President Obama made the following statement regarding his decision not to show dead body of Osama bin Laden to the public:

"I think that Americans and people around the world are glad that he is gone. But we don’t need to spike the football. And I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk."

By following the definition of the word, “spike the ball” by SportsDefinitions.com – "The quarterback throws the ball straight to the ground instantly after a snap" - I can vaguely guess what the president meant by the line, “We don’t need to spike the football.” But I would like to know exact meaning of this phrase. Can somebody put it in more forthright expression?

  • In American football, spiking the ball is how you can stop the clock when you're running out of time. Say you're on first down (and thus not worried about turning over the ball) but you're running out of time so you trade a down for some "extra" time. I'm not really sure about his metaphor, though.
    – Adam
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 0:54
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    Nevermind, I think @The Raven is exactly right.
    – Adam
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 0:56
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    @advs89. That "explanation" is completely opaque to me. What on earth do "first down" or "turning over the ball" mean? I'm not even sure about "stopping the clock".
    – TRiG
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 12:13
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    These are good answers and Obama clearly meant the post touchdown version of "spike the football". An interesting issue is where did that expression come from? Could it close the circle by being a reference to displaying the head of a defeated enemy on a spike?
    – user8192
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 12:17
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    @Paul: Spiking is not a term that's reserved for American football. Volleyball also has the term, and they both have similar meanings (in terms of mechanical description of what happens, not in terms of impact on the game). They're both referring to propelling the ball relatively fast in a mostly vertical direction at the ground. Commented May 5, 2011 at 13:54

3 Answers 3


I think what he's referring to here is the act of a football player who achieves a touchdown, and thereupon having scored a goal, slams the ball into the ground as an ostentatious display of victory.

That's a "spike" and can draw a penalty for "excessive display of exuberance."

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    ooh... Yeah, I didn't even think about that kind of spiking. That makes a lot more sense. He's saying we don't need to "rub it in," if you will.
    – Adam
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 0:54
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    @The Raven: Here's a link purportedly setting out the origin of "spike" in this sense... answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070719034707AAe1Shh Commented May 5, 2011 at 3:43
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    A standard spike is not considered excessive celebration. Examples of excessive celebration that I've seen penalised include: flipping the bird; extending the celebration for more than say, 60 seconds; backflips (tragically, the 2006 rule mentioned above outlaws "leaving your feet on the field of play"--which fortunately does not extent to the Lambeau Leap). Commented May 5, 2011 at 7:44
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    @Raven/advs89/FumbleFingers. I would like to teach this phrase to my English learning peers. In putting it into Japanese, I can think of a Japanese word - .駄目押し (dame-oshi) meaning “give an extra (unnecessary) kick after winning decidedly” and a phrase, 死人を鞭打つ(Shinin-wo-muchiutsu) meaning whip the dead body. Robusto-san may know whether it applies to or not. Commented May 5, 2011 at 7:53
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    @Yoichi - I speak Japanese and think "dame-oshi" captures the flavor of the problem under review. However, "spiking the ball" is not necessarily a good or bad thing. Here, the President is saying "let's no do that now."
    – The Raven
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 14:43

"Spike the football" used by President Obama here means "show off".

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    @The Raven and Jamie. You were right. According to the latest (May 4th) article of NYT's‘Politics,’titled "Account tells one-sided battle in Bin Laden raid" President Obama said in an interview with the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” to be broadcast Sunday (according to a transcript released by the network): “That’s not who we are,” Mr. Obama added. “ We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.” He said, “We don’t need to spike the football.” With this remark, I think the intent of the President’s line was made very clear. Commented May 5, 2011 at 9:23

Here are some similar expressions I would use as a non-American.

We don't need to do a victory dance.

A victory dance is a celebration of victory. Like "spiking the football" it is a display of victory that could be viewed as unnecessary or excessive.

The following two fit the concept but are slightly different because they both have a subject ("him") whereas yours doesn't have to. So you'd have to rephrase to use these in the situation above, as the "loser" is deceased; however, I thought they might still be helpful for future viewers.

We don't need to rub his nose in it.

"Rubbing someone's nose in it" refers to drawing attention to someone's loss, mistake or downfall. You might be the victor, as in this example, or you might not.

Related, but not quite equivalent:

Let's not kick him while he's down.

This refers to doing something negative to someone when they are already "defeated" in some way by other circumstances (of your doing or otherwise).

  • I don't think he cares that much if you kick him while he's down—he's dead after all. ;-) Commented May 9, 2014 at 10:46
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I addressed that in the third paragraph. Commented May 9, 2014 at 10:48

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