Personally, I enjoy watching expressions of joy, brio, élan, that sort of thing, even in sports, but I realize that not everyone does. For instance, as is well known, the NCAA some time ago declared the gladsome slamming down of footballs in the end zone or of basketballs through the hoop to be illegal. When Pepper Rodgers was head football coach at UCLA he used to hold spiking practice, allowing each potential scorer to develop and polish his own style of exclamation. But spiking and dunking struck the NCAA as too rambunctious, or something, so it denied these practices to true amateurs.
Now, in London, the Football Association Match and Grounds Committee has recommended that British soccer players be stopped from "kissing and cuddling and making gestures [of affection] to the crowd when a goal has been scored."
Right. M.&G. committeemen don't start jumping around hugging each other after passing a particularly satisfying recommendation. Why should footballers after a goal?
The trouble is, "cuddling" is especially hard to define, and the word looks silly in a passage of football legislation. Not to mention press accounts. Surely the committee does not want the British sports pages filled with quotes like, "All I do is give Miles a little pat and, bingo, it's cuddling. I don't even like the man. Leeds can nuzzle each other's ears and it's not cuddling. But we so much as smile at each other and, "Tweet. I saw that. You cuddled.' "
March 8, 1976
"Unnecessary tenderness" might be a better term. But still referees would have to make some sticky judgment calls. Perhaps the English could take a leaf from the folks who run the NCAA. They outlawed spiking not by speaking their presumable feelings and ruling that "anyone throwing the ball to the ground in a frolicsome manner shall be penalized 15 yards for causing the game to seem like fun," but by decreeing a player would be penalized for failure to return the ball to an official immediately after a score.
The point is to ban by indirection. Perhaps in England a player could be penalized if he did not run over to an official immediately after scoring and make 15 seconds of polite conversation. By that time his and his teammates' delight should have abated, and they could behave with dignity.
The Britishers might take one other tip from American football. Put facemasks and full sets of pads on their chaps. Let them try to kiss and cuddle then.