- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The “No Fun League” strikes again.
The goal-post dunk will now be prohibited by the NFL -- a deflating rule change that might only be considered a victory for helpless crossbars around the country. As for the players and fans around the league, the rule elicited a resounding groan.
No team will be more affected by the rule than the New Orleans Saints. Not only will Saints fans miss out on Jimmy Graham’s trademark touchdown celebration roughly 12-to-15 times a year, they’ll also miss out on those fun occasions where Graham goads his buddy Drew Brees into proving he can still slam the ball over the crossbar despite Brees' 6-foot frame. Graham tweeted out a photo of an in-season dunk being blocked by a ghostly ref with the comment, "I guess I'll have to lead the @nfl in penalties next year! #funpolice," but subsequently deleted the tweet.
Listen, I do understand the reason for this particular rule. I was there in Atlanta last season when one of Graham’s power jams tilted the crossbar and forced a delay of game while workers came out with a super-sized level. Maybe that’s not the kind of drama that football fans are looking for.
But how about this? Let’s only penalize the players when they actually bend the goal posts. Make it a dunk-at-your-own-risk rule.
Really, I’m not that worked up about the rule change (my personal campaign for the last decade has been to remove the archaic chain system for measuring first downs). But I'm more surprised than anything by the NFL's hasty reaction to last year's "goalpost malfunction."
I find it almost shocking that a league that spent weeks promoting its new Pro Bowl format by trying to show off the personalities of stars such as Brees and Graham is now trying to mute those same personalities.
Of all the positive rule changes being discussed at the league meetings this week -- including a much-needed revamp of the replay system -- this is what’s getting the most attention?
This rule change can’t be a top priority for the NFL, can it?
I’m not sure where I’d draw the line with touchdown celebrations. Personally, I got a kick out of Saints receiver Lance Moore’s rendition of the “Hingle McGringleberry” touchdown celebration from the comedy show “Key & Peele” last season. But I know others whose opinion that I respect were turned off by it.
I also covered Terrell Owens in San Francisco while he was raising his arms through the hole in the roof on the middle of the Dallas Cowboys’ field and when he pulled out the Sharpie from his sock in Seattle. I covered Joe Horn in Louisiana shortly after he pulled out a hidden cellphone from behind a goal post.
I’ll be the first to admit that some of those were more clever than others. And I understand the league doesn’t want to start reviewing them on a case-by-case basis. They’d have to hire Simon Cowell to work in the league office. (Would Cowell’s decisions be reviewable?)
So I’m well aware that there should be some limit to the theatrics.
But the NFL is the most popular, most booming sport in America. They do a lot of things the right way when it comes to marketing their game. And it’s remarkable that they keep allowing that “No Fun League” critique to ring true time and time again.
Someone should throw a flag.