MORT'S MAILBAG | Dec. 19, 2003
Q: I have more of a comment than a question. I have noticed how vehemently everyone has trashed New Orleans Saints WR Joe Horn and his cell-phone celebration. In my eyes, the problem is related more to a cultural and generational barrier than anything else.
It bothers me how the all the sports journalists, particularly from your network, have been so quick to call players clowns and such for these celebrations. The truth is that very few of you understand where these players come from and what is accepted and appreciated there.
I promise you, if you do a survey on Horn's actions in predominantly black neighborhoods, you'll find an overwhelming amount of support for him. We celebrate with a little more flair, and I don't think we should be forced to tone it down because a bunch of middle-aged white men don't appreciate it.
|WR Joe Horn celebrated a touchdown vs. the Giants by making a call on a cell phone.|
And it doesn't help that someone like Tom Jackson is always so quick to come down on these black athletes as well. Michael Irvin appreciates Horn's actions because Michael Irvin knows where he's coming from and what the people in those neighborhoods want to see. It's almost as if the league says, come play for us, but leave your culture at home. True, some players just hand the ball to the ref because that is their personality. You may not like it, but just say that.
Don't be so quick to insult these young men who you know very little about. They are not children who you ask to only speak when spoken to. These are young black men who represent me, not you, and I love what they bring to the game. -- A. Wright (Dallas, Texas)
MORT -- Mr. Wright, I have heard this argument before and I'm not entirely ignorant of what you're saying. I even give it some merit. Personally, I enjoyed Billy "White Shoes" Johnson. I enjoyed Ickey Woods and Deion Sanders. I even gave Terrell Owens credit for creativity. I take exception that you say "everyone" has trashed Joe Horn when I have heard a lot of healthy discussion weighing in on both sides.
Contrary to popular belief, the NFL does allow for spontaneous individual celebrations (dancing, etc.). The problem I had with Horn's celebration is that it was against the rules. We all have laws in the community and rules/policies in the workplace that we are expected to adhere to, period. There are a lot of laws that seem ridiculous and harmless -- but they are laws. I may not like those laws but I do believe in an orderly society.
And this is not some hidden NFL rule that Horn broke. After the Owens' incident with the Sharpie, the NFL clearly spelled out for players that no more foreign objects will be allowed onto the field or on a player's body that are not approved by the league, and that the consequences would be an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (as well as a fine and/or suspension). The NFL Players Association -- whose executive director (Gene Upshaw) is African-American, along with an acting board of active NFL players -- has thoroughly endorsed the NFL's position on such a rule.
Q: The Pro Bowl picks have been announced, and once again Green Bay Packers FB William Henderson gets no mention of even existing. Mort, what's up? With the exception of Mike Alstott, Henderson is one of the premier fullbacks in the NFL! Who do you think clears the final hole for RB Ahman Green? Don't give me the "pure fullback has been lost" theory that I've heard. This guy could have blocked for Vince Lombardi and caught passes for Bill Walsh. He does everything you could ask a fullback to do, old school or West Coast. I value and respect your opinion ... what am I missing here ? -- Brett Jones (Spencer, La.)
MORT -- Brett, all I can tell you is that Henderson was deserving, yes. But so were Fred Beasley (49ers), Mack Strong (Seahawks) and Cory Schlesinger (Lions). Those guys are all worthy. They only take one FB, and this time it was Beasley. I would have had no complaint about Henderson because he truly had a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
Q: Hey, Mortensen, why the hell don't you stop your speculations about Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and the NFL? We're so tired of it -- every year at recruiting time, you bring his name up. Ferentz is true to Iowa, so shut up about it, already. -- John (Iowa City, Iowa)
MORT -- John, and Merry Christmas to you, too! Actually, I don't personally speculate on Kirk Ferentz's candidacy for an NFL job. His name comes from team executives who for the past couple of years have identified him as a coach on their short list of candidates. That's just a fact. You might also note that I state that Ferentz is content at Iowa.
