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Soon enough, White Shoes Johnson was spaghetti-leggin' it all over the end zone for the Houston Oilers. And long, tall, 6'8" Harold Carmichael was pretending to roll dice with his teammates every time he scored for the Philadelphia Eagles. "The funny thing was I never shot real craps in my life," says Carmichael, who may have had the strongest arm in football. "What I really wanted to do was fling the ball 100 yards into the other end zone. You know, an opposite-field spike."
All great inventors have been pariahs at one time or another, so honk if you've heard a coach say, "I don't like this silly celebrating in the end zone. The great ones always act like they've been there before" Yawn. That's easy to say if you're talking about Jimmy Brown, O.J. Simpson or Walter Payton. But how many of their 291 combined no-spike touchdowns are as memorable as Pittsburgh Steeler Dave Smith's TD spike against the Chiefs on a Monday night in 1971? O.K., so Smith caught the ball, broke into the clear and spiked on the seven-yard line, turning his touchdown into a touchback. Picky, picky.
Attention-wise, no end-zone provocateur made more out of his reserve's role than brazen Butch Johnson with his California Quake in the early '80s. Inspired by a rapturous young woman in the stands, whom he spotted waving and undulating her physique after his touchdown catch, Dallas's Johnson suddenly broke into his own shimmy-shake. "Some reporter asked if I had a name for my dance, that it looked like some kind of orgasm," Johnson says. "I figured I'd better get a name real fast." Johnson was from Los Angeles. To add some Texas flavor, he soon included drawing and shooting pistols to his repertoire—"I shot the defender, the official and later everybody in the stands," he says—and, helped by a professional choreographer, eventually turned his dance into a mini nightclub act.
Ah, progress. As long ago as 1983 the bell tolled for these pigskin prophets against protocol. In an early-season game at Shea Stadium, Ram offensive tackle Jackie Slater took exception to Gastineau's berserk prance following a quarterback sack. Slater shoved Gastineau from behind in middance, whereupon a bench-clearing brawl ensued and 37 players wound up being fined. Slater received a slew of congratulatory calls and letters from around the league and later was voted to the first of his six Pro Bowls in seven years. "Gastineau was a jerk. He tried to embarrass people," says Billy Ard of the Green Bay Packers. "As long as it's [celebrating and] not out to embarrass people, I don't see what's wrong with it. The league is like a communist government. What are they paranoid about?"
Perhaps mass death. In December '83, as the Washington Redskins' "Fun Bunch" of receivers gathered in the Dallas Cowboy end zone to scream and jump and cavort and slap five and otherwise re-create their usual Fun Bunch stuff after a touchdown catch by Art Monk, Dallas defensive backs Dennis Thurman and Michael Downs broke into the circle to announce a cancellation of the celebration, or words to that effect, which caused another near brawl.
In the final week of the '83 season, after Dolphin defensive end Mike Charles dropped Jet quarterback Richard Todd for a loss in a Miami blowout, Charles knelt in front of Todd and began raising and lowering his own quivering limbs in a mock attempt to levitate his victim. Hilarious, right? The Jets didn't think so. When Charles turned away, he was shoved from behind by Jet guard Marvin Powell, and then Todd fired the ball at the back of Charles's helmet.
Voilà! In 1984 came a new addition to the NFL Code of Conduct, which specifically outlawed "imitations of gunfighters...wild flailing of arms and legs...high-five circles in the end zone." At the time, supervisor of officials Art McNally said, "We took steps to prevent what could have been a very ugly situation. It was like a bomb waiting to go off."
The new rule resulted in only nine penalties in '84—for such things as spiking by a player other than the one who scored, and spinning the ball like a top. But the damage to the creators had been done. Washington's Otis Wonsley of the dead-as-a-doornail Fun Bunch remembers, "There wasn't any electricity. Without [the Fun Bunch] it's like we were playing with handcuffs on."
Johnson, traded to the Denver Broncos in that off-season, holstered his twin revolvers for good in favor of the Colorado Moonwalk. "They said you had to be spontaneous, couldn't duplicate," says Johnson, now a Denver businessman. "So I kept changing, from the moonwalk to a bullfighter to something else, anything. What the heck. I guess I was 10 years ahead of my time. If I hadn't become an entrepreneur, I'd still be in showbiz."
Show biz? The NFL? Wash out your mouth with soap, man.