Who knew one playful little fake phone call would cause such a stir?

Late in the Giants game, Donovan McNabb ran out of bounds and found himself on the New York sideline. Rather than retreat from enemy territory with all due haste, he decided to stick around for a brief moment and have some fun. Before heading back to the field, McNabb picked up a telephone on the Giants' bench and pressed it to his still-helmeted head. The whole thing lasted a second. Maybe two.

The fallout, though, has lasted a whole lot longer.

It was a weird thing to do, sure. And it was certainly unexpected. But McNabb didn't hurt or humiliate anyone, and he didn't run up the Giants' long-distance bill, either (which was thoughtful of him). But with the way radio hosts, bloggers and TV talking heads reacted to the gag, you would think McNabb held down poor Eli Manning and beat him on the head with that phone.

It all began immediately after McNabb placed the phone back in the cradle. Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman wasted no time admonishing him for such shameless temerity. I half-expected them to call Mama McNabb on the air and demand that her son be grounded for the NFC championship game.

"Sometimes I don't know what runs through that guy's head," Aikman said. "That's silly."

Well, yeah, it was. It's also silly when McNabb moonwalks. But no one ever takes a time-out from the games to criticize his questionable dancing. And they certainly don't spend a large portion of the following day rehashing the event.

Incredibly, that's what happened yesterday. A well-read national blog lent voice to a suggestion that McNabb's move was "classless." ESPN radio's Mike and Mike debated whether it was "appropriate." And, in a wonderful twist of irony, the TV noisemakers on Around the Horn jabbered about whether McNabb should be "ashamed" of his "bizarre" phone antics.

Ring, ring. Hello, pot? Yeah, it's kettle calling.

I'd have to go back and count up the column inches, radio minutes and TV time spent on the issue, but I'm betting more energy was exhausted on McNabb's phone call than on any of Pacman Jones' assorted (and alleged) off-field infractions.

When did we all get so serious? If sports are supposed to be a diversion from our everyday lives - lives beset by real concerns about tough economic times and countless other stress factors - why sweat little things like McNabb's oddball sense of humor?

Between banning all the good end-zone celebrations and media types who condemn a harmless, impromptu game of telephone, it's no wonder people call it the No Fun League. I say let McNabb be a goof. That's who he is.

Putting it another way, let's not forget the old axiom: To thine own self be true.

I think Charles Barkley said that.

Yesterday, while the Media Manners Police were busy cursing McNabb's AT&T-loving heart, some of the rest of us were wondering about more pressing matters, like whom No. 5 was calling when he picked up the phone. Here are some of the potential people/places McNabb might have dialed, along with what we suspect he said to those on the other end:

Deion Sanders: "You think you could maybe shut the hell up for a second, or at least not speak on my behalf? I have enough to worry about as it is."

Tony Romo: "I'm just saying, I think you should marry her now. One more game like you had against us, and she's leaving you for Matt Ryan."

Jeffrey Lurie: "Hey boss, it's me. About my contract - "

Gonzo: "Dude, when are you going to apologize to Andy?"

T.O.: "Remember when you told everyone I got tired and vomited at the Super Bowl? Yeah, well I'm calling you collect, sucker."

Mom: "I think the fans are starting to come around. I'm serious this time."

Kevin Kolb: "Who has two thumbs and will probably be the starting quarterback in Philly next season? Go on, guess. What? No, it's me, you idiot. No wonder you're on the bench."

NFL front office: "I know I keep calling. But can we go over the OT rules once more so I have it straight?"

Peyton Manning: "So the guys and I were wondering. Jeez, this is delicate . . . Um, are you sure he's your brother?"

Tampa: "Is this the Downtown Marriott? What are your rates for the weekend of Feb. 1?"

While we're talking about Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and our Fox friends, there's an interesting story on The Smoking Gun (http://tinyurl.com/fox-marshals). According to the piece, Buck, Aikman and Tim McCarver have been "improperly" chauffeured to major sporting events by federal marshals. Tsk, Tsk . . . My favorite part about the arrest of Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer - who was recently taken into custody after allegedly throwing punches at a strip-club bouncer - was the exchange he had with the police. According to the Dallas Morning News, when the cops threatened to arrest him, Spencer reportedly said, "Who cares? Go ahead." That's the America's Team we know and love . . . If you haven't seen Vai Sikahema's rookie playing card from his days with the Cardinals, you should Google it. Trips down memory lane were never so fun.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.