If You Don’t Like DeSean Jackson, You Are a Humorless, Corporate-Loving Drone

He's the most entertaining player the NFL has had in years. So why does everyone hate him so much?

I remember, as a child, watching in amazement when Billy “White Shoes” Johnson reached the end zone. I could have cared less about the Oilers, who the tiny receiver and punt returner played for, but if they were on the tube it was must-see TV. Because when Johnson hit paydirt, his legs would start wobbling back and forth, a giant grin on his face, and he would start doing a dance known as the “Funky Chicken.” He would then reach the ball behind his head, as if he was going to launch it into the crowd. He would bring his arm forward, but instead of throwing the ball into the stands, he would bounce the ball off the back of his helmet and catch it in his other hand, located at the base of his back. Finally, he would drop down on the ground, do a split, and spike the ball. It was great theater, and as an 8-year-old, I regularly copied that dance when playing backyard football. Even now, on the rare occasions I still play backyard football, and on the even rarer occasions I make it into the end zone, I do the dance. It pisses off my friends and opponents, and delights any of my friends’ kids who happen to be watching a bunch of old men try desperately to relive their childhoods.


No wonder. They’ve never seen someone dance like that either. They’re not allowed to, thanks to the corporate babysitting service known as the National Football League. The League is a billion-dollar industry, and like most billion-dollar corporate entities, any form of young, exuberant, individual expression is not only frowned upon, it is downright forbidden. The league has all of the theatrical flair of a corporate board meeting, where socks worn a half an inch too low can result in a serious fine and where any form of self expression is seen as an alarming encroachment on the league’s “brand.”

Enter DeSean Jackson.

An electrifying player, he is also an powerful and provoking personality, whose natural-born showmanship would be celebrated in any other sport. He is an entertainer who has a natural inclination to put on a show. Sadly, in today’s NFL, that makes him a threat and a malcontent. Sure, he’s taken it too far at times—dropping the ball on the 1-yard line and missing practice are inexcusable—but for the most part he is must-see TV.

He is one of a handful of guys you’d want to watch on any given Sunday. Not just because he might light it up on a 91-yard pass play against the Cowboys, as he did last December, but also because he might do the Nestea plunge into the end zone. Not just because he might catch a 50-yard pass against the Giants, as he did this past Sunday, but because he might toss the ball at the Giants defensive coordinator and then brush his shoulders off. In a sport that is supposed to be entertaining, these are acts of high drama.

But in today’s boring NFL, any flair for the dramatic has branded players as bad guys. Jackson is seen as a punk whose thrilling antics are reason to hate him. The sad part is, the public doesn’t doubt the ludicrousness of such rules (a penalty for having fun? Seriously?), fans instead take the side of the boring, corporate behemoth and agree that Jackson is the enemy. Terrible sportsmanship! cry Eagles fans on Twitter. Rock-head! reads the Inquirer. Eagles supporters would apparently prefer that 24-year-old pro athletes in the midst of heated battle behave like 18th-century English gentlemen at high tea.

In baseball, when a player hits a home run, he can dance all he wants. After all, if the pitcher thinks it crosses the line into disrespect, that same batter could pay for it later with a fastball to the earhole. It’s remarkable how well it polices itself. But not in the Big Babysitter League. Last season, after DeSean did his Nestea plunge, one of the Dallas DBs said after the game that it was “disrespectful.” And most Eagles fans agreed! Let me repeat that for emphasis: Eagles fans agreed with a Dallas Cowboy player because an Eagles player hurt his feelings. What is wrong with this picture?

At one time in the NFL, there would have been no whining in the post-game press conference after an outlandish celebration. There would have been a devastating blow to the chops the next time that receiver stretched his arms out to catch a pass across the middle. And if a player had tossed the ball at a defensive coordinator? That same receiver would have been staring at the sky on the next play. But in the NFL, there is no need to settle these things like men. There’s no need for drama, no cause for bad blood, and no need to raise the stakes in rivalries. Instead, players are encouraged to be passive aggressive about it, to cry about it in post-game press conferences, and to let the referees assess penalties when football players hurt the feelings of the men on the other team who are trying to kill them.

The NFL has become the Ebenezer Scrooge of pro sports, bitterly deriding those who celebrate life, while stacking its gold coins in delight. If it had the power, the NFL would shut down all Christmas lights shows, outlaw birthday cakes, and order Kool and Gang to pay a fine for recording “Celebration.” Too much fun. Bah-humbug!

It’s a shame so many Eagles fans are rooting against the most entertaining player in football. Not me. In fact, not only am I rooting for him, he’s provided me with inspiration. This year, in the annual Thanksgiving football game with my high school buddies, I don’t think I’m going to do my usual “Funky Chicken” when I score. Instead, I’m going to do a Nestea plunge into the end zone. The kids will love it—even if their boring-ass parents think it’s “terrible sportsmanship.”