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Shirts and Skins

Phony Baloney

By Eddie Matz | Posted 12/24/2003

Turns out Orioles executives weren't the only ones in New Orleans glued to their cell phones last week. Joe Horn was, too. Horn, a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, and a damn good one at that, was on his celly a couple Sundays ago (Dec. 14). And I'm not talking about before his nationally televised game against the New York Giants, nor am I talking about after the same game. I'm talking about smack dab in the middle of the game, right there on the field.

In case you missed the ESPN Sunday-night broadcast, with the Saints up 10-7 in the second quarter, QB Aaron Brooks rifled a 13-yard pass into the end zone in the direction of his favorite target, Horn. Naturally, Horn caught the ball. He's a three-time Pro Bowl receiver, and that's what three-time Pro Bowl receivers get paid to do. What happened next makes me want to puke: No sooner had the ref signaled a touchdown than Horn scurried to the back of the end zone, retrieved a cell phone he'd stashed in the goal post padding before the game, and proceeded to flip it open and make a call. I'm pretty sure that three-time Pro Bowl receivers don't get paid to do that, just like they don't get paid to whip a Sharpie out of a sock and then sign the football they just caught for a touchdown, as San Francisco 49er Terrell Owens did last year on Monday Night Football.

For his end-zone antics, Horn received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Assessed on the ensuing kickoff, it meant that his Saints had to tee the ball up 15 yards further back than normal, which meant that the Giants started their next drive with outstanding field position, at their own 47-yard line. In addition to the penalty, Horn also appeared to receive a second anal orifice from coach Jim Haslett on the sideline immediately following the absurd episode. The following quarter, when Horn caught his third TD of the game, he sprinted directly toward quarterback Brooks and gave him the ball, so whatever Haslett said to his No. 1 receiver must have sunken in. At least for a little while anyway. After his fourth and final TD grab of the evening (a Saints franchise record), Horn once again called attention to himself with the kind of shake-shake-shimmy dance routine that's become all too familiar among the league's wide receivers. And running backs. And tight ends. And cornerbacks and linebackers and linemen and water boys and . . . well, you get the picture.

If you think the media's not to blame, then please do us all a favor and get your head out of your ass. You think Horn and Owens would've planted the phone and the pen if they weren't playing in nationally televised games? Hell no. You think undrafted free-agent rookies would be getting jiggy with it after each and every special teams tackle if it weren't for sensationalist highlight shows like ESPN's SportsCenter? No way.

Not that television excuses all this nonsense, because frankly there is no excuse. If you're a wide receiver, catching footballs is part of your job description. It's what you're supposed to you do. If you're a 350-pound defensive tackle, sacking quarterbacks is discussed in your contract. It's business as usual. Or at least it should be. Seriously, could you imagine if everyone in the workaday world executed their tasks with the same indulgent, masturbatory flare as the employees of Horn, Owens, and Partners?

After dropping a few envelopes in your mailbox, the friendly neighborhood mail carrier would giddily honk the horn of his Mail Mobile, fishtailing all the way to the next mailbox. The toll collector on the local interstate, having taken your $10 bill and given you the correct change, would step out of the tollbooth and limbo-dance her way under the tollgate as you drive off. Every time an incoming call was transferred flawlessly, the receptionist at your law firm would bust out on the intercom with, "Y'all feel me? Aw yeah, I thought so!"

Now, before you go calling me a stick-in-the-mud traditionalist, know this: I'm all for a little celebration, a little emotion, especially in the world of sports, because that's what sports are--emotional. But let's save it for when it really counts. Let's save it for game-winning field goals, last-second Hail Marys, and Super Bowl victories. For walk-off home runs and pennant-clinching, game-saving catches. For buzzer-beating, game-ending desperation three pointers. Not for touchdowns that put your sub-.500 team up by 10 points in the second quarter of a virtually meaningless regular-season game.

I think you get the point, which means my work here is done: Another column in the books. Please join me as I rise from my desk, spin my swivel chair 720 degrees, twirl the mouse three times around over my head like a lasso, and give myself a backhanded spank on the right butt cheek while moon-walking back and forth across the room. Y'all feel me? Aw yeah, I thought so.

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