Good teams celebrate — but great teams taunt.
The Humility Police will try to tell you otherwise. They will tell you not to plant flags or make the hand signal of a very sensitive large university’s football program. They will tell you not to high-step, dance, or fall backward into the end zone as if it were a huge pool filled with water, floaty toys, and touchdowns.
DeSean Jackson was right, and the Humility Police are wrong. The end zone IS a pool of touchdowns. In order to plunge in and grab them, one needs to be a champion with skill, imagination, and the giving heart of a taunter.
Taunting is for winners and people of distinction.
This is why.
Taunting is generous.
Yes, that is the exact word. The Humility Police will say taunting is an act of selfishness. This is — like everything the Humility Police say — a lie, a manipulation. They want athletes to give as little as possible to the audience, to get the game to the next commercial break, to be a compliant part of a machine, isolated from the crowd and the moment.
Athletes could do that. Or they could be like Marshawn Lynch, a craftsman who made the best run of his life, then decided the customer needed just a little bit more for their entertainment dollar.
Taunting invites the team, the crowd, and even the opposition to share in the presence of greatness. Taunting is a gift, which athletes create in otherwise blank, procedural periods. The taunt is one of the few genuine moments the public gets with the athletes we watch.
It’s a sincere crotch grab in the direction of the opponent. That’s special, especially if you’re a Seattle fan who pays tribute by doing this during TDs in backyard games or as you’re flopping onto the couch at the end of the day.
Taunting is petty, and petty is an endlessly renewable source of energy.
Petty is the fusion reactor of sports energy sources. Once it gets going, it practically sustains itself. Petty turns tiny grudges into the sun, burning clean thanks to just a few atoms of disrespect.
Petty is so powerful that it continually inspires weird, middle-aged fruit ascetics (who’ve already won five Super Bowls) to aim taunts at completely fictional people who counted out Touchdown Tom.
Even the do-your-jobbingest of #doyourjob teams taunts — albeit by using a song from almost two decades ago and lying about being an underdog.
This team had almost won its latest Super Bowl 12 months earlier, was on its way to yet another, and has long had Hall of Fame shoo-ins at coach and quarterback. The Patriots taunting like this is like Goldman Sachs using “Started from the Bottom” as its hold music or a bank foreclosing on a house with a note reading HATERS SAID WE COULDN’T DO IT. I apologize for giving the finance industry these ideas.
Taunting creates an edge.
A marginal edge, but an edge nonetheless. This seems like something football — a sport obsessed with tiny margins — would embrace.
Every basic dude on the planet who can inaccurately quote Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday talking about adding up inches to win games: how many of them fail to consider adding up all those inches when it comes to demoralizing the enemy and energizing your teammates via taunting? How many run to the Humility Police? How many subscribe to the Joe Rogan Experience? All of them?
How many of those serious dudes would deny the importance of the 2007 Georgia end zone celebration against Florida, arguably the most hilarious taunting effort of all time?
The No. 18 Bulldogs keyed a 42-30 upset of No. 11 Florida by sending the entire team out to dance in the end zone after the Bulldogs’ first touchdown, a move that put the entire team’s asses on the line. Either Georgia would validate the swagger by winning a huge rivalry game in brazen fashion, or they’d end up a legendary laughingstock.
They upped the stakes from the jump. Georgia was crazy enough to take a hundred unsportsmanlike penalties just to prove a point, or at least committed enough to fake it.
After this win, Georgia lost the next three games in this series, probably because they did not send the entire team out to dance in the end zone in any of those three games.
See? Taunting works.
Taunting keeps a team loose.
Losing to Wake Forest 12-3 in inexcusable fashion? Former Louisville DB and current Green Bay Packer Jaire Alexander has your back.
Louisville went on to win by a 44-12 landslide.
Some might suggest the Cardinals had help because they were fed plays by a mole inside Wake Forest’s athletic department. (Not a joke, this really happened, someone tried to cheat in order to beat the 2016 Wake Forest Demon Deacons.) We know what kept Louisville in this game for real, though: sarcastic and miraculously unpenalized prancing.
Taunting is a habit of highly successful athletes.
Tim Tebow, Heisman Trophy winner and first-round NFL Draft pick, taunting LSU fans who’d gotten ahold of his phone number. How was he drafted in the first round? It happened, and that is what counts most here.
Cam Newton, Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 pick, and 2015 NFL MVP.
Baker Mayfield, Heisman winner and No. 1 pick. Please note the name of this video. Exhale a deep and satisfying chortle as one considers the mysteries of the internet and the amazing people who use it every day.
Seven-time Pro Bowler and all-world receiver Antonio Brown, seen taunting Indiana. He thought someone needed to do this even though Indiana football is already taunted constantly by the universe as a whole.
Super Bowl champion Golden Tate.
Super Bowl champion Golden Tate.
Super Bowl champion Golden Tate.
... Super Bowl champion Golden Tate.
Taunting is a habit of highly successful people — even those who go pro in something other than sports.
Tell ‘em about it, Anthon Samuel of Bowling Green.
Lots of power-conference rivals have mimicked the Gator Chomp while playing in The Swamp. But Samuel did so as a massive underdog with a tied score in the third quarter. What fueled this greatness?
“I think what made me do that was the lack of respect we had heading into the game,” he says. “We were the super underdogs. They had us picked to lose by 24 points. And we didn’t feel any respect from the players, either.”
The native of Miami-Dade County had been training for this moment his whole life.
“Growing up I was always a UM fan. The Gators were not my favorite team.”
When he rushed those 12 those yards in front of an uneasy crowd, he had no choice.
“In the moment, I got carried away.”
Bowling Green ended up losing, sure. But taunting is rarely about the result. It was about paying back Florida, about something beyond the score. His Falcons weren’t supposed to be within striking distance, and yet they were.
The box score says Bowling Green never led after the first quarter. Box scores sometimes lie. For about 15 seconds after Samuel scored, Bowling Green led by 35 points in the hearts and minds of anyone watching.
The refs hit him with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct. His coaches chewed him out because they had to. Does Samuel regret it?
“It was 100 percent worth it.”
Samuel works in retail management for Macy’s in South Florida and has his master’s degree from Florida International. He’s a successful man with a lot going on outside his glory days. Yet when I asked about the last time someone brought up The Chomp to him unprompted, he laughed.
“About a week and a half ago. There’s a GIF out there. Sometimes they send it to me.”
Taunting is a habit of highly successful people in every sport, now that I think of it.
Winners in the NHL do it.
America’s greatest soccer players practice the dark art of taunting.
The greats of the NBA do it all the time. By greats, I mean “Everyone, but especially Larry Bird.”
During the game, Bird took a shot from the beyond the arc right in front of Person, who was sitting on the bench, and right after releasing the rock, Larry told him, “Merry fucking Christmas!” Then, the ball went into the hoop.
Taunts after dunks have been customary since at least the 1990s.
The NBA is so good that players have taunted during plays that haven’t even finished yet.
Even overly polite, custom-regimented baseball has its quiet moments of shit-talking in motion. Bat-flipping is complex in its meanings, but they’re all variations on “kiss my ass.”
In conclusion: good teams celebrate, but great teams?
The Rams, like many great teams, don’t wait for the final score to stake their claim. Great teams never do.
Even the ancestors agree. After all, the 1985 Bears released the “Super Bowl Shuffle” almost two full months before they would meet the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The Bears would win by 36 points, scoring a rushing TD with a 350-pound defensive lineman just because they could.
Taunting is just pre-winning, a down payment on a victory. Those who pay that mortgage off are exempt from the Humility Police forever.