Touchdown celebrations have been in the news again this week. Before Monday's Labour Day Classic between Hamilton and Toronto, there was a lot of discussion about what Tiger-Cats' receivers Dave Stala (pictured above celebrating a touchdown against B.C. in 2009) and Arland Bruce III might have in store for the game, and not just in terms of reception totals. Both have been famed for their celebrations in the past, and there was plenty of speculation they might have something special in store for one of the CFL's biggest games.
They certainly did have a plan, but things didn't go quite as well as they'd hoped. Stala scored a beautiful touchdown, hauling in a pass in wide-open space over the middle and taking it in for six points. Unfortunately, the celebration attempt that followed worked much less effectively. Stala placed the ball on the ground and ran into position for a reverse field goal attempt behind the uprights, but Maurice Mann snapped the ball too quickly and too high and Marquay McDaniel couldn't get the hold down. Instead of becoming a viral sensation, the result was a play I wasn't even able to find video of. Adam Wazny of the Winnipeg Free Press named it the worst moment of the CFL season so far in the midseason review piece he wrote with colleague Ed Tait today, but there was some consolation for Stala even in that list; Tait picked his hacky-sack celebration from earlier this year (which we'll get to below) as the best moment of the season so far.
Perhaps electing not to add insult to injury, the game officials Monday decided not to flag the Tiger-Cats for excessive celebration, a penalty they likely would have picked up if things went as planned. Even that decision was controversial, though, and Argonauts' head coach Jim Barker spouted off about it to Terry Koshan of the QMI Agency after the game. Barker's particular complaint came from this play on August 14, where Chad Owens scored a touchdown, celebrated it rowing-style with teammates and picked up a flag in the process:
"‘What I was told in the Montreal game was that anything organized was excessive,' Barker said. ‘Well, that was definitely organized, their little reverse point-after deal.'"
"‘If we were penalized three weeks ago, why weren't they penalized? And the official told me that there was a memo sent out to all of the officials that the wrong call was made back then. Nobody ever told us. Nobody from the league office told me that what you did was all right, and we really should not have penalized you, sorry. Usually, I get that. I did not get that on this one. Hopefully it gets rectified.'"
Some of that might be sour grapes, as the Argonauts lost 28-13, but Barker has a point in that perhaps celebration officiating needs to be done more consistently. However, I'd like to see the standards loosened, not tightened. We've seen some great touchdown celebrations in the CFL over the years, and they draw much more attention to the game internationally than anything that happens during play. Here's a look at my five favourites.
The Worst: Bruce's Failed Thriller:
Before we get to the good stuff, we have to at least acknowledge that there have been many horrible touchdown celebrations as well. Quite possibly the worst of all time? Arland Bruce III's attempt to pay tribute to the recently-deceased Michael Jackson in 2009:
Bruce got fined for excessive celebration in July, but he really should have been fined for excessively bad taste. Fortunately, most of his celebrations have been better than that, including the next one on this list.
Like Stala's latest attempt, this also comes from a Labour Day game between Toronto and Hamilton, but the one that took place two years ago on Sept. 1, 2008. Bruce was still with Toronto at this point, and he provided one of the few highlights in a season that saw them go 4-14 under head coaches Rich Stubler and Don Matthews. He had his best game of the year, catching 10 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown and leading them to a 34-31 victory. The real headlines, though, came from what he did after the touchdown.
Yes, that's Bruce pulling out a Spider-Man mask from his shorts. Opinion's always been split on this; Bruce definitely loses points for taking so long to find the mask, and Awful Announcing called it "the lamest TD celebration ever thought up," but plenty of us still enjoyed it. The league office was not counted among that group, though, and they fined Bruce for his antics.
4. Cool Runnings:
This has become one of the most memorable CFL touchdown celebrations of all time, but it's stuck down here because video doesn't seem to exist. Still, there's plenty of evidence that it happened during the 2006 season and I didn't just make it up. That was a pretty legendary year in touchdown celebrations for the Calgary Stampeders, who took inspiration from cyclists, drunks, and track relay teams. They topped even themselves with the five-man bobsled celebration, though, and it sparked discussion in message boards from Alabama to Saskatchewan [language warning on both]. CFL.ca columnist Matt Cauz referenced it earlier this year, citing Stala's hacky-sack celebration (which we'll get to) as "the best I've seen since the Stampeders did their human bobsled." Even without video, this one will live on in memory.
3. Stala's Soccer Skills:
This is by far the best celebration from this year. After catching a touchdown pass July 31 against Saskatchewan, Dave Stala decided to put on a soccer clinic. He's got some moves, too:
2. Duck, Duck, Duck, Bomber:
Like Bruce's Spidey sense, this one also comes from September 2008, and it also came against Hamilton. It was Winnipeg doing the celebration this time, though. After a touchdown pass from Kevin Glenn to Terrence Edwards, the Bombers' offence decided to relive their childhood:
The best part of that video may be TSN analyst Glen Suitor's commentary. "Ohh-kay. Not sure about the celebration, but it was a tremendous drive." This one got picked up everywhere, from ESPN to Larry Brown Sports to Awful Announcing, and via that last link, it also informed us that ESPN anchor Stan Verrett never played Duck, Duck Goose as a child. You learn something new every day.
And the top celebration...
1. I'm On A Boat:
This one takes the cake for use of on-field props that just happened to be there. Once again, it involves the Ticats, who just naturally seem drawn to great celebrations. In a November 2009 clash in Winnipeg, Markeith Knowlton returned an interception for a touchdown and jumped into a boat that just happened to be on display in the end zone.
The Tiger-Cats recorded another pick-six later in the game and celebrated in the same fashion. They wound up winning 39-17 and locking up second place in the East, leaving Winnipeg out of the playoffs. The post-game fallout may have been even better, though: Sean Fitz-Gerald, now with The Canadian Press, had a hilarious National Post interview with a representative from the boat dealership about his conflicting feelings on the incident; his dealership got great publicity, but his team lost. This incident also wound up in Hamilton trying to land a boat sponsorship. Unfortunately, I don't think that ever worked out, but this still tops my list for the best CFL touchdown celebration ever.
Know what really makes this celebration top the list? This was the same year The Lonely Island and T-Pain did "I'm On A Boat" on Saturday Night Live. You can find that original video yourself [strong language warning], but some enterprising soul somehow did a Tiger-Cats remix with what appears to be footage of their actual players parading around in a boat at Ivor Wynne Stadium (and a horn blasting to cover up the original's profanity):
That's probably the best CFL video that has ever been recorded, and it helps to seal this celebration's well-deserved place at the top.