As for recruiting, I am sensitive to it, but signing day is the first Wednesday in February and these things usually play out by then. I have spoken to some of the college coaches about this, and most of them privately acknowledge that it does not really hurt recruiting. They even hint that they use it to their advantage at times.
Q: I have a question about Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning. Do you think he'll win the MVP this year? No one seems to give him the respect that he truly deserves. When it looks like he's in the lead for the MVP, someone always throws some other name out and forgets about him. Thank you from all the Marines here at Cherry Point, N.C. -- Cpl. Jerry Dwayne Leach, USMC (North Carolina)
MORT -- Corporal Leach, we thank all of our uniformed military personnel, especially around the holiday period! As for Manning, I now believe he is the league MVP unless he just stinks it up in the final two weeks. I don't think anybody will forget about him. I do agree that Manning generally deserves more respect that he gets -- I have seen a Manning backlash in effect dating back to his days at Tennessee. He is one of the game's truly elite players, however.
Q: All year, you've been the one analyst on whom I could count! Despite everyone's insistency on tearing down the St. Louis Rams, you kept them high on your power rankings. Now, post-Week 15 you have them at fourth (behind the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts). What in the Rams' Week 15 performance made you think they were no longer one of the top contenders? -- William (Sarasota, Fla.)
MORT -- Don't despair, William! I have a strong feeling that any of the top six or seven teams are capable of winning the Super Bowl. That includes the Rams. They are impressive, but they're not dominating teams. They could have lost a home game to the Seattle Seahawks, whereas the Eagles were extremely impressive again on the road in Miami. Nevertheless, I am very open to the idea that the Rams could be headed to the Super Bowl.
Q: I wanted to point out that even if the Colts don't get the AFC's home-field advantage in the playoffs, they are still a good road team. I believe QB Peyton Manning is 2-0 at Arrowhead Stadium, and if the Colts had to play in snowy New England, they could win there. Remember, the Colts won last year on a snowy Sunday night at Denver, and now they have a defense which will help them to win on the road. Do you think the Colts are overlooked because Manning has yet to win a playoff game? -- Seth (Indiana)
MORT -- Seth, that's a good point. I do think dome teams are better in their home environment than a traditional outdoor team. But I know Peyton Manning -- who has a great affinity for the traditions and history of the game -- will embrace an outdoor game where the snow is falling, just as he did in the Denver game you cited. The Colts' defense is improved. It may still be a little short, but I think they'll show well in the postseason.
Q: I think the NFL should adopt a rule that would make players sit out of the game for, like, five minutes on the game clock for unsportsmanlike conduct. -- Charles Bohlen (Percival, Iowa)
MORT -- Charles, sort of like hockey's penalty box, huh? Without giving it a whole lot of thought, I like the idea. You'd have to designate a certain level of conduct penalties to merit sitting out, I think. However, the NFL is very sensitive to suspending players or ejecting them because they know that there are only 16 games in a season.
Q: I've heard rumors about Warren Sapp possibly leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after this season and either going to the New Orleans Saints or the Atlanta Falcons. Could you possibly shed some light on this subject for me? -- Mike (New Orleans)
MORT -- Mike, the interesting twist to Sapp's future in Tampa is that Rich McKay is no longer the general manager. But I find it hard to believe that coach Jon Gruden will not fight to keep Sapp. Under McKay, I know Sapp would have been offered a new contract, but it was unlikely Sapp would have been franchised had the negotiations not been successfully completed. There's uncertainty in the Bucs' front office right now, so there's an unknown. If Sapp is a free agent, he'll get plenty of action, whether it's the Saints or Falcons.
Q: So let me get this straight: Kansas City Chiefs QB Trent Green has only the second perfect passer rating of the season, and he gets only a tie for fifth best QB of the week in your Week 15 top-five lists? I know that the Chiefs have fallen off a bit, and they were playing the Lions, but why the low ranking? -- Tim (Lawrence, Kansas)
MORT -- Tim, yes, Trent's performance got discounted because it was the Lions, although you could make the argument that Peyton Manning (No. 1) played the Falcons. I just thought the Lions played defense that day with little heart. But I am very happy for Trent's Pro Bowl selection.