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The NFL, despite its position of dominance, is on trial in the court of opinion. Television ratings are down for the second consecutive year as fans complain about stars sidelined by injury, about mediocre quarterback play and a general lack of competitiveness. Just about everything happening between the goal lines, it seems, is drawing criticism.

In the end zones, though? That’s a different story. We have entered the Golden Age of touchdown celebrations, and it is spectacular.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced in May that the league would relax its Myanmar-like restrictions on end-zone festivity, and would tolerate radical acts like group demonstrations and using the football as a prop. You figured the result would be fun, but no one was quite prepared for the Mardi Gras that has ensued.

Ask an NFL player, and he’ll probably have a favorite routine.

“I think the Steelers did like a hide-and-go-seek, that was a good one,” Oakland offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse told me. “(Tight end Travis) Kelce for Kansas City did like a potato sack race. And I like the Electric Slide the Eagles did. That’s probably my top three.”

“Definitely the Star Wars celebration by (Buffalo’s) Zay Jones,” 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas said, betraying his Stanford nerdism as he spotlighted the lightsaber duel between Jones and teammate Andre Holmes. “Wish I had a chance to do that one, or had someone to do it with me.”

Forty-Niners linebacker Reuben Foster nominated two displays of childlike exuberance by the Minnesota Vikings — a game of leapfrog and a round of duck, duck, goose. Raiders tight end Clive Walford gave props to the free throw that running back Leonard Fournette shot through the goal post, with five of his Jaguars teammates positioned outside the key and ready to rebound. Louis Murphy, the 49ers wide receiver, split his ballot between the hide and seek and the Eagles’ human bowling pins.

“I liked when the Steelers did the bench press,” Raiders running back Jalen Richard said. “That was cool. That was cool. Because when I see stuff like that, I be thinking about back on, was it ‘You Think You Can Dance?’ or something? Back in the day with the Jabbawockeez. (Editor’s note: It was “America’s Best Dance Crew.”) Because the Jabbawockeez used to do a lot of different stuff, where they used to all get together and make it look like something. So when I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’”

And these are just the opening acts of the 2017 Traveling End Zone Revue.

Watch an NFL game these days and you might be transported to ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” Packers wide receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson portrayed a bobsled team swaying through a run down the chute. Houston’s Lamar Miller and three teammates ran a relay race after Miller’s TD catch, passing the football like a baton. The Eagles have simulated multiple baseball at-bats, including Torrey Smith blasting a phantom home run and fellow wide receiver Alshon Jeffery charging the mound after getting hit by tight end Zach Ertz’s pitch. Detroit receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. played air pingpong. The Lions also tried to execute a curling slide, Tate rolling the football with sweepers ahead of him, but the pantomime was ruined when the ball hit Jones in the foot.

The Washington secondary, which calls itself the Flight Marshals, patted down and handcuffed cornerback Kendall Fuller after he secured a win against the 49ers with a late interception off of C.J. Beathard. New Orleans’ Mark Ingram and Philadelphia rookie Mack Hollins each, in separate games, did the Backpack Kid dance from Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” video. Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt simply lay down for a quick nap with the ball as his pillow.

For sheer complexity, no one can match the Indianapolis Colts, who staged an elaborate safecracking scene that included Donte Moncrief tossing money into a bag held by T.Y. Hilton; when the invisible bag was full, Hilton tossed it over Moncrief’s shoulder, and the wide receiver carried it all the way to the sidelines in a sprint.

The Steelers have owned the marquee, though. Wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown shot dice in the end zone in Week 2. Another receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, did the Kamehameha wave from the Japanese anime TV series “Dragon Ball Z” in Week 4. Running back Le’Veon Bell and Smith-Schuster re-enacted the fight between Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey in Week 10. Brown became a dancing robot in Week 11. And on and on.

Not everyone is a fan.

“Kyle (Shanahan, the 49ers head coach) didn’t like the hide-and-go-seek one, but I thought that was pretty good,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “He’s like, ‘Please, if you guys celebrate, don’t do this.’ He showed it in a team meeting.”

