Last week, one of the main topics on NFL media broadcasts was Buffalo Bills' wide receiver David Nelson's touchdown celebration. It had nothing to do with any unsportsmanlike or taunting of a player, or anything like that. It was a fairly mundane celebration. Nelson ran down the sideline after the touchdown and handed the football to his girlfriend, hugged her, then ran off.
The "controversy" came because Nelson's girlfriend, Kelsi Reich, happens to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, working during the Bills game in Dallas against the Cowboys. Some people saw it as nothing more than it was, a moment shared between a guy and his girlfriend. Others were very outspoken about how inappropriate it was for Nelson to (1) celebrate with a Cowboys cheerleader and/or (2) put Reich in that situation.
Nelson spoke with NFL.com about the celebration, stating, "I just wanted to give her the ball, give her a hug and let her know I was thinking about her. It's very rare to make it in the NFL, it's very rare to be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader and it's even more rare for both of us two people to be on the field at the same time."
While the media has tried to use the look on Reich's face as Nelson approached, and the obvious embarrassment as Nelson ran away, Reich tweeted after the game, "What a special day today was! I feel so blessed & so proud of @DavidNelson86 ! Thanks for my game ball, I wont let go of it :) happiest girl!"
So, with the media's mixed reaction to the celebration, I asked Brian Galliford of SB Nation's Buffalo Bills blog Buffalo Rumblings what he thought of the hug heard around the [NFL] world.
"I haven't been paying a lick of attention to the general reaction to that business," Galliford stated. "Here's my reaction: David Nelson lives in Buffalo. Kelsi Reich lives in Dallas. They don't get to see each other very often. Here they are, in the same stadium together doing something that perhaps no couple in the history of the human race has ever done. If Nelson wants to celebrate a touchdown by giving a ball and a hug to his girlfriend, I don't see the big deal - in fact, it's kind of sweet. Life is about more than sports. I'm sure it was a very special moment for the two of them."
I 100% agree with Galliford. Every week, we see highlights of players running a ball over to their family in the stands. Everyone smiles and thinks, "Oh, how nice," but now, because Nelson was trailing 21-0 before his score, and because his girlfriend of four years happens to be a cheerleader for the opponent, he was wrong for doing that. Nelson didn't ask for television cameras to follow him. He didn't ask for anyone to watch him at all. He wasn't rubbing it into a Cowboys player's face. He wasn't "show-boating" even though his team was losing. All he did was take a ball to his girlfriend, hug her, and run away.
At least one person close to the situation saw it for what it was, a moment between two people. "I thought it was as neat as a pin," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during a radio interview earlier this week. "Frankly, our cheerleaders get the recognition that they get. I know it was a surprise to her, but I sure enjoyed looking at the highlights on ESPN and coverage like that to focus on that part of it. There's a lot about sports. A little romance thrown in from time to time is another big plus."
And, Nelson did admit that he saw a little of the embarrassment Reich was obviously feeling. "It was tough for her to balance the excitement of the moment, but also try to keep her composure so she wouldn't get in trouble," Nelson said "But she definitely let me know how excited she was after the game and she's still excited to this day."
During today's game, at some point, CBS will replay the moment, and give us some sort of reaction to the celebration. Hopefully they realize, it really was just a special moment for two people, and had nothing to do with the actual football game.