It was the type of touchdown celebration that made the NFL so enjoyable back before the league traded its sense of humor for guys like commissioner Roger Goodell.
So, naturally, when Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline had his first touchdown catch of the season on Sunday, and then celebrated by pretending to putt a golf ball, the officials working the game at Sun Life Stadium disapproved and penalized the Dolphins for excessive celebration.
Or, as the head official put it to the crowd: it was an unnecessary “group demonstration.”
“I can see where they thought it was, but at the same time I don’t think that was worthy of a penalty,” said Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick, who has a signature celebration — the Pee-wee Herman — for big plays.
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As far as “group demonstrations” go, it was actually one of the best examples of togetherness the Dolphins offered their fans all day. Miami lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 34-15, and Hartline’s ode to Happy Gilmore was pretty much the game’s highlight for these uninspiring Dolphins.
A quick review of the putt:
Hartline caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the corner of the end zone to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 14-10 with 12:07 left in the third quarter. Scoring so early in the second half tipped momentum the Dolphins’ way. Hope pulsated through the crowd along with the end-zone celebration song by Jimmy Buffett.
A comeback tasted oh so real, so the Dolphins’ golf-loving pass catcher seized his chance, and his invisible putter.
Hartline lined up his putt on the sideline, and some teammates joined him to watch the golf ball roll. There was tight end Dion Sims and receiver Mike Wallace. Guard Dallas Thomas joined the gallery. Closest to the hole was Tannehill.
Hartline struck his putt true and that’s when a side judge even joined in on the charade. Seriously, an official was in on the gag. Watch the replay of the video.
The referee ducked his head into the frame just in time to track the golf ball into hole. Tannehill jumped in celebration when the putt went down.
“I just like to golf,” Tannehill said.
Of course, no one wants to talk about fun touchdown celebrations after a loss, or about much of anything, really, so Hartline wasn’t too keen on the subject in the post-game locker room.
“It wasn’t planned,” he said.
And then came the canned apology — the quote and sound bite only reporters and league executives care anything about.
“I don’t ever try to put myself in a position to not help the team, and I was surprised by it,” Hartline said. “I’ll be more conscious of it. I never thought I would put myself in a situation for that to happen, but I was mistaken.”
And blah, blah, blah.
“Hopefully my teammates will forgive me,” he said.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin also offered his best effort at contrition as hyperbole. Hartline’s touchdown was, according to Philbin, a poor reflection of himself as a coach.
“That’s silly,” Hartline said when informed by a reporter of Philbin’s rhetoric.
Plenty of things reflected poorly on Philbin on Sunday, but Hartline’s touchdown celebration wasn’t one of them.