Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007 | LaDainian Tomlinson’s question for the New England Patriots was somewhat rhetorical, but when he speaks, teammates and opponents alike listen.

On Monday at Chargers Park, the Bolts’ running back discussed the incident of some Patriots celebrating and mimicking Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman’s “Lights Out” dance on the Bolts’ logo following New England’s 24-21 upset win in the AFC playoffs Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

“What message do you want to send kids?” Tomlinson said. “That’s the way you act after a win? In my opinion, that’s not the way you act.”

Tomlinson attempted to confront second-year New England cornerback Ellis Hobbs, but he was restrained by other Patriots players. But Hobbs got the message, nodding his head to LT as if to say he knew he was wrong if the NFL MVP was upset with him.

Which leads me to wonder if NFL MVP isn’t a big enough title for Tomlinson? How about, LaDainian Tomlinson, NFL commissioner?

Maybe he can put a stop to the showboating of athletes, because fines assessed by the NFL commissioner don’t seem to work.

“When you’re the three-time Super Bowl champion, you don’t need to act that way,” Tomlinson said. “My whole thing is, you won the game. We were going to congratulate you for going on (in the playoffs). But then you start to further disrespect us. In my mind, you don’t do that. Not with athletes, anyway. We’re all competing.”

Tomlinson said the incident of him attempting to confront Hobbs looked more heated than it was.

“I wasn’t going to do anything crazy,” he said. “I was going to tell him, ‘You don’t disrespect us on the field. You guys won the game, congratulations.’ I think the Patriots blew it up by holding me back like I was going to attack the guy.”

Tomlinson laughed as he re-told the story on Monday. But on Sunday, he walked away instead of escalating the situation. Even when he’s mad, he’s dignified.

“LT is the leader on our team, and whatever he does, we’re with him,” said defensive end Luis Castillo. “For a guy like LT, who has so much class, who respects the game, for him to speak out on something like this, it obviously meant a lot to him.”

At other times, Patriots players waved their hands at their necks in front of Chargers players to suggest they choked. Tomlinson wondered if some of the behavior starts with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

“Marty (Schottenheimer, the Chargers’ head coach) always tells us to act like you’ve been there before,” Tomlinson said. “That’s something your coach always tells you, so if your guys are acting like that, it comes from top to the bottom, in my opinion. I could be wrong.”

Did you notice the Patriots didn’t come out of the tunnel for introductions despite being announced twice? They finally ran out at the same time the Chargers were introduced to cheers. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence, after all.

Terrell Owens, back in his San Francisco 49ers day, started all this dancing on the team logos on the field. Too bad Owens has never had a teammate — or a captain of an opposing team — of Tomlinson’s stature and character to straighten him out.

Thanks to guys like Owens, college and high school athletes have taken to imitating dancing on logos, which has led to fights on the field. If anyone tells you the NFL stands for No Fun League, explain to them the negative consequences pros have on lower levels of sports.

Castillo was asked if the Chargers got what they deserved from the Patriots, because Merriman likes to dance and celebrate sacks. I would prefer Merriman and other athletes don’t dance, but Castillo made an interesting distinction.

“You’ve never seen Shawne go up to a player and do his ‘Lights Out’ dance,” Castillo said. “You’ve never seen Shawne talk about a player or a team and put them down.”

In San Diego, if Merriman or another Chargers player is ever out of line, we can trust that “LT the Commissioner” will appropriately handle the matter.

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

Editor’s note: Tom Shanahan, a 28-year veteran of covering San Diego sports, was honored on Jan. 13 by The Southern California Interscholastic Football Coaches Association at their annual clinic and banquet. He was presented with the 2006 Braven “Bud” Dyer Jr. Media Award. The honor is presented in memory of the late Los Angeles Times sports editor to a media member for his work covering high school sports.

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