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Baffoe: NFL Relaxing Celebration Rules Is Kind Of Progress -- Hooray?

By Tim Baffoe--

(CBS) Even when the NFL does something that makes sense, it comes with aspects of exasperation. It's the sort of half-laugh, half-sigh made when something is so stupidly obvious.

On Tuesday, NFL kommissar Roger Goodell reminded you that football is a year-round entity by writing a letter to you, the respected NFL fan. The heading contains an exclamation point, so that means the letter isn't about players dying of brain stuff. Probably.

Just as NFL teams use the offseason to get better, at the league we use this time to listen to players, coaches, officials and fans about how we can continue to improve our great game.

NFL is a league of the people, you see.

Earlier this spring, we announced plans to deliver a more exciting game experience, with changes to improve the pace of the game and minimize unnecessary disruptions to the action on the field. We also took important steps on health and safety, including approving new rules prohibiting the "leaper" block attempt — a top priority from our players.

The league also shaved five minutes off of overtimes this coming season, "aimed at improving player safety" if you can hear that without smirking. Overtime in the NFL is still one of the most asinine things in organized sports, but at least now they've increased the likelihood of an "exciting game experience" via tie games.

Today, we are excited to tell you about another change that comes after conversations with more than 80 current and former players: we are relaxing our rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have fun after they make big plays.

Goodell isn't "excited" by this. Men in suits are never excited about creating a totally logical evolutionary change after years of complaints.

We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown. And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements.

This is something that very normal, very in-touch human people say: "I comprehend your pathos, football watcher being, and I am aware of the empathy you creatures have for expressions of joy or sadness or any of the range of feelings in your fellow creatures that I have studied."

Then in NFL robotic fashion, Goodell goes on to give three examples of regulated fun to ensure that said spontaneity is as reined in and artificial as possible so as to not compromise the integrity of the beer and erection pill commercials. Players have been granted permission to use the football as a prop following a touchdown, to celebrate on the ground and to celebrate with a friend or friends.

In my conversations with NFL players, it was also clear how much our players care about sportsmanship, clean competition and setting good examples for young athletes. That is why offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game and those directed at an opponent will still be penalized.

So that leaves the door wide open for subjective interpretation and penalties, and this basically is the Footloose town allowing the teens to dance. But, hey, it's progress as far as the NFL's rigidity on individuality is concerned.

We know we have more work to do. We are grateful to the many current and retired players who engaged with us on this topic and we look forward to ongoing dialogue with them as we continue to work to improve this game we all love.

Thank you for your support.

OK, go away now, Rog. There's no rational reason to hate baby steps like this, which means there are football people who hate this.

"I'm not for that at all," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told ESPN. "We had a good standard, and the whole standard has always been, you want to teach people how to play the game the correct way and go about it the correct way, and that's not a very good example for young people.

"The rules were changed for a reason, and I thought we had a good outcome," continued Lewis regarding restricting celebrations years back. "Again, this is a team game, and ... I don't understand why we want to give in to individual celebrations."

Besides how farty that is and how painfully stereotypical conservative football coach it is, go to hell, Marvin Lewis. Know when individuality doesn't so much bother Lewis? When it's regarding "one day" in a violent player's life that should be reconciled on behalf of getting to play football.

"I don't know who isn't disgusted at what they saw," Lewis said of the video of newest Bengal Joe Mixon punching out a woman in a restaurant in 2014. "But that's one day in the young man's life. He's had to live that since then. He will continue to have to live that. And he gets an opportunity to move forward and write a script from there on. It's come to a conclusion with the young lady. They've come to their statements, her statement about how they both would have liked, probably should have handled the day better, but again that doesn't change it."

Lewis feels that "a good standard" involves both not allowing players to express themselves on sports' highest stage and drafting woman beaters to play football if it benefits his job that he somehow has despite being 0-7 in the postseason as a head coach. And because the NFL makes no sense, it was Goodell with the appropriate smirking last word on Lewis's comments.

Certainly Lewis isn't the only person thinking stupidly about this. There are plenty of fans and football personnel bothered by mostly men of color expressing themselves for being better at something than the rest of us, and they'll cloak it in the guise of "team game." But at least the NFL removed a few inches of the stick up its butt in blatant disregard of such hand-wringing buzzcut gym teachers. And gradually that "play the game the right way" -- we're talking about a game in which an objective is to literally inflict life-altering pain repeatedly on the opponent -- crap will fade into the CTE of our collective consciousness.

Because fun that doesn't literally harm other people is always good. Sports should be more fun, should contain more celebrations of the self and the incredible feats that come with playing a game at the world's highest level. Creative touchdown celebrations and fat linemen dancing are what we should all live for. Just like exuberance after a goal or slam dunk and (gasp) flipping bats  for home runs and staring at a ball leaving the park or pitcher like they owe you money.

Which means the barbaric NFL is -- on official league letterhead -- more progressive than Major League Baseball and its continuously butt-headed unwritten rules. Half-laugh, half-sigh.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.

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