Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Monday, December 15, 2003
Updated: December 22, 4:44 PM ET
 



IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH PREMEDITATED END-ZONE DANCES?


Joe Horn made a phone call from the end zone. Chad Johnson held up a post-TD sign. And the world of sports freaked. According to a poll today, a majority of ESPN.com readers were offended. New York tabloids were calling for suspensions. ESPN's Joe Theismann suggested a $100,000 fine for Horn. And one can only imagine the official response coming from the No Fun League.

In its usual contrarian style, the Writers' Bloc is amused -- some members even offer a few suggestions for making end-zone celebrations better in the future -- though Chuck Hirshberg points out that Horn was guilty not of bad taste but bad football, and that the WB is guilty of talking out of both sides of its mouth.

Let he without sin cast the first ... cell | From Tom Friend
So who doesn't make an occasional call home from work?

Next on 'SportsCenter' ... | From Ralph Wiley
I've always been of the opinion that the cheerleaders were there to celebrate, and the players were there to score. Maybe now it's the other way around.

Warren Sapp
Remember, gentlemen, not all celebrations are pretty.
However, Road Dog begs to differ (and he ought to know): "Yeah, stoic is cool and all, but we don't score NFL TDs, can't know how that feels. We don't want to keep a man from acting the way the spirit moves him after scoring a touchdown in the NFL on national TV. Or do we? We can only hope the spirit won't move him to make a fool out of himself.

"But as I understand self-expression, if you're a fool to begin with, that's gonna be what gets expressed. It's inevitable. Everybody ought to be glad to see it. You can learn who to avoid in real life. Yeah yeah yeah, everybody says handing the ball to the ref and acting like you been there before is the best way, Barry Sanders' and even Carlito's Way. But handing a ball back to the ref don't make it onto 'SportsCenter,' does it? Make up your mind. People like to see it just to have something to suck their teeth about."

We, the people, need to dance | From Gerri Hirshey
There have been so few occasions for public celebration of late. Oh, I'm sure Dick Cheney did some high-fiving with the corporate bwanas when they blasted the bejesus out of 400 pen-raised and released pheasants last week. Now that's sport. And I've no doubt that Team Halliburton playahs boogie in the boardroom for every million they bilk us for in oil.

Private citizens with far less to celebrate -- a .05 percent rise in fast-food hirings? Being finally rid of the "Bachelorette"? -- must find other forms of release. And since the personal lives of the downsized and downtrodden might be kinda low on "reasons to party," why not let the pros do it? Since professional sports are built on the Vicarious Victory, why not make it an art form?

Thus I not only endorse the end-zone ballet/electric slide/thank you JEEEESUS display, I propose we make it an official sub-sport and involve the fans. Empanel six fan judges per team per game, give them Olympic-style scorecards to hold up, and grade on athleticism (can a truck-sized nose tackle who picked up a loose ball and "rumbled" over the line actually get airborne?), originality (don't we think the knee-waggle is a bit ... tired?), and spirituality (how best to thank Jesus/Allah/Tony Robbins and walk the line between humble and exultant?).

This might take a few extra minutes before the next play. But think of the extra commercial air time freed up. Imagine the spinoff specials (Extreme Ego End Zone Boogie Bowl!). It's another way to boost the sagging economy. It's so Up-With-People. It's so ... American.

Where have you gone, Ickey? | From Patrick Hruby
Joe Horn catches a touchdown pass, then whips out a cell phone. Chad Johnson celebrates a score by flashing a pre-made sign. Some will dismiss both gestures as shameless pleas for attention -- the preening work of self-centered divas, boy-men who need, more than anything, a reassuring hug from Mommy.

But that would be a grave mistake.

Truth be told, Johnson and Horn's antics are nothing less than desperate cries for help. Our nation faces a grave energy crisis -- namely, an appalling shortage of original touchdown celebrations -- and peacocks like Horn are the canaries in the coal mine.

Ickey Woods
This was just ... downright Ickey.
Consider: A little more than a decade ago, NFL fans had never heard of the Lambeau Leap, the Mile-High Salute, Warren Sapp's "Bootylicious" dance. Unseen, unshimmied celebrations were plentiful. The Ickey Shuffle was still state-of-the-art.

In the here and now, by contrast, everything has changed. Pom-poms? Been there. Sharpies? Done that. A cell phone? What's next, checking the "To Do" list on your Palm Pilot? Overuse and overexposure -- along with Terrell Owens -- have conspired to drain our once-brimming reservoirs of novel end-zone exuberance, denying future generations the opportunity to get their post-score freak on in any sort of meaningful way.

Today, the Johnsons of the world make signs. Tomorrow, they'll have to commission aerial banners. Hire backup dancers. Strip naked and juggle flaming samurai swords while belting out the score to "H.M.S. Pinafore."

Clearly, something must be done. Before it's too late. Or before Owens spontaneously combusts, whichever comes first. For starters, we should limit our pros to one new dance per season, the better to preserve our dwindling natural resources; at the grassroots level, we should ensure that every football-playing child has access to a qualified choreographer, if not Paula Abdul.

Oh, and we might have to start drilling in Alaska, too. Just to cover all our bases.

Whatever the long-term solution, remember this: Evil only triumphs when good men do nothing, generally by flipping the ball to the ref. Our country put a man on the moon. Who then proceeded to golf. Surely we can put a variant of the Moonwalk -- perhaps accompanied by a Titleist -- in the back of our end zones.

I want that $1,500 back! | From Alan Grant
Per self expression, excessive or otherwise:

In "North Dallas Forty," John Matusak's character provides the definitive soliloquy on the players' existential angst -- "Every time I call it a business, you call it a game," he says. "When I call it a game, you call it a business."

Since those principles are forever blurred, so is my objectivity on the topic.

Of course, I am someone who was once jacked $1,500 by the league for wearing a freakin' towel that was a half-inch too long.

The odd man out | From Jim Caple
Me, I just feel bad for Chad Johnson. He comes up with that "Dear NFL -- please don't fine me again" sign and Joe Horn just blows him away.

Polish off my 'White Shoes' | From Eric Neel
Terrell Owens
You know that Terrell Owens is going back to the drawing board this morning.
Joe's on the Horn and off the hook. Good stuff. When we were sixth-grade young, playing blacktop, two-hand-touch every day at lunch and after school, my buddies and I didn't want to be Earl Campbell, Tony Dorsett or Lynn Swann. We wanted to be "White Shoes" Johnson. You played every play like it was a kick return. You juked, you spun and you reversed your field. You were a dog and a bone, a homing pigeon, you had one thing on your mind: end zone, baby.

It wasn't the six, it was the chance to stand there in free space and giddy air and do the dance. Everybody but everybody did the "White Shoes" scissors. Even the clumsiest and stiffest of us loosened up in being Billy's hips and knees. Even the quietest of us tasted the bold joy in his arm held high.

Forget tough guys, warriors and men in the trenches -- football's a kids' game.

Act like you're happy to be there | From Robert Lipsyte
I loved the Horn call, even better than the Terrell signing, a natural progression from all the Maori war dances (although I'd feel just a little slicked if it comes out that Joe went in with a Sprint deal). Don't people get it, it's the players against the coaches, the artists against the accountants; it's jock graffiti -- I am here, man, not just another piece on your chess board.

The stud who is super cool -- by just dropping it or handing it to the ref -- might well be expressing, too. It comes down to whose game it is, the suits who own it or the people who actually play it. And think of this: Would you trust anyone who wasn't thrilled to score?

Imitation is the sincerest form ... | From Luke Cyphers
Cool, Joe, but hardly original. You completely ripped off the unforgettable, but lamentably forgotten, Syracuse shooting guard Jason Cipolla. At the 1996 Final Four in the Meadowlands, with a little more than two minutes left and Syracuse comfortably ahead against Mississippi State in the national semifinal, Cipolla crashed into press row, toppling the Hartford Courant's telephone. He casually picked up the receiver, and for all to see, told whoever was on the other end that Syracuse was going to the title game.

No premeditation. No preparation. No competition.

That's OK, though, Joe.

Elvis stole, too.

A victimless crime | From Eric Adelson
Can someone tell me: What's the harm? Were anyone's feelings hurt when Joe Horn mock-dialed his celly after his second of four scores Sunday night? You think Tiki called Ronde after the game and said, "Forget losing by 38, it really really stung when Joe Horn made that call! Sniff!"

Somehow the sports world is convinced that post-TD celebrations are a bad thing. Even the usually objective ESPN.com editors called it "excessive" on Monday's front page. How so?

Chad Johnson
Chad Johnson gets the fans involved in the party.
Saints coach Jim Haslett said, "You don't do stuff like that." Why not? No injury was sustained.

No time was wasted. No fans turned in their season tickets. (At least no fans with a shred of personality.) There is a huge difference between taunting, which is classless, and showing off, which can be clever. I guarantee neither Terrell Owens nor Chad Johnson nor Joe Horn were trying to punk anyone Sunday.

This isn't Steve Spurrier running up the score in the Swamp or Ty Willingham calling for a fake punt at Stanford. This was just a few athletes trying to be original.

Funny how all this came amid promotions for the 200th Sunday night game on ESPN. Sunday night football -- like Monday Night Football and the third jersey and highlight videos on the Jumbotron -- is simply a clever way to attract attention. It has made the NFL more exciting and more watchable. What's the harm in that?

Are you ready for ... a phone call | From Jim Caple
Joe Horn whips up something a little special for Monday Night Football . . .

AL MICHAELS: Brooks throws deep into the end zone, and Horn goes up for it against two defenders ... and Horn comes down with it! Touchdown, New Orleans! What a magnificent catch for Joe Horn.

JOHN MADDEN: Horn has been exploiting the Giants secondary all night, Al. See how he timed his leap perfectly there?

MICHAELS: Wait a minute, it appears that Horn has pulled a cell phone from behind the goal post and is placing a call ...

MADDEN: Well, we've seen that before from Joe Horn, Al. I'm surprised the Giants didn't see it in the game film and draw up a strategy against it.

MICHAELS: Hold on, John. Now riding into the end zone with the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Abercrombie and Fitch Christmas catalogue models and the Five Queer Eye Guys is Ruben Studdard from "American Idol." He's talking into a cell phone, too, and gesturing to Horn. Do you suppose Horn called him in with his cell? I think he did.

MADDEN: Well, now THAT is original. No way the Giants could have seen this coming.

MICHAELS: I can't quite make out what Ruben is singing. It sounds like "Lose Yourself" with sampling from "God Bless America," but I can't be sure due to the noise of the fireworks . . .

MADDEN: They are impressive fireworks, though, Al. Notice the way they spell out "Hi, Mom -- Love Joe" above the 50-yard-line?

MICHAELS: Sorry, John, what was that? I was distracted by the Rockettes kicking along the sideline.

MADDEN: Most players would have been content to just stick with the standard Rockette costumes, but Joe took it to another level by dressing them all as Paul Taglibue. I must say, this is one of the better touchdown celebrations we've seen this year.

MICHAELS: Wow! Was that Billy "White Shoes" Johnson the Circe Du Soleil clowns just shot out of a cannon?

MADDEN: No, I think it was Ickey Woods.

MICHAELS: Whoever, it was spectacular the way the fans in the end-zone seats caught him and passed him through the stadium.

MADDEN: The crossover marketing deal to promote tomorrow's release of "The Cat in the Hat" DVD is another nice touch.

MICHAELS: The fans are going crazy here at the Meadowlands. I can't see clearly through the Macy's Day Parade balloons -- where did he keep those in the first half? -- but Horn now appears to be bringing in some very heavy machinery ...

MADDEN: Is it an airplane, Al? Remember how Randy Moss brought in Air Force One and had Bush sign another tax break for multi-millionaires on the 50-yard-line last month?

MICHAELS: No, I think it's a steam shovel, but I can't tell for sure as long as Aerosmith and U2 are performing but ... yes, it's a steam shovel! He has brought in a steam shovel, and he's using it to dig into the end zone ...

MADDEN: You don't think ...

MICHAELS: Can't be, could it?

MADDEN: And yet ...

MICHAELS: Yes! He's dug up Jimmy Hoffa's body! And he's autographing a football for the former Teamsters boss with his Sharpie!

MADDEN: Al, Joe Horn has been working on this for a long time. ...

You gotta plan to be successful | From Dan Shanoff
The difference between merely entertaining end-zone celebrations (like Johnnie Morton's "worm" or the leap-into-the-stands) and the never-to-be-repeated, barrier-breaking, all-time classics (like T.O.'s "Sharpie" and Horn's "Celly-bration") is, like degrees of a crime, premeditation.

T.O. ran that TD route with a pen in his sock! Horn not only planted a cell phone under the goalpost padding, but he had the fortitude to pass up his chance to do it on his first TD, confident he'd get in the end zone at least one more time (three more times, it turned out).

I can't believe 55 percent of ESPN.com users (as of this morning) consider Horn's move "lame." The NFL becomes an infinitely more exciting place when players put together a game-plan binder -- for their celebrations. Hey, coaches and fans should be thrilled; at least the players are thinking "end zone."

Grow up, WB | From Chuck Hirshberg
Fellow writers of the WB, I love each and every one of you, but you are acting out. You look at Joe Horn, but see, instead, your Inner Naughty Child. I understand; I even sympathize.

We're all getting older, and we want to identify with someone young and swift and dev'lish -- not a scowling coach, or a fat, pink owner, or a hanky-tossing zebra. It's only natural. Nonetheless, you're wrong. All'a y'all. There's just one word to describe Horn's little dance: dumb. Not because it was bad sportsmanship, or bad teamwork, which it obviously was, but because it was bad football.

Let's review the situation. Horn scores a touchdown with five minutes left in the second quarter, making the score 16-7, and goes into his act. Now, personally, I don't care what he does -- he can pull down his pants and stick a cell phone up his butt, for all I care. But didn't it occur to him that what he was about to do would likely incur a 15-yard penalty for his team? If not, than he really is dumb. But if so (and this is more likely), he must have decided he just didn't care. Which makes him not only dumb, but selfish.

To refresh your memories, writers, that penalty gave the ball to the Giants at midfield, from whence Palmer hit Tyree for 39 yards. Only the Giants youth (Palmer) and ineptitude (ironically, an unsportsmanlike call) kept them from scoring. And that, Eric, is why Coach Haslett was so annoyed -- not because he's a mean ol' fuddy-duddy who never lets a guy have any fun.

And puh-LEAZE! Spare me this wide-eyed kid stuff about how exuberance and self-expression makes the league more entertaining. Horn's emotions looked pretty controlled while he was hunting down his cell phone under the goalpost. Isn't it pathetically obvious what he had in mind? He wanted the media to compare him to Tyrell Owens. This you find ... charming? Entertaining?

Look, I've got nothing against celebrations, per se, planned or otherwise. But they really are lowering the quality of football. Did you see Poole damn near give away a touchdown yesterday? Waving the ball over his head like a kid with a new toy, thinking he had clear sailing to the end zone when, in truth, he was about to be flattened? And Sean Salisbury practically crucified Duckett on SC for celebrating a meaningless touchdown while his team was being blown out. Salisbury believes that kind of who-cares-what-the-score-is-look-how-great-I-am mentality might have something to do with the Falcons' record which is, hmm, let me check ... worst in the league.

Remember a couple of weeks ago, when the Writers' Bloc was complaining that the NFL was turning mediocre? Everybody blamed the salary structure. I'd like to suggest something else: Maybe Sean Salisbury knows what he's talking about.

Check the uniform, Chuck! | From Patrick Hruby
Chuck, castigating Joe Horn for playing dumb football is like blasting a toddler for using a batting tee.

Remember: The guy plays for the Saints.

Sorry, wrong number | From Robert Lipsyte
I can't tell you how much pain this causes me, it must be like crossing party lines on a Senate vote, but I think Chuck is right. He convinced me that Horn dialed a wrong number.