In France, birthplace of Freedom Fries, Thomas Levet decided to go for a swim Sunday after winning his national golf championship. This wasn't an original idea, and maybe that was the problem. Maybe what happened next was his punishment for not being a more creative celebrator.
What happened next was that Levet, in stocking feet, landed on some rocks at the bottom of the lake guarding the 18th green. He wound up limping away from Le Golf National club with two prizes — the French Open trophy and a fractured right fibula. Barring a trip to Lourdes, it looks like he'll miss next week's much more important Open, the British.
Levet is just the latest casualty in the burgeoning sport of Extreme Celebrating. Athletes, as we know, always are pushing the envelope, and in recent years this has been extended to their carryings-on after touchdowns, goals, winning putts and so forth. Euphoria can be a dangerous state of mind, though. Just ask Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales, who jumped on home plate after hitting a walk-off grand slam last May, fractured his leg and hasn't played since.
By the time he makes it back on the field next season — that's the latest prognosis — Morales' Home Run Trot from Hell will have cost him 273 games. And for what, a photo op?
It's getting out of control. One of these days, a TV news anchor is going to begin his broadcast by saying, "Navy frogmen are still searching Poppie's Pond for the winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. . . ."
The Kraft Nabisco, after all, is where this celebratory silliness was taken to a new level, where golfers started channeling their Inner Louganis and jumping into the water. Amy Alcott was the first to take the plunge in 1988, and three years later she got the tournament's host, Dinah Shore, to join her. (Synchronized swimming comes to the LPGA.) After that, tradition all but demanded that the winner turn the event into a Wet Golf Shirt Contest.
Since Alcott's Leap, it seems, sports have gone off the deep end. We've seen Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte run for a TD, head-butt a wall and knock himself out of a game. We've seen Portuguese soccer player Paulo Diogo set up a goal, get his wedding ring caught in a restraining fence he tried to climb and rip off part of his finger. Last July, we even saw Florida Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan hurt himself while delivering a shaving cream pie to the face of teammate Wes Helms, who had just beaten the Atlanta Braves with a pinch-hit single. Somehow, Coghlan tore cartilage in his knee and ended up on the disabled list.
Actually, there's no "somehow" about it. Coghlan made the major miscalculation of leaving his feet as he administered the pie. If history tells us anything, it's that bad things can happen when a rejoicing athlete leaves his feet — especially if he's not a gymnast or a high jumper or somebody used to leaving his feet. Levet, you'll note, left his feet. So did Morales. And so, once upon a time, did Arizona Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica, who blew out his knee whooping it up over a field goal. Repeat after me, jocks of the world: Thou shalt not (unnecessarily) leave thy feet.
And don't get me started on dogpiles. In fact, I'm surprised there isn't a national organization — Mothers Against Dogpiles (MAD) — to fight this scourge. A year ago, you may recall, UCLA second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla had to miss the College World Series because he broke his wrist in one of those massive human pileups after the Bruins won their Super Regional. Since teams in many sports persist in this hazardous activity, maybe they should be required to go to Dogpile Training School (and be issued dog tags upon graduation). As further incentive, I might even award the top athlete in each class a Best in Show ribbon.
There's nothing wrong with exuberance, of course. It just shouldn't require the services of an emergency medical technician. Besides, what if you sprained your ankle performing a couple of back flips — as Real Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola did in 2008 — only to discover that the goal you scored had been disallowed because of a delayed offside call?
Beyond that, though, so much bad karma surrounds these excessive celebrations. Frerotte started only three more games for the Redskins after his infamous head-butt, and Coghlan, the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year, has struggled so badly at the plate since his pie escapade that he was sent to the minors earlier this season. Then there's Alcott. When she went for a dip with Dinah in '91, she was 35 and had won 29 events on the LPGA tour. She never won another.
Leave the swimming to Michael Phelps.
Leave the jumping to Nate Robinson (and the other slam-dunk champs).
Leave the dogpiles to Fido and Rover.
And by all means leave the shaving cream pies to the Three Stooges.
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