Let them celebrate

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

By Staff
Let them celeberate on the field or off the field — within reason and if they are not breaking any laws.
At least one college football player and East Carolina University football fans were in the news this past weekend for celebrations on the field. ECU police officials are investigating reports that police officers used excessive force as ECU fans, mostly students, stormed the football field after the Pirates thrased West Virginia 24-3. In the game between the Washington Huskies and the Brigham Young Cougars, a penalty against Huskies’ quarterback Jake Locker for unsportsmanlike conduct (improper celebration), resulted in the ball being moved back 15 yards before the point-after-touchdown kick was attempted. Subsequently, that PAT kick was blocked at the Cougars won the game by one point.
Locker clearly threw the football into the air after scoring a touchdown. He did it in the heat of the moment. He did in in a way that did not draw attention to himself. It appeared almost to be a reflex. But the rules for college football clearly prohibit throwing the football into the air after scoring a touchdown.
Whether or not Locker should have been penalized will be debated until the cows come home. Forget that debate. Change the rule. It’s college football. It’s a game where passions run high. Let the players, coaches and fans celebrate — within reason.
Outlaw celebrations that are premeditated. Outlaw celebrations that bring attention to just one player. Outlaw celebrations performed to taunt another player or team. But do not outlaw spontaneous expressions of joy that harm no one and do not injure the integrity of the game.
As for college football fans, let them celebrate when, for the second week in a row, their unranked team defeated a ranked team in a BCS-bowl conference. That’s why ECU fans wanted to celebrate this past Saturday. When an Appalachian State Univeristy team beats a University of Michigan team, let the ASU fans celebrate. When a Boise State defeats the Oklahoma Sooners, the Boise State fans should celebrate.
Of course, those celebrations should follow some rules. Celebrations should not kill or injure anyone. Celebrations should not cause property to be damaged, with the exception of a goal post every now and then. Fans should expect to celebrate without being struck and thrown to the ground by police officers and security personnel — as long as those fans are celebrating properly and not breaking any laws.
ECU police Chief Scott Shelton, according to a report in the Daily Reflector, said officers were told that if fans tried to come onto the field they should try to stop them by making themselves visible but were to step back if that failed.
Somebody did not get the message.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing officers hitting fans and throwing some to the ground after the Pirates defeated West Virginia. Videotape footage shows an officer using his fist to strike someone on the ground, according to several media reports. That’s not the way to react when fans want to celebrate. And fans must remember that celebrations should have limits, for their protection and others.
Celebrating a football victory is not a crime, and unless fans are breaking laws as they celebrate, let them enjoy the moment. It’s part of the college experience.
Football players may expect to be tackled on the field, but football fans who celebrate properly should not expect to be tackled for a loss of dignity.