HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER
Astros' celebrations are just the latest in a long line of sports stars having fun
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You can’t wait to see what those crazy, rambunctious kids have cooked up for us today. What started as a singular stare into the dugout camera to celebrate a homerun has morphed into must-see, must-tweet-the-moment entertainment.
Yes, we’re talking your Houston Astros. The defending World Champions. A team that plays with the kind of joy you saw in the Post Oak Little Leaguers; a team that seems to have a celebration move for just about every big moment.
Take the dugout stare – created and perfected by Alex Bregman who has put himself on a very short list for American League MVP. He loves a moment and took it – with a little sass and a lot of swagger -- after hitting a homerun and turned into his signature move.
Then he upped his game, getting his teammates involved and promptly daring everyone on Twitter to join the #DugoutStareChallenge and . . . well, they did.
A few days ago, the AL West leaders added a human limbo pole to the post-homer dugout stare. Then they pulled off an improv curling lead-in to the stare. What’s next? Who knows.
Bregman would have you believe it’s all spontaneous.
“We’ve got a good Hollywood cast in this clubhouse that can act on the spot,’’ he told Channel 13. “So we say the word and – boom – everyone falls into position.’’
Bregman is simply the current front man for a team that loves to celebrate with bring-it-in little dances or chest or ankle or hip bumps before they head to the dugout – and the plate. Josh Reddick has been known to channel Spiderman unleashing his web. The outfield had their Fortnite Celebration dances earlier this spring.
And, yes, they have us talking.
But signature celebrations are nothing new are they? These days, neither are the tweets, instagrams and gifs surrounding them.
We could remind you of everything from the Ickey Shuffle to PrimeTime’s high step and dances to Michael Irvin’s celebrations and Usain’s Bolt. Cam Newton’s Dab, Steph Curry’s Shimmy or Lebron’s chalk clap.
What about Aaron Rodgers’ Championship Belt, aka the Discount Double Check, or Victor Cruz’ Salsa, Russell Westbrook holstering his six shooters or Chi Chi Rodriguez’ toreador dance, complete with sword, er, putter brandish.
Or Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Terrell Owens, who all have more go-to celebration moves than you can count.
Instead, we’ll settle for running down the list of iconic celebrations by Houston athletes and teams. We promise that alone will keep you busy for an afternoon.
So where to start? Well you have to start with arguably the greatest celebratory dance in the history of the NFL, the Oilers Billy White Shoes Johnson and the funky chicken. Or how about Ernest Givins’ Electric Slide. Or the Rockets Dikembe Mutombo’s finger wag. Or Mario Ellie’s Kiss of Death.
Then there’s J.J. Watt’s salute. James Harden stirring up a little home cookin’. Chris Paul’s Revenge Shimmy. The Astros’ silent treatment when Jose Altuve hit his first homer of the 2018 season. Fiery Patrick Reed’s shush or his can’t-hear-you or his fist-pumping Captain America Ryder Cup repertoire.
The Comets raising the roof as they won the first four WNBA titles. The ’86 Astros’ rally caps. The Dynamo’s double-knee slides. Harden’s - and now Bregman’s – eyes-rolling, head-turning look-off stare. Clyde Drexler – all the way back to Phi Slama Jama days -- finishing off another elegant glide with a rim-rattling exclamation point slam.
Coming soon? Carmelo Anthony’s three-tap to the head.
Celebrations are just another way to let it all out. To use your imagination and find a signature that not only fits the moment, but also the player. Can’t see Ed Oliver or Tim Tebow or Tom Brady doing the Shimmy, right?
Yes, social media has taken these moves – and often well-thought-out elaborate skits or dances -- to a new level. And the fans? Tweet, retweet. Post it. Snap chat it. It’s all part of the game.
Which brings us full circle to the1960s and two historic moments in celebration history you need to know – both with Houston ties:
* The first end zone spike came courtesy of former Texas Southern football and track star Homer Jones. Jones was drafted by the AFL Oilers but got injured and was cut before the season started. The New York Giants picked him up and in a 1965 game against Philadelphia, he scored on an 89-yard pass and spiked the ball in the end zone.
* As for the first end zone dance? It came from Houston Cougar wide receiver Elmo Wright in 1969. His sophomore season, he would slam the ball down when he scored, but, when he was a junior, he spontaneously celebrated one touchdown with a high-stepping little dance. It felt right and he kept right on going through his NFL days.
Today, Wright’s debut dance wouldn’t make anyone’s top 10, but, at the time, it was over-the-top unexpected. Imaginative. Entertaining.
And, most of all, fun.
After all, as everyone mentioned above – and just about any athlete -- will tell you, if you can’t enjoy a big moment, let your emotions go and celebrate a little . . . well, why are you playing the game?
As for the Astros? Buckle up. Bregman’s on a roll. So are the ‘Stros. And the playoffs are just around the corner.