORRIFYING (get it?) that the league has declared the celebration to be against its rules! Which means that it probably doesn’t qualify for this list, but bear with me on that for a bit.

This celebration was nearly perfect. You had a gigantic man who was routinely catching touchdowns and then effortlessly dunking the ball over the goalpost and out of existence. What more do you want? It fit the former basketball player’s persona, was emphatic as hell, and was uniquely his in the way that other people had done it before but it wasn’t easy for other players like it was easy for him. It’s a near perfect signature touchdown celebration.

But now it’s illegal, so why is it here? Trust me, I’ve thought about that, and I’m here to explain. While tilting the goalpost during a game is not ideal for the NFL, it was a celebration everyone loved and respected. But Goodell just had to go and ruin it. Or did he…

You see, the motion Graham makes with the ball as his prop isn’t dependent on the goal post being there, nor does it depend on anything being there to dunk over at all. Nay, jumping up and throwing the ball down is completely not illegal, and that’s why Jimmy’s celebration is here. Because he can do it any time he wants, just without the goalpost.

If you aren’t following, what I’m proposing is this: upon his next touchdown, Jimmy Graham should palm the ball in one hand, lope toward the goalpost, then, at a spot right next to the uprights, he should dunk the ball AS IF HE WERE DUNKING IT OVER THE GOALPOST! This would a) not violate the rule and b) be a direct F YOU to Goodell, who everyone in the world hates very much. The fans would (or at least they should) go absolutely bananas for this virtual dunk celebration, and if he actually did this upon his next score I might even bump him up to 3 or even 2 on the list, if only for the F YOU GOODELL vibes.

Bring it back Jimmy. Bring it back right in Goodell’s face.

3. Victor Cruz, The Salsa

Victor Cruz’s Salsa Dance Celebration is beautiful. It’s entirely his, not overly complicated, and he is oh so good at it. He’s also been doing it for years so we have come to identify him with and by his celebration. They are inextricably entwined. And finally, the reason he does it is endearing (he does it to honor his grandmother). He loses a small degree of points due to the lack of emphatic thrust within the celebration (more on that later), but overall this is simply wonderful. So fresh… so smooth. Glad to have you (and your Salsa Dance) back, Victor.

2. Alfred Morris, The Homerun Swing

You may not have expected to find Ezekiel Eliot’s backup on this list (though he’s looked pretty solid lately — why did Jerry Jones make this trade!!), but after one look you’ll know it’s justified:

Look at the torque! Every time I watch, I instinctively turn my head toward the centerfield wall. But there was no ball! He’s just fake batting at the air, and he absolutely crushes it!

Let’s break it down a bit further, though. First, the power he generates is immense, and with the emphatic thrust, the celebration reaches a level that the smooth and silky Salsa Dance simply cannot attain. Second, he unloads the entire swing in a matter of moments (as soon as he gets enough breathing room). Third, it engages the crowd. It’s like he’s hitting the homerun TO THEM. They could maybe catch the fly ball if someone gave him an actual baseball to pulverize. And fourth, he does it for the kids. How great is this celebration? How could it get any better…?

1. Rob Gronkowski, The Gronk Spike

Oh my… do you feel that shaking? Is it…? I think it’s… Oh my God! It’s GRONKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!

Oh my lord. Can you imagine the repairs to the bedrock that must be done to return the endzones shown in the above video to playing shape AFTER they’ve been GRONK SPIKED?!

The power. The force. The damage inflicted. All of it is so much that he completely co-opted a celebration that is as old as the game itself. I mean really, think about it. If another player took a big step, wound up, and threw the ball at the ground as hard as they could, what would you think? Oh, that’s Gronk’s spike. Oh, that’s like Gronk’s move, but he didn’t have as much power. Oh, nice effort, but we can leave Harry Stamper’s team from Armageddon wherever they are because below-ground adjustments to the bedrock need not be made at this time.

He made spiking a football into “The Gronk Spike” by sheer force of will, because he is a large, large man, and because no man that has ever scored (so many) a touchdown has ever thrown the ball at the ground so hard. It makes me want to see how far he can throw a football. It makes me want to see him enter the Olympics for the shotput. It makes me want to ask Elon Musk if I ever met him how it’s possible to spike the ball that hard. It makes me want to listen to his hit summer single or go on his cruise. Because there’s no one like Gronk, because he’s almost unbelievable, and so is his signature touchdown celebration.

Rob Gronkowski’s “Gronk Spike” is the class of the league, bar none.

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