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Dabbing, Untucking and Bat Flipping: Colorful Celebrations Causing Consternation

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Avert your eyes, children, the bad man is doing the dance again.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Cam Newton is through to the Super Bowl, and he's taking his dabbing, dancing, Superman chest-bearing act with him to the sports world's biggest stage. For those of us who still remember that sports are supposed to be fun, this is an absolute delight -- watching Newton truck the entire Arizona Cardinals defense into space over and over last Sunday was the most fun I've had watching an American football game in quite some time.

Then there's another group, who fear Newton and the havoc his antics are most certainly ravaging upon the nation's impressionable youth. They decry his lack of respect for the game and mourn the hurt feelings of the 53 professional football players on the other team who will never recover from the humiliation and shame of watching an athlete put his nose near his elbow.

Let's talk about a little sequence from the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. On 3rd and 10 and leading 27-7, Carolina called a quarterback run for Newton, and the Cardinals swallowed it up immediately. First met about three yards past the line of scrimmage, Newton rode Cardinals safety Chris Clemons like a dang sled, pushing him backward to pick up the funniest first down in recent memory. On the very next play, Newton kept the ball again, bulldozing his way to the goal line where he flipped over the defender for a 12 yard score.

There were two minutes left in the third quarter, and Cam Newton was going to the god damn Super Bowl and everyone on the face of the planet now knew it for sure. He had dragged the Panthers and their TJ Maxx clearance rack receiving corps to the franchise's first NFC Championship in 13 years. He hit 'em with the Superman. You're damn right he did.

Former Bears linebacker and noted thought leader Brian Urlacher is the latest to chime in with his flaming hot take on Newton's celebrations, which are destroying the souls of our future generations.

The Brewers are no stranger to the type of criticism being heaped upon Newton by certain members of the sports media. The 2008-10 group came under fire from the Official Keepers of the Unwritten Rules of Baseball down in St. Louis for their practice of untucking their jerseys, a practice started by Mike Cameron to honor his father. Carlos Gomez has been the scourge of the Unwritten Rules' various keepers as well, for running the bases after a home run either too fast or too slow, depending on who was holding the stopwatch. And of course there's Nyjer Morgan, who is ... well, he's Tony Plush, and that's all that needs to be said.

Then there's Yasiel Puig, the Los Angeles Dodgers' lightning rod outfielder of whose fan club I am a permanent member. Puig has come under constant fire from teammates, coaches, fans and the media since his defection from Cuba in 2012 for his various violations of the game's Unwritten Rules and his unwillingness to play the game the white right way.

Folks like to say things like, "Act like you've been there before," pleading for athletes to conform to their nebulous definition of "classy." But there's more to the anti-celebration movement than just a bunch of old fuddy-duddies who hate fun, an uncomfortable truth that will cause some of you to recoil into a shell of denial. There's something under the surface, a thinly-veiled impetus for the harsh criticism levied against those players that play "without class." Mike Cameron, Cam Newton, Nyjer Morgan, Yasiel Puig, Carlos Gomez: there's one thing all these guys have in common.

They aren't white.

You never hear anyone complaining about Aaron Rodgers doing a discount double-check putting on the title belt after he scores a touchdown. No one had a problem with Brett Farve sprinting around the field with his helmet off and gesticulating wildly after big throws. And I've never heard a peep from the "keep it classy" crowd about J.J. Watt, who hit the whip/nae nae, dabbed and ran off on the plug twice after a single play.

In the sports world, the word "classy" has come to be synonymous with white skin. The othering of African American and Latino players is deeply held and pervasive among the community of sports writers and talking heads that is overwhelmingly dominated by white men. Urlacher's comments are not new, and they aren't going away. Jackie Robinson busted a hole in the color wall in sports, but barriers still remain. Newton is following in Jackie's footsteps, playing his game at the highest level and forcing you to deal with him as he plays the only way he knows how. Dab on, Cam.