That time the Hamilton Tiger-Cats celebrated a touchdown by jumping in a boat

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Published November 8, 2021 at 9:28 pm

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Most great art is not properly appreciated in its time. That goes for whether it is on canvas, in lyrics, or in a boat that was parked behind the end zone in a Canadian Football League stadium, because CFL.

It was on this date in 2009 that Hamilton linebacker Markeith Knowlton and his Tiger-Cats defensive mates were slightly ahead of their time with a touchdown celebration during a win at Winnipeg. After Knowlton pulled off a pick-six, scoring on a 35-yard interception-return touchdown, he jumped into the watercraft at the old Canad Inns Stadium. More than half of the defence got in on the celebration, since Knowlton’s TD had opened a relatively-safe 13-point lead midway through the final quarter of a game that Hamilton needed to win to secure a home playoff game.

A couple players reclined like they were catching some rays, in Winnipeg in November. Others mimed casting a fishing line, and another pretended he was in a paddle boat. Less than a minute of pro-football time later, Tiger-Cats defensive back Jykine Bradley also pulled off a pick-six touchdown and players got back in the boat.

Although the complete play does not seem to exist on YouTube, it is fondly remembered by devotees of three-down football.

“I’ve been watching football for almost 40 years and this is THE best celebration I have ever seen to this day,” one Hamilton resident wrote in a Tweet on Monday.

Earlier in ’09, The Lonely Island’s “I’m on a Boat” had premiered as a digital short on “Saturday Night Live.” So there was an obvious cross-reference that was begging to be made before Hamilton hosted an East Division semifinal playoff game the following week. That does survive on YouTube, perhaps regrettably.

Tradionally, the CFL has been more laid-back than the NFL about how players express themselves after scoring a touchdown, or making a disruptive defensive play such as an interception or sack.

The CFL, though, fined Knowlton, Bradley and a half-dozen other Tiger-Cats an undisclosed amount for what The Canadian Press called “an excessive touchdown celebration.”

Aftermath

However, in the dozen years since, both leagues have come around on celebrations being part of the spectacle. The NFL, long called the No Fun League, scaled back its rules against excessive celebration in 2017. The league now encourages defensive players to gather and celebrate after they take the ball away through an interception or fumble recovery.

The CFL came around midway through the 2018 season, over consecutive nights in August. Winnipeg wide receiver Darvin Adams was penalized after commandering a TV camera and filming some of his teammates after he scored a touchdown. The following night, another wide receiver, Edmonton’s D’haquille Williams, received a penalty after he and two teammates crawled through an end-zone advertising placard after he scored.

Days later, the league came around and said players could use props. The conditions were that the props were fine as long as they were “not hidden in a player’s uniform or the goal post assembly, they are not demeaning or discriminatory in any way, they do not simulate the firing of a weapon and they do not unduly delay the game.”

One more condition had to be added before the end of that season. Jon Gott, an offensive lineman for the Ottawa Redblacks, was handed a beer from a fan in the standing room section after his teammate, Mossis Madu, scored. Gott chugged the beer, which got attention North America-wide.

Gott got away scot-free, since there was nothing in the rulebook that said a player could not chug a beer on the field. The CFL said afterward that alcohol would not be an acceptable prop.

But a boat, conveniently parked in the end zone, would be perfectly fine.

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