Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis (52) dances near the end of the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Indianapolis
Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis (52) dances near the end of the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

All you 49ers fans may not care for my opinion, but I have a lot of respect for Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis.

He's one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game, and he's retiring after the Ravens play the Niners in the upcoming Super Bowl. He can still play at a high level, and he wants to go out on top. I really respect that.

But I won't miss his dancing.

Let's clarify: I won't miss him dancing on the field. Ray Lewis' retirement may be sad for fans of great defensive football, but retiring that dance is nothing but good for humanity.

Lewis does this silly shimmy-shimmy-slide thing, and he's been doing it a lot this postseason. Watching it makes me think that he's about to have some sort of seizure. Though, to be fair, it's not even close to the celebration routine made famous by 49ers defensive back Merton Hanks, whose "chicken dance" made chiropractors all over the United States wince.

I guess the good news is Lewis isn't singing while he's dancing -- as far as I know.

Good steps

But the celebratory football dance is part of our culture. And there are players who got it right.

For example: Billy "White Shoes" Johnson made the end zone celebration an art form in the 1970s. His routine included some sort of back-and-forth movement with his knees that is now seen routinely among bad wedding dancers. Even when he was playing against your team, you'd root for him to score just so you could see the dance. It wasn't elegant, but it was original. And, unlike Lewis' dance, watching it didn't make you want to call an ambulance.

The '70s were a glorious time for celebratory dancing in the NFL. Butch Johnson of the Dallas Cowboys used to drop to his knees and do some sort of pistol-shooting routine that strippers have emulated ever since (not that I know what strippers do, but I hear things).

According to some accounts, the first pro football end zone dance came Nov. 18, 1973, when Elmo Wright of the Kansas City Chiefs caught a touchdown pass and busted some high-stepping celebratory moves (he had actually started the practice in college). Ever since, guys have been trying to outdo each other. End zone dancing evolved to where Deion Sanders was throwing moves people would actually emulate on a dance floor.

Team dancing

The idea grew over the years to the point where, in 1984, the Washington Redskins would do group celebrations in the end zone. Of course, the Redskins were also involved in the only touchdown celebration that nearly caused a player's head to fall off. That was in 1997, when quarterback Gus Frerotte celebrated scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants by ramming his head against a wall, which caused him to sit out the second half with a neck sprain.

The 2000s saw the end zone celebration reach incredible new heights. In 2002, the 49ers' Terrell Owens scored against the Seattle Seahawks, pulled a Sharpie out of his sock, signed the ball, and gave it to his financial adviser, who was in the stands. That same year, Owens scored against the Green Bay Packers and borrowed a cheerleader's pompoms to celebrate. The next year, Joe Horn of the New Orleans Saints scored against the New York Giants, spiked the ball, then sauntered over to the upright, where he pulled out a cellphone hidden in the padding and called his children. He was fined $30,000 by the NFL. Still, it was glorious.

Ray Lewis has had an incredible career, even if he was no Billy "White Shoes" Johnson. But forgive 49ers fans if they hope he doesn't get to do any dancing in his final game.

In fact, that would be more than OK with even those of us who aren't 49ers fans.

Contact Tony Hicks at thicks@bayareanewsgroup.com, at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks or at Twitter.com/insertfoot.