You know how certain things can make you laugh over and over, without fail, almost each time you see it, hear it or think about it?
Like a particular comedy routine or a bit on your favorite sitcom?
Or that time when your frat brother walked in the bathroom – thinking perhaps you were dead because he (allegedly) had been calling your name and banging on the door – and you awoke and stared at him incredulously, with a look that said “What the hell are you doing in here while I’m on the throne?”
Well, two moments this NFL season have brought me the joy of laughter time and again, captured and repeated in GIFs that never grow old or unfunny, no matter how often I see them. They’re not actual plays, but two players’ reaction to a play and the aftermath of those reactions.
Not to make light of an athlete’s injury or misfortune, but tearing your ACL while celebrating a sack is fairly hilarious. Especially when it happens to one player five weeks after it happened to another, both times with eerily similar dance moves that conclude with the players wincing and going down as if shot.
Look it up if you don’t believe me. Reddit.com has a cool side-by-side comparison and you can find plenty of other clips. They show Chicago Bears defensive tackle Lamarr Houston and Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch sustaining season-ending knee injuries in the most ridiculous manner imaginable.
The only thing more absurd is Houston doing his sack dance Sunday while the Bears trailed New England by 25 points in the fourth quarter.
Houston must have missed all the replays of Tulloch dropping like a wounded animal on Sept. 21 after sacking Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Prior to that, Tulloch had not missed a game in nine seasons, playing in 131 consecutive contests and making 75 consecutive starts.
If he learned a lesson he didn’t share it at a charity event days later, saying he had no regrets. “Hell, no,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “I’d do it again, brother. You do it every time. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Just a matter of time.”
But how long until he wises up and realizes he should avoid the Michael Jackson moves?
At least his celebration occurred midway through the first quarter of a game that Detroit went on to win. Chicago was hopelessly behind the Patriots when Houston sacked rookie backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo with about three minutes left in a 51-23 rout.
Personal reasons probably led Houston to be overexcited: It was his first sack of the season after signing a five-year, $35 million free-agent contract in March. “I probably shouldn’t have celebrated while they were blowing us out,” Houston told reporters after the game.
“We’re disappointed for him and in him,” Bears GM Phil Emery said Monday during a news conference. “He knows he made an error. He’s come into all of our offices and apologized for his error. But ultimately the team paid a price. And at the end of the day Lamarr paid a bigger price. He lost the season.”
I hope Houston and Tulloch find the ability to laugh at themselves for suffering unfortunate, avoidable injuries. No matter the circumstances, both men require periods of recovery and rehabilitation before resuming their careers and they have my best wishes.
But that doesn’t spare them from being the butt of jokes.
An electronic billboard outside Chicago had a picture of the lineman sitting on the field after his injury. Incorporating the name on the back of his jersey, the message was: “Houston, we have a problem.”
This area knows a little something about injury due to excessive celebration. Near the top of any list is former Washington quarterback Gus Frerotte, who punctuated a touchdown run in 1997 by head-butting a padded cement wall in the end zone. He wound up in the hospital with a bruised neck.
In another famous instance of over exuberance, former Arizona Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica tore an ACL while celebrating a 43-yeard field goal in 2001. He landed in almost the same manner as Houston and Tulloch.
Baseball isn’t immune to such freak injuries, either. In 2010, the Los Angeles Angels’ Kendry Morales hit a walk-off grand slam that became a “carted-off,” after he jumped on home plate, slipped and broke his ankle.
I actually feel bad for athletes when their joy turns to pain. Their acts seem much less harmless – and less stupid – than the athletes who miss time after punching a wall (the Yankees’ Kevin Brown in 2004) or a glass fire extinguisher case (the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire in 2012 ) in frustration.
We’re not surprised when angry, violent outbursts lead to injury.
Conversely, we don’t expect joyous leaps to leave a limp.
But – I’m sorry – I can’t help laughing when they do.