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Shock and Yawn.
December 19, 2003

by Bill Hogan



The most surprising thing about New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn pulling out a cell phone after scoring a touchdown last Sunday night is that anyone was surprised by his actions.

In the midst of a nationally televised blowout by the Saints over the New York Giants, Horn caught a 13-yard second quarter touchdown pass, retrieved a phone from under the goal post padding and made a celebratory call.


It may have been the most asinine mobile communications promotion since Verizon introduced that annoying "can you hear me now?" boob, but it wasn't shocking or even startling. The self-serving stunt was aggravating to watch, but not appalling or offensive.

Horn was fined $30,000 for his antics, and rightly so. The NFL has rules that prohibit such egregious behavior. But, really, is there anyone in the league office who can honestly say that they didn't see this coming?

It was only a matter of time before a player tried to out do the Terrell Owens Sharpie incident of last season. The touchdown celebration has become a classic game of "can you top this."

Billy "White Shoes" Johnson shocked the football world when he first introduced the end zone dance to the NFL in 1974. Now, it'll take a lot more than the Icky Shuffle or the Dirty Bird to raise any eyebrows.

The media called Horn's stunt foolish and egomaniacal, but what's a relatively unknown wide receiver begging for national attention supposed to do to get a second look? Owens already locked up the take a pen out of your sock and sign the ball shtick.

Hey, it's a "look at me, world" world we live in. And with satellite television, high speed internet and video phones, it has become increasingly difficult to be noticed by an audience that has pretty much seen it all.

It's not enough just to streak around the outfield at a ballpark seeking a brief moment of fame - been there, done that. Now, in order to have people take notice, you have to charge the field and beat up the first base coach. Anything less will draw little more than a yawn from the crowd.

It seems the bar for unacceptable or outrageous behavior is raised to new and alarming heights as often as we turn on the television set. It seems that as the public standard for what is acceptable declines, our tolerance for the bizarre increases.

In the '50's, Lucy and Ricky slept in separate beds; so did Rob and Laura Petry in the '60's. By the time The Bob Newhart Show aired in the '70's, it was perfectly acceptable to see Bob and Emily laying side-by-side in the bedroom scenes.

Fast forward thirty years and Big Brother 4 is broadcasting two perfect strangers not only sleeping in the same bed, but having sex on camera. Gotta do something to peak the interest of the audience. Merely sleeping in the same bed is old hat these days.

When I Dream of Jeannie first aired in 1965, television censors required that Barbara Eden's bellybutton be covered up when she wore her skimpy genie costume. Now we're subjected to viewing Sipowicz's naked butt on NYPD Blue. Personally, Jeannie's bellybutton still seems much more appealing.

Audiences were shocked in 1939 when Rhett Butler uttered the provocative words "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" to Scarlett O'hara. In fact the producers of Gone with the Wind, fearing the censors, filmed another version where Rhett says "I just don't care."

At last week's Billboard Music Awards, broadcast live by FOX on network television and viewed by millions of children, Nicole Richey – Paris Hilton's cohort on The Simple Life – dropped the mother of all four-letter words, the F-bomb. The FCC didn't have a problem with that.

Considering the type of objectionable content that we – the viewing audience – have been forced to tolerate, if not accept, Horn's end zone celebration doesn't even register on the morality scale. But he did manage to get himself some much-desired publicity while raising the bar for the next attention-seeking touchdown maker.

For NFL executives, it's not a matter of if someone will try to top Horn, but when. And if that player wants to achieve similar notoriety, he'll have to do something a lot more outrageous than phoning home.

Hogan's Alley would like to wish everybody a safe and happy holiday season. We'll be back in 2004 with more entertaining features.


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