- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

SEEN AND HEARD AROUND HOUSTON

Ah, there’s nothing quite like Media Day at the Super Bowl. It’s the one day of the year in which legitimate reporters have an opportunity to mingle with sideshow freaks from the illegitimate media (we’ll let you decide which works at The Washington Times), all in the name of finding out whether John Fox prefers Viagra or Levitra.

Seriously.

But truth be told, there seemed to be fewer freaks at Reliant Stadium yesterday than there have been in past years, allowing for some actual work to be done. That didn’t mean everyone wearing a media credential merited access, such as the superhero wannabe from Nickelodeon who showed up in an orange cape, green tights and black mask. (How do these guys get through security?)

“It’s all part of the day,” Patriots tackle Matt Light said. “This is what you sign up for. If you want to play in this game, this is what you have to do.” …

You may not know the name George Toma, but you certainly know his work. The NFL’s longtime turf guru, Toma has been head groundskeeper for every Super Bowl. This year, he may have done his best work to date.

Regular followers of the Houston Texans noted that the natural grass field at Reliant Stadium was a mess this season, due to the insufficient sunlight that makes it through the retractable roof. Reliant’s Super Bowl field, however, looks immaculate — at first glance, some reporters thought it was one of those FieldTurf deals, not natural grass.

Turns out it’s all natural, and for that, we give some due props to George Toma. …

How monstrous is Reliant Stadium? Just know this: As you approach the complex south of downtown Houston, the 2-year-old facility dwarfs the other sporting venue that sits next door. You may have heard of it: the Astrodome, which when it opened four decades ago was hailed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Said Patriots running back Antowain Smith, a Houston native: “It makes the Astrodome look like a little baby sitting there beside it.”

THE BUZZ

TRASH TALK

[down arrow] — Whatever happened to taunting your opponent? It’s not like you could embarrass yourself in front of 70 million.

BRENTSON BUCKNER

[up arrow] — Do you have the guts to wear $200,000 of jewelry? Or even the lower-back strength?

HOUSTON WEATHER

[down arrow] — You guys slip and slide on freezing rain; we button up our light jackets. Bummer.

JAKE DELHOMME

[up arrow] — Repeat after us: De-lome. Win enough games and nobody forgets phonetics.

STUPID QUESTION OF THE DAY

“What advice would you give Jake Delhomme on how to win his first Super Bowl?”

— Clueless TV reporter to New England QB Tom Brady.

QUOTABLE

“I would never vote for Brady.”

— New England LB Willie McGinest, on Patriots pretty boy Tom Brady and his chances of ever running for office.

“So you guys all have hope.”

— Coach John Fox, needling reporters about Carolina GM Marty Hurney, who was once a sportswriter for The Washington Times.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

Enough with the mini-dynasty already.

Right, right. We know it’