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What Is Dab May Never Die: Remembering Cam Newton’s Now-Retired Touchdown Celebration

Getty Images
Getty Images

The NFL suffered a high-profile loss on Thursday, and this time it wasn’t a hoax. After just one season as Cam Newton’s go-to end zone celebration, the dab is no more.

Newton confirmed the dab’s passing on Charlotte radio. “I have to put that aside,” he lamented, as if some higher power compelled him to shelve the wildly popular dance. He also announced that he would unveil a new celebration in September:

The dab is survived by the rap trio Migos, whose 2015 hits “Pipe It Up” and “Look At My Dab” popularized the Atlanta-born dance move. But Newton’s appropriation of the dab made it a national phenomenon, leading to unfortunate co-signs from the likes of Roger Goodell and Hillary Clinton.

Although Bengals running back Jeremy Hill is credited with the first dab in NFL history, it quickly became Newton’s trademark. The Panthers quarterback first dabbed in an October game against the Seahawks, and the rest was history:

The rise of the dab mirrored Newton’s ascent to NFL superstardom: The win over Seattle cemented the Panthers as one of the best teams in football and Newton as a contender for MVP, an award he would later win. Without the dab, he probably wouldn’t have a Nickelodeon show, either.

Of course, the dab wasn’t without its detractors. Chief among them: Titans fan Rosemary Plorin, whose infamous November letter to the Charlotte Observer accused Newton of poor sportsmanship and excessive showboating, in large part because of the minor brouhaha that resulted from his fourth-quarter dab:

Thankfully, Newton brushed off the criticism and continued to dab to his heart’s content. “If you don’t like me to do it,” he said, “then don’t let me in [the end zone].”

As the Panthers rolled through the playoffs, the dab morphed into a stock celebration for victorious college football coaches. Dabo Swinney, who did not invent the dab, dabbed after Clemson won the ACC title. Frank Beamer dabbed to commemorate his final game at Virginia Tech. And even Nick Saban got in the action, deploying the dance as a recruiting tool.

Its success was in its simplicity: Of all the recent viral dance crazes, dabbing stands out for its low degree of difficulty. The running man challenge, for example, requires effort and a sense of rhythm to complete, but anyone with a functioning arm can learn to dab in seconds. This made it especially well-suited for end zone celebrations, and Newton was the perfect player to seize upon its potential. His mile-wide smile, exhilarating playing style, and on-field success all helped make dabbing a phenomenon that won’t soon be forgotten.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,” the saying goes, “but by the moments that take our breath away.” Newton’s dab may not have taken many breaths in its short life, but it sure gave us plenty of breathtaking moments.