Heart’s santa hat yellow card lacked Christmas spirit

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Melbourne Heart - Germano's santa hat celebration (image courtesy FoxSports)

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Robbie Keane has his hit, roll and rifle routine, Tim Cahill likes to punch the corner flag, but a santa hat … well that just crosses the line when it comes to acceptable goal celebrations.

When Jonatan Germano nodded home in the 12th minute of the Melbourne Heart’s 2 – 1 win over the Brisbane Roar on Friday night he pulled old Saint Nic’s headgear out and put it on.

Referee Kris Griffiths Jones didn’t see the funny side of it and gave Germano a yellow card.

The whistleblower was only following FIFA rules so you can’t really blame him. Players are banned from revealing advertising, religious or political slogans after finding the back of the net, but surely there needs to be a little wiggle room with law 4.

It’s … only … a … santa … hat!

Who was offended? Of bigger concern for the Heart should’ve been how Germano managed to play professional football with the hat hidden for 10 minutes.

He must have been fairly confident of scoring. Would he have shown the same commitment to the cause in the 89th minute?

The rule does have some merit. The previously prolific flow of messages on t-shirts was risky for officials around the world.

A player could create headlines with a permanent marker, but there should be exceptions.

The Australian sports market is tough to crack and even tougher without a sense of humour. 

The fact Brisbane has now lost two games in a row is a great talking point for football fans who find tactical numbers like 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 interesting. I confess I’m one of them, but for everyone else the fact a man wearing a santa hat was punished may not project the best image.

It’s not the FFA’s fault because the rules are black and white. It’s not exactly the biggest issue facing the game either.

If men with deep pockets showed up on Frank Lowy’s door step offering to fund a team in western Sydney under the proviso all the players got to wear festive hats, I’m sure he’d welcome them into the A-League with open arms.

Sport worldwide is slowly being cleansed of characters. Far too often a character is thought of as someone who goes out on the drink all night and rocks up 10 minutes before a game to score four tries or score a century.

But there’s a difference between a character and a nuisance. The issue is that shades of grey exist in life, but not in most rule books.

The NFL is one competition that has been able to find a more acceptable blend. They’ve cracked down on post touchdown antics, but only those deemed excessive.

In a recent match Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson mocked New York Jets opponent Plaxico Burress by pretending to shoot himself in the thigh after he’d scored a touchdown.

Burress has only recently returned to the NFL after serving a 20 month sentence for illegal gun possession. He went to prison after accidently shooting himself in a night club in Manhattan three years ago.

The incident sparked a response from NBC’s Bob Costas who also commented on the nature of post touchdown celebrations in the NFL.

“For those of you too busy keeping up with the Kardashians to notice, we live in a culture that in many ways grows more stupid and graceless by the moment,” Costas said.

“Sports both reflects and influences that trend, so on playing fields everywhere, true style is in decline while mindless exhibitionism abounds.”

“There is a difference between spontaneous and/or good-natured displays of enthusiasm and calculated displays of obnoxious self-indulgence,”

“That train has already gone so far down the wrong track, there’s probably no turning back. So our suggestion here is a more modest one. Hey, knuckleheads, is it too much to ask that you confine your buffoonery to situations that don’t directly damage your team? Week after week, game after game, we see guys who think nothing of incurring penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, costing their team’s valuable yardage, even late in close games.”

Germano’s santa hat stunt cost his team because he was shown a yellow card and was therefore in danger of being sent off.

But it was, as Costas says, a good natured display of enthusiasm.

If we’re forced to lose that then sport will be poorer because of it.

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