• Sunday’s Saints-Rams matchup was one of the best we’ve seen all year—Thomas’s touchdown celebration included. Why hate on a mostly inconsequential move?
By Conor Orr
November 04, 2018

The proof arrived on Sunday afternoon, with three minutes and 52 seconds remaining in a thrilling NFL football game.

Saints receiver Michael Thomas got a step on Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, which Drew Brees saw almost instantly; the quarterback floated a football at the perfect trajectory to hit Thomas in stride. Realizing he’d been beat, Peters tried to high jump in place and swat the pass away, but no such luck. Thomas now had seven yards on the nearest defender, and he was about to jog into the end zone uncontested.

When he arrived, he held up his hands to fend off the nearest Saints players looking to celebrate with him—there was a plan. Thomas walked over to the goal post, lifted up the padded covering and pulled out a flip phone to make a call. It was a rollicking honorarium to former Saints wideout Joe Horn, who did the same premeditated celebration fifteen years ago. Thomas said after the game that he bought the phone at a liquor store.

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A yellow flag was tossed at his feet immediately due to the usage of a prop. On the FOX broadcast, Troy Aikman simply noted that it was uncharacteristic of Thomas and that “this is too big of a game to be risking those types of yards.” We called him selfish online (but from a safe distance). And we called him a few other things, too.

We complained about something hilarious, excellent and largely inconsequential—the score put New Orleans up by nine points with fewer than four minutes to play. They had to kick the ball off 15 yards behind where they normally do, essentially spotting the Rams a first down on their next drive.

This is evidence that we cannot enjoy anything anymore. Proof that we could be stuffed nightly with A5 Waygu and Screaming Eagle cabernet and still complain about a dishwasher spot we noticed on the steak knife. This game was a distilled shot of football magnificence, and for the remainder of the week, we will use that single moment as a flagpole for our beliefs about the state of the game and how we think players should act.

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Rams-Saints was—God willing—a preview of the NFC championship game. It was a battle between two of the best offensive minds in football—one new and one getting older. It featured touchdowns of 41 and 72 yards in the final quarter, tip-toe sideline grabs, dueling blows from the game’s best running backs. Nine Hundred and Seventy total yards. If there were a sports network actually interested in promoting and legitimately backing a football show that dissected the beautiful minutiae contained in these plays instead of stuffing it into a dark corner of their programming schedule, they could do an eight-part mini-series on Payton-McVay.

Instead, we’ll run this singular, celebratory moment of childlike enjoyment through a media wringer that beats stories to death in order to sustain the head-banging mediocrity known better only by political pundit television.

For people of a certain age, that Horn celebration was an introduction into their current love affair with football. The advent of their Madden halcyon days. A memorable highlight for those watching the Sunday recap shows, manually calculating their fantasy football scores before the Monday posting.

On Sunday, it was a reminder that, amid the militaristic grind, football can still be unpredictable and fun and in-your-face. That new stars and villains can grow organically and replace the old ones. That sometimes, we can just enjoy a cool thing for being a cool thing. Hopefully, we won’t ruin that for the next generation getting hooked.

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