And indeed, the NFL’s newfound permissiveness has boundaries. When Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. crawled on all fours and pretended to urinate on the field like a dog, it drew a $12,000 fine from the league office.

Among the league’s players, though, the sentiment appears to be unanimous. The crazier the end-zone antics, the better.

“Even when we’re not doing it, it allows everybody to be themselves, you know what I mean?” said Richard, the Raiders running back. “And express who they are. And in that way build their brand. Build the league’s brand, obviously. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I’m pretty sure most people heard about people doing celebrations and stuff like that, and more people are more in tune, trying to see like when people score, what they’re gonna do.”

“Oh, I love it. I love it,” Foster, the 49ers linebacker, agreed. “It’s relaxing and it keeps all the anxiety away. Guys just having fun. It’s a business, too, so they understand that. But as far as the fun part, keep it going.”

As Elijah Hood, a running back on the Raiders practice squad, put it: “It’s supposed to be entertainment, so let us entertain. The more juiced up we get, the better we play.”

And yet you may have spotted a common thread in the highlight reel of NFL touchdown parties: None of them came from our local teams. The Raiders and 49ers have been strangely muted in the end zone this year.

“It just goes to the identity of the team,” Richard said. “The Steelers, I see them do a lot of different stuff, that’s just their personality. We’re a different team. We have fun, but we not some big, you know, kind of showboat.”

Whether by chance or through the preference of general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Jack Del Rio, the guys who score most of the Raiders’ touchdowns are terrible showmen. Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree spend much of their lives expressionless. Running back Marshawn Lynch is a comic genius, but not in the end zone.

As for the 49ers — well, let’s be honest, they just haven’t had much practice at this. Shanahan’s team has scored only 20 touchdowns this season, fewest in the NFL.

Still, the lack of creativity in Oakland and Santa Clara is disturbing. This is the Bay Area, cradle of innovation. We have the right to expect more. That’s why I spent portions of the past two weeks inquiring, nudging, practically begging local players to come up with cutting-edge celebration schemes.

It didn’t go all that well. Many of the players insisted they had brilliant plans that must be kept secret until that big touchdown arrives. I’m pretty sure they were stalling. Others had ideas that were… well, along the lines of Clive Walford’s.

“I like celebrating with my teammates,” he told me. “I’d probably chest-bump one of my tight ends or my quarterback.”

Really? That’s it? I was thinking a full re-creation of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, or George Washington crossing the Delaware River, or the stations of the cross. The Raiders could re-enact the famed Holy Roller play that beat the Chargers in 1978. And Walford’s going to chest-bump a dude?

What else you guys got for me?

“It’s been done before, but I would like to do The Rock’s People’s Elbow or something,” 49ers defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said, referring to the wrestler’s signature move. “Maybe I would throw my sleeve into the crowd.”

“My ultimate thing would definitely be like if all the linemen could get a spike,” Louis Murphy said. “Say I score a 50-yard touchdown, just the first lineman that gets to me gets to spike it.”

“I would have to say dunk on the goal post,” Raiders tight end Jared Cook said, unaware that Walford might soon bruise his sternum. “That’s been my dream, man, since I was a kid. I haven’t been able to do it. They took it out, when was that, my fourth or fifth year in the league. Never had a perfect middle-of-the-end-zone catch where I could just run right up to it. You can’t catch a corner end zone (and do it), you know what I’m saying?”

Some players suggested incorporating their specialties into the act. Niners punter Bradley Pinion said he might punt the ball into the stands. His long snapper, Kyle Nelson, said he might hike the ball at the goal post.

“But I’d probably give the ball to the ref,” Nelson added. Sigh.

I had hoped the big fellas on the line would bail me out. Their scoring opportunities are few. You’d think they would be prepared to make the most out of a surprise touchdown. I hadn’t considered that it might be too much for them.

“I mean, there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t black out if I scored,” Oakland’s Newhouse said.

Not bad, Marshall. Not bad. Unfortunately, I think the Steelers did that in Week 9.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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