Anyway, in hindsight, I think TO can easily take a lot of the blame for the start of the long decline into the No Fun League hole, which peaked several years ago with excessive celebration penalties so outrageous that pretty much everyone was getting mad about it and the league finally loosened up and it hasn’t been an issue since.

Owens wasn’t the first guy to celebrate a touchdown, but he might have been one of the most prominent artists of the celebration. Lots of players had identifiable and noteworthy celebrations before TO came along. Ickey Woods with the Ickey Shuffle. The Dirty Bird. Billy White Shoes Johnson with his weird flapping leg dance that might have been the first signature dance in the league. Deion Sanders was a prolific dancer and had his prime time dance. Lots of players have had signature celebrations since. What set TO apart wasn’t that he liked to celebrate, it was how he did it. He did it with arrogance, and by god does the older generation of football fans hate arrogance.

TO never had a signature move like those other guys. The signature move is fun. Everyone loved the Victor Cruz salsa dance except the team he just scored on. Signature moves are usually just fun and silly. Even the more arrogant ones have their own charm, like the Cam Superman or the Discount Double Check. TO took his art in more of a taunting direction. He did whatever he wanted and it was frequently a violation of the rules. The sharpie incident is very well known, he hid a sharpie in his sock for Monday night football and then autographed his own ball after he scored. He took a cheerleader’s pom poms and danced. He grabbed a big bag of popcorn and dumped it on his face. His most famous act came when he stood on the Dallas star and posed, twice, the second time resulting in retaliation by George Teague.

All of those moments are now classics and honestly delightful, the Sharpie is an all-timer probably only topped by Joe Horn’s Cell Phone. But man, if you were around when TO was playing, you knew how much that guy was just hated. TO was a giant arrogant ass who loved to showboat and it really pissed people off. I hated him when I was a kid too. Him and Deion were irritating showboats. These days I look back on TO more fondly and with more respect, though I still can’t stand Deion.

But him and Deion influenced a new generation of showboaters like Chad Johnson and endzone celebrations started getting weird. Some of the celebrations got a bit long and naturally huffy old folks got mad about it so in response it seemed like the NFL reigned it in slightly every year. We all know how bad it got. Vernon Davis got flagged for doing a free throw with the ball and that was pretty much the breaking point from what I remember. The pushback was finally strong enough the other way and since that offseason, things have been pretty good. They allow group celebrations and as long as something doesn’t delay the game or is too vulgar, it’s fine. Maybe the NFL finally realized that playing up the entertainment aspect was a good thing. I don’t see any complaints anymore. In fact celebrations are almost too common now and we don’t have any good signatures.

In terms of TO’s legacy, his celebrations and showmanship might be his strongest legacy. He was an outstanding player, but what do you think of when you think of TO? The Catch II, if you are lucky. Most of you probably think of the celebrations, or calling Jeff Garcia gay, or his feud with McNabb, or crying for Tony Romo, or maybe his shirtless driveway workout for the cameras.  His excess showmanship is his legacy just as much as his diva attitude. I hated TO, but I do kinda miss him.