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The Zak Zone

February 9, 2012

Unlike last year, when my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers fell to the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, the team I was cheering for this season was actually victorious.

Of course, I wasn't as emotionally invested in this year's game, but there were definitely a few reasons I was cheering for the New York Giants over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

First of all, just as I feel any faithful Steeler fan should, I root heartily against the Patriots week in and week out. There are a few players, such as Wes Welker, whom I admire on the Pats' roster, but overall, they are definitely near the top of my least favorite teams list.

Secondly, I've always sort of liked Eli Manning, so obviously, given the team the Giants were playing, I was pulling for the quarterback I have always liked over the one I never have.

Lastly, though, is the reason that made me most hopeful, and that reason had me hoping, especially, that one player would succeed.

While I'm not always a fan of post-play celebratory exhibitions, one has struck a particular chord with me, and I enjoy it quite well: I wanted to see Victor Cruz dance.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's not like I'm a big "Dancing With The Stars" fan, and I like to see these football players dance on a regular occasion, or anything.

In fact, I refused to watch the reality show even when Pittsburgh's own beloved receiver Hines Ward was a contestant.

But from day one, I have always enjoyed Cruz's celebratory salsa.

Cruz's celebratory dance has swept the nation. He had everyone talking about his impressive moves, and he even had Madonna impersonating him during her Super Bowl interviews leading up to her halftime performance.

But that's not the main reason I was so hopeful that Cruz would score so he could bust out his dance moves.

A few weeks back, I watched a television interview with Cruz about why he chose the salsa as his dance of choice during which he gave away the inspiration for his patented dance move: His grandmother.

Cruz said he learned his dance moves during his time hanging out with his grandmother when he was 11 years old. She taught him how to dance in her kitchen, and each and every time he busts out the celebration, it's in her honor.

Now, that's a dance worth cheering for.

Imagine his grandmother's joy when she was able to watch her grandson salsa after his touchdown reception on the NFL's largest stage at the Super Bowl, and imagine the joy he was able to feel by paying her that tribute in what may go down as his greatest moment.

I don't always laud celebrations on the field, but touchdown dances have always been one of the few on-field celebratory moves I push for.

While I completely understand and even agree when high school, or even college, coaches ban their players from doing such dances, I think it takes on a new meaning at the game's highest level in the pros.

I don't support a player getting up and doing a dance each and every time he makes a tackle in the NFL, because most times, they were just doing their job and found themselves in the right spot at the right time. It'd be like me doing a dance every time a local coach calls in a score.

But there are two occasions when I feel it is appropriate for players to dance: When a defensive player records a sack or an interception, and when a player scores a touchdown.

These are the big, momentum-changing moments in the game, and I really feel like it's acceptable for these professional athletes to take a few seconds to enjoy the celebration, especially as a team.

Sadly, the NFL has banned planned celebrations that include other team members, including passing the ball to a contributing offensive lineman to spike it, and the team that commits any act of such sportsmanship and oneness is penalized 15 yards.

My reasoning for thinking it is OK for these players to celebrate in such a manner is because I want to do the same when my Steelers score a touchdown. I often fist pump when our running back punches it across the goal line, and I'm sometimes even tempted to do the cabbage patch if I happen to be watching the game alone. So, I totally understand the players' gut reactions are to celebrate.

There's also a place and time when it's appropriate, though.

When my team is down 35 points and scores a meaningless six points against a prevent defense, those are the times you hear me utter phrases such as, "Act like you've been there, Wallace."

After the Super Bowl, another football player's dance moves received some much more negative PR in the media circles when Rob Gronkowski — who played injured with a high ankle sprain in the big game — was video taped dancing his cares away at the Patriots' post-game party.

Now, I understand the Patriots fans being upset, as I wouldn't necessarily want to see one of my favorite players, let alone the one who seemed to not live up to his potential because of an injury, going crazy on the dance floor just hours after a heartbreaking loss.

But at the same time, I must admit that every time a catchy beat comes on the radio, whether I'm at a high or low point in my life, the urge to do a jig comes upon me.

Dancing has a healing effect, and while I won't do it in front of others due to the horrific nature of my moves (in that, I feel like I have something in common with Gronkowski), I can understand why Gronk would dance. He needed to blow off some steam, and that's just how he did so.

Also, it probably didn't hurt that his ankle pain had more than likely been eased by an adult beverage or two.

The point is, I say we let them dance!

Last week, I talked about the inappropriate reaction of throwing a tantrum after a loss, and while there are appropriate ways to celebrate big wins, as well, I think dancing is an acceptable res-ponse to a high-profile play.

Teaching a child to avoid a tantrum after a tough loss helps teach them how they're supposed to act as adults. Allowing a professional football player to dance, after a big score or after a loss, frees them to be a kid again, even if just for a moment.

Sometimes, we all need to act like kids, just like Victor Cruz in his grandmother's kitchen. Let's salsa!

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