Five years ago, Greg Wyshynski wrote that the word celly, short for celebration, should be retired.
Alex Morgan scored a goal on her 30th birthday AND THEN HAD A CUP OF TEA pic.twitter.com/csvFAlZRhC
— SB Nation (@SBNation) July 2, 2019
The @Nationals home run celebration is everything 😂
10-2 Nats lead! pic.twitter.com/05lLsccNxJ
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 24, 2019
So whatever you think of the word celly itself, you cannot deny that we are living in a new age of celebration. That’s a good thing.
I like sports, but boy can it be dour sometimes. In particular, hockey’s pantheon of TV pundits is made up of grumps — older, straight, white, male grumps, to be specific. They don’t like hot dogs, divas, jerks, showboats or any other word that describes things that are fun to watch. Instead, the grumps lionize the mundane: the lunch-pail players who don’t express personality, the solemn guys who act like they’ve been there before, the John Waynes. That attitude has infected all corners of sports, and it has the twin consequences of making sports unbearable to watch and discouraging to new fans.
But then there’s the irrepressible Evgeny Kuznetsov, who cannot help but be a cheerful goofball. Kuznetsov studied under Alex Ovechkin, he of the hot stick celebration, who cheers even harder for his teammates’ goals. In 2018, those two players and their team, after a cursed decade of playoff heartbreak, held an extended, exuberant, public celebration of their victory that feels like it has changed the laws of the universe.
And as the Washington Nationals won their second game on Wednesday night, the team danced and hugged and pretended to drive cars. Their celebration was infectious and kind of transgressive. It was a happy rebellion against the stonefaces, and it’s spreading.
ASTROS: We have assembled the most terrifying pitching staff since the 90's Braves. Our defense is stifling. Our offense is relentless.
NATS: Our entire stadium does the Baby Shark clap. We do Riverdance when we hit homers. Brian Dozier knows all the words to Calma.
— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) October 24, 2019
Sports don’t actually mean anything. Not objectively. They mean only what we bring to them. A lot of the time what we bring to sports is just anguish (read any RMNB playoff coverage before 2018), but whimsy is a valid choice too. It’s fine to be goofy or campy. When players hug each other tightly or celebrate ostentatiously or generally perform any behavior that doesn’t fit inside the tidy boxes deemed acceptable by an ever-narrowing group of staid tastemakers, they’re creating a permission structure for fans to experience and appreciate the game in new ways. That is a moral good.
The pure expression of the most universal emotion in sports, joy, is undeniable. It breaks the casual observer’s blood-brain barrier and forces them to feel something. That expression or that feeling isn’t always in line with the orthodoxy, and it’s sometimes at odds with gender norms or traditional masculinity or whatever, but it’s still human. It’s what makes fans. It’s what grows communities. It’s a really good thing.
There are a lot of different ways to be a person, and sports are — slowly, painfully — coming to realize that’s fine.
This can be about sweat, or it can be about stats, or it can be plain old prurient homoerotic projection. It’s a big, weird, wonderful world.
Celly is still a pretty dumb word though.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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