Wednesday, December 17, 2003

All the good headlines are already taken: Much is being made over the NFL's fine of Joe Horn in response to his cell phone antics after scoring his second touchdown of the day (he went on to score two more, which is remarkable, but his team still lost). The NFL is hyping how serious they took his stunt, yet emphasizing their compassionate conservatism in noting that he could have been suspended. Remember, this is a football player who mock-dialed a cell phone for about 5 seconds before returning to the sidelines. And this for a player who "only" makes $750,000 a year.

So what is going on? Why is the NFL so stodgy? Let's examine, shall we? First of all, what is the NFL? Well, certainly its name helps describe what it is: a league of football teams that play across the (contiguous) nation. More accurately, however, it is a group of owners who band together under a common rubric to make money off of weekly games that people pay to watch. This falls under the "entertainment" category, in my humble estimation. So, as Maximus would ask: "Are you not entertained?" Is what Joe Horn did not entertaining? Is not pandering to the crowd part of what any good stage actor does?

Well my answer to my own question is "yes". But whether Mr. Horn actually achieved entertainment status is another issue. As far as stunts go, they really started and ended with Terrell Owens, the current ringleader of self-proclamation in the end zone (now that Deion is in the booth). See, most players before T.O. were content to restrict themselves to dances, body-shakes, exhaltations to the Almighty (cuz you know he's watching the over/under), and/or leaps into the stands. But T.O. brought the crazy props to the whole process - you know, because he used props to amplify his joy. See, I wasn't being "ghetto" in the post-modern sense with my use of props - but I will soon...keep reading!

First he shook some pom-poms at a game after scoring a TD, which was annoying enough, but then he realized he wasn't getting the mad props from the media (there, happy?), so he took out the Sharpie next time and handed an autographed pigskin to his financial planner waiting in the stands. Talk about dangerous! Is the NFL afraid that next comes the Apocalypse?

No, the problem is that really, they're just not very entertaining. Entertainment is doing something which causes others to feel joy or some other pleasurable emotion. The real sin of T.O. and now J.H. is that what they're doing is simply shining their ego in front of a crowd, which they mistake for entertainment. It's more spectacle than honest showmanship. Because they feel good doing it, they expect everyone else feels the same way, because we all revolve around them don't we? The NFL doesn't want its rather serious investment to become the XFL, which is understandable, but I also think the heavy-handedness, and the serious frowns could be done without. If it's going to fine the guys then do it for being unimaginative. Demand better props (again, this is me using the word in its traditional sense). Don't act like it's a capital offense. Like Mr. Horn's agent said: it's not murder.

MORE: Not to be overlooked, Chad Johnson of The Bengals took out a sign after he scored against the Niners which begged the league not to fine him again (he's had a few this year - mostly because he refuses to wear his uniform correctly). Of course, he was promptly fined. See, that's almost entertaining because it employs irony (he's asking not to be fined when he knows he will). It's still primarily self-aggrandizing, but it's at least using a literary device which evidences some originality.

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