Sports leagues are cracking down hard on athletes who look smug after making a good play. Football: A crackdown on excessive touchdown celebrations … has moved from the National Football League to college football and now to high school football games across the country. In the Washington area this fall, a wide receiver from 13th-ranked McNamara was flagged for pointing to the sky after a touchdown, and a Gwynn Park defender was penalized for pointing up at the sky after intercepting a pass. … “What’s happening is in the old days, there was a certain level of celebration that was allowed. Now it’s basically no celebration,” …
A trite, supercilious gesture does the trick when it's conspicuously exaggerated, i.e. a guy lands a knockout punch, he's no longer in danger of being injured, he just made a $200k win bonus and he reacts by...walking away expressionless like what just happened was some kind of formality.
Or: guy hits game winning 3 pointer and he immediately, stoically just jogs into the locker room like nothing happened.
The least cool celebrations are what would come naturally to you and me: smiling, hands in the air, jumping up and down, congratulating teammates. That's what sports puritans would prefer to see, but clearly not because it's most impressive to most audiences.
(There are exceptions. There was an orthodox Russian fighter named Fedor whose aesthetic stoicism freaked people out. But it was impressive because it was so obviously genuine; if you look calm when you're getting punched in the face, it's the real deal. Costly signals and all that.)
Could it be that in the instances you mention the trash talk itself is impressive. [A trite, supercilious gesture doesn't do the trick.]
Also, the fact that trash talkers are popular doesn't fit your idea. In the UFC for example enthusiastic trash talkers sell pay-per-views. The organization gives them big fights faster and promotes the heck out of them. For example, they're spending record money to promote Conor McGregor's fight right now, even though he's a relative newcomer at a weight class (145 lbs) that doesn't sell well. Why? Because he's an amazing trash talker.
Same in the NFL. Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant are similar quality receiver, but Nelson's quiet and respectful, whereas Dez is a demonstrative maniac. Dez sells more jerseys, and generally produces more awe.
Did folks find Ali less impressive for his trash talk?
I think people dislike trash talk when it reminds them of obnoxious aspects of a culture that they don't identify with.
Here's a partial explanation: we don't like to be reminded of how different our favorite players are from us. Like:
Hey, I went to Cal. The stud NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson went to Cal. We're almost buddies!
And then DeSean Jackson scores a TD and, cups his hand into a "C", and begins explaining to the defender the sorts of things he'd do to him if they were back in Compton.
(This also explains why some people vehemently defend ghetto style trash talk: they think the culture is cool and want to identify with it.)
Also, if you've never played in a very competitive league in one of the sports tinged with black culture, then you probably vastly underestimate how aggressive such talk is. There are good practical reasons for limiting it.
They brag, because they are less impressive. Anyway, that's a matter of perception.
Why do the sports players brag if it makes them less impressive?
"If we wanted, we could ban anyone from ever having a smug grin, or ever saying anything negative about anyone within earshot."
Yeah, we couldn't actually do this. Enforcement would be a wee bit difficult and expensive. Not to mention you'd have to repeal the first amendment. But even if there were no direct legal barriers, it just wouldn't be enforced unless it were already overwhelmingly popular, which is too counterfactual to be useful.
Not sure that the ban reflects what the fans want -- if they wanted to see athletes look impressive by restraining themselves when the urge to brag is strong, then legislating no bragging defeats the purpose. When players are free to brag, not bragging is a signal of impressiveness; when players are required not to brag, not bragging is a signal of compliance with silly little rules. It goes from ennobling to emasculating.
I think most fans would see the logic there, so it's more likely one of these ditches that the regulators have to dig in order to feel like their life has a point.
We ban people from gestures, from speech, from gang colors, from all sorts of things based on the context. Why might we ban gestures & taunting at sports events?
It probably has something to do with how people are at their most bestial & mindlessly aggressive & moblike at sporting events.
Consider the Football War (>3k deaths), or the Heysel Stadium disaster (39 dead, 600 injured), or the Hillsborough Disaster (96 dead, 766 injured), or...
Well, you can look at https://secure.wikimedia.or... or https://secure.wikimedia.or... or https://secure.wikimedia.or... or https://secure.wikimedia.or... if the topic interests you.
And on the topic of banning gestures and other incitements to fight, here are some random examples:
http://jonathanturley.org/2...http://www2.dothaneagle.com...http://dawgguide.onlineathe...http://www.theage.com.au/ar...http://english.peopledaily.... (notice this one was literally just pointing a finger)
It can sometimes be hard to distinguish taunting from celebrating.
Given the use of the word "excessive" I think (originally at least) the rational was not to ban endzone celebrations, but celebrations that might border on or cross over into taunting. In the meantime, it seems that maybe everyone involved just doesn't want to get caught up in legalisms and just basically banned it outright?
I'm not up to speed on the state of permissible end zone celebration, but my guess is that it's gotten too restrictive.
"Why ban fingers at sport events but not the rest?" Outside of private events, expression is a right, and banning smug looks would be unconstitutional. Another aspect to consider is why police will press assault charges against hockey players who fight in a bar but not when they fight on the ice? Social convention I guess?
By way of what spectators want and the financial motivations of the various sports regulating bodies, perhaps the 'excessive celebration' is more likely to push away fans of losing teams than it is to attract fans to winning teams.
In most other areas of life we don't ban people from pointing fingers in the air for fear a fight will break out. If we wanted, we could ban anyone from ever having a smug grin, or ever saying anything negative about anyone within earshot. Why ban fingers at sport events but not the rest?
I think the justification is that it prevents fights from breaking out.
"Excessive celebration" I think is (was supposed to be?) a euphemism for taunting.
What is the name for a rule that bans something because it's too hard to draw the distinction between an acceptable implementation of something (celebration on scoring) vs an unacceptably implementation of something (taunting on scoring)? If it is not named, it ought to be, lots of things in life are like that. I do it every day with my kids (OMG, I'm a fascist!).
Call me crazy, but I enjoy over the top, professional wrassling styled entrances, celebrations, and mic work from my athletes; the more creative, the better. It adds a certain element of intrique and larger than life status to the games. Likewise, it makes for great conversation about controversy.
For football, celebration penalties actually started in college football. Of course it doesn't make the story as nice, so the reporter fudged the facts a bit.
Gotta love how America is still influenced by Puritanism.
I'm not sure I agree. I don't take it as given that not bragging is more impressive.
There is a precedent for this rule. In football (actual football - where you primarily use your foot on the ball - a game that you might mistakenly call soccer) players get cautioned for taking off their shirts in excessive celebration.
I've noticed that whilst I like associating with high status teams, I don't like being reminded that the individual players are much higher status than myself. My first instinct is to explain the new rules as an effort to prevent players from distinguishing themselves as high status individuals that fans might resent. If the success is subsumed by the team then it might be easier for the fans to relate/affiliate.
I'm not sure how this would tally with superstar team members that increase a teams popularity (perhaps just by associating with a winning team in spite of the superstar - although this doesn't ring true) or with man of the match awards - neither of which would be expected given my theory.