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Ref Flips Over Johnson's Celebration

I watched nearly every World Cup soccer game this summer and saw some amazing goals. But the goal Greenwich junior forward Mark Johnson scored with eight minutes to play against New Canaan on Thursday topped them all.

Greenwich was killing the clock while they led 2-0. Johnson received a pass on the extreme right side of the field, more than 40 yards from the net. A second later, he kicked a high, lazy, bending ball toward the goal. The angle of the shot alone suggested Johnson was dumping the ball in to wind the clock down. Catching everyone by surprise, especially Rams goalie Scott Levene, the ball sailed over his fingertips and found the upper-left corner of the net.

"I didn't believe it at first," Johnson said. "I thought it was going over. I just saw the goalie out wide and just wanted to get it over his head."

The Greenwich bench and the few Cardinals fans in the rain-soaked stands went absolutely bonkers. Even Cardinals head coach Kurt Putnam, who I am sure has viewed many more soccer games than I have, said it was one of the best goals he had seen at any level.

But what happened immediately after the goal is noteworthy. Johnson, no doubt caught up in the moment of his highlight-reel goal, proceeded to do an impressive back flip. The ref yanked out his yellow card, and Johnson was ejected for excessive celebration.

I'm all for sportsmanship, especially at the youth level. I also agree that Johnson's back flip was rubbing it in a little. And the debate on scoring celebrations has been an issue at every level of nearly every sport. It's even become somewhat of an art form by infamous Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson. Blame the pros for being bad influences, but athletes, especially kids, want to celebrate their achievements.

A back flip after any old goal, I'd understand an ejection. When a goal is as awesome as Mark Johnson's was, I think a little celebration is warranted. I asked Mark whether the yellow card and ejection was worth it.

"Oh yes," he said with a grin. "I didn't quite land the flip, though. Maybe next time."

Mark, score another goal like that and you deserve a flip or two.

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