- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

SEEN AND HEARD AROUND HOUSTON

The rest of the free world may be having a tough time getting excited about this Super Bowl, but the good folks of Houston are downright giddy over the return of the big game to the Lone Star State. Everything in town this week has a Super Bowl theme, from the NFL Global Junior Championship to the Kraft Super Bowl Cook-Off to the NFL Breathe Right Snore-Off.

By far the most lavish event of the week, though, took place last night at Reliant Arena, where 5,000 locals forked over anywhere from $100 to $1,000 to attend “A Houston Salute” — billed as an Olympics-style opening ceremony for Super Bowl week. Among the guests expected to attend the gala were Houston sports icons Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell, Mary Lou Retton and Carl Lewis.

The event, dreamed up by last night’s host, CBS Sports anchor Jim Nantz (a University of Houston alum), kicked off with a ceremony in which coaches John Fox and Bill Belichick, commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former President George H.W. Bush raised an NFL flag to the strains of (and we’re not making this part up) Yanni and his 30-member orchestra.

Upon hearing that news, one Washington Times reporter wondered whether Mr. Yanni would be playing his world-famous pan flute. Uh, no, responded his writing partner: You’re mistaking Yanni for Zamfir. You really should know your one-name, new-age musicians better. …

The city has done a nice job setting up media accommodations — the media center is in a convention center connected to the primary hotel. Of course, to get from your hotel room to the press workroom, you must show three forms of photo ID at four different checkpoints, have your laptop case searched with tooth and comb and provide blood and hair samples. …

Then again, who are we to complain? When we stepped on the plane at Dulles yesterday morning, the temperature was 15 degrees and there were six new inches of snow on the ground. When we stepped off the plane at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the thermometer read 65 degrees.

And they pay us to do this for a living.

THE BUZZ

DEFENSE [up arrow] — You won’t find any Fun ‘n’ Gun in town this week.

BELICHICK’S WARDROBE [down arrow] — You’re coaching in the NFL, Bill, not the South Boston Unified School District.

HE HATE ME [up arrow] — Rod Smart goes from famously named XFL star to totally anonymous Carolina kick returner.

ROMEO CRENNEL AND CHARLIE WEIS [sideways arrow] — Patriots assistants passed over for coaching jobs again, but would you want to coach the Raiders?

QUOTABLE

“Tom’s development in the gossip column?”

— Patriots coach Bill Belichick, mocking a question about QB Tom Brady’s off-field “maturation” over the last couple years.

“The secret from going from the outhouse to the penthouse is just shut the door when you leave the outhouse. It is cold on that walk to the penthouse.”

— WR Muhsin Muhammad, on the Panthers’ rise from 1-15 to the Super Bowl.

BY THE NUMBERS

25 — NFL franchises that have made the Super Bowl, with Carolina being the latest addition.

7 — NFL franchises that have never made the Super Bowl (Browns, Cardinals, Jaguars, Lions, Saints, Seahawks and Texans).

OUTSIDE THE BOX

Private jet? Try coach on Southwest

Redskins One soon will be gassed up and ready to tote around the NFL’s top free agents. Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has put the red-carpet treatment on steroids in recent years, sparing no expense in his annual courtship of veteran talent.

Then there’s the New England Patriots. As detailed in yesterday’s Boston Globe, the Patriots actually go out of their way not to wine and dine free agents. Safety Rodney Harrison was taken to the Ground Round last spring. And the lights in the locker room and Gillette Stadium’s club seats weren’t even turned on for linebacker Rosevelt Colvin.

“There was nothing to see,” Colvin told the Globe. “Just a bunch of sand, dirt and snow.”

Coach Bill Belichick is seeking players who put football above all else, and he isn’t concerned his low-key approach might cause New England to lose out on a coveted player.

“We’ve talked about that, and I’ve been down that road,” Belichick said yesterday. “The fancy dinners, flashing a guy’s name up on the scoreboard — ‘Joe Blow, No. 28’ — if that’s what it takes to get a guy here, I don’t think that’s what we’re looking for. I don’t think a guy’s going to be happy here, to be honest.

“If you don’t enjoy playing this game, if you’re in it to enjoy the trappings of being an NFL player, then probably the New England Patriots are not the right team for you.”

Mark Zuckerman and Jody Foldesy


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