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JOESAM2002 12-18-2003 09:41 AM

Rarely do I like John DeShazier, but this is funny....
From The Times-Picayune]

Thursday December 18, 2003

It wasn't a $35,000 offense. But for the image-conscious NFL, Joe Horn's cell phone act didn't play.

Horn shouldn't have planted a cell phone under a goal post, shouldn't have grabbed it and mimicked making a call after scoring in the Saints' 45-7 victory. But if any damage was done by the act, it mainly was to Horn.

Nothing criminally scandalous took place, certainly not worth the $30,000 Horn will pay and the $5,000 he'll ante up for his accomplice, Michael Lewis.

But here's a suggestion: Once and for all, similar situations can be avoided if clarification is presented via a league-sanctioned video, distributed to each team and through agreement by the league office and players association made mandatory viewing.

On it, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his lieutenants, clad in jerseys and helmets and pads, could demonstrate what is and isn't considered tolerable as a celebration.

A point to the sky, the acknowledgment of a higher power or a departed loved one, or a leap into the stands to mix and mingle with the paying customers? Fine.

A shimmy-shake, the Bus Stop, a Michael Jackson leg kick or some other move borrowed from the club floor? Cool.

Pulling a Sharpie from the sock to sign a touchdown ball? OK for the first run, banned thereafter.

Grabbing a cell phone and dialing home? No way. It's a prop and a premeditated celebration, and will not be allowed. But what if they consider a leap into the stands premeditated and the fans props?

Or, better, the league simply could lighten up, not go overboard each time an actor doesn't toe the line, allow room for a smidgen of individuality even if the suits consider it a tad tasteless and self-serving.

Yes, there are occasions that warrant league intervention and supervision. Behavior that sends the worst societal messages can't be condoned.

You don't want the throat-slash gesture. Horn unleashing a stream of bullets from his invisible Tommy Gun earlier this season in Atlanta was inexcusable and, correctly, he was fined. Obscene gestures and excessive, unnecessary physical contact is uncalled for.

But sometimes serving justice should be left to the respective teams. Either that or the league should issue a blanket ban on celebrations.

In Horn's case, the aggrieved party was the Saints. He was assessed a 15-yard penalty; that counted against his team. Let's keep the Giants out of this; if you don't want a player to celebrate, do the job you're paid to do and keep him out of the end zone.

If the Saints had opted to fine him, that's understandable.

But then, a Pandora's box would've been opened as to who should be fined for which offense. Was Horn's personal foul more costly than Charles Grant's, which aided the Giants' only touchdown drive? And if so, why? Because Horn had the audacity to call attention to himself, in a profession where many do in some form?

And if the league is concerned that it was a taunt, what happens if a majority votes that spiking the ball, dancing and leaping into stands after a score hurts their feelings, too?

There are more significant things -- minority-hiring practices, owners holding cities hostage for new facilities, drug use and abuse by players, athletes who can't curb their violent tendencies once they're off the field, a team president (Detroit's Matt Millen) calling a former Lions player a "******" -- for the NFL to be regulating than Horn yapping on a cell phone.

But judging from the past few days, it's hard to tell.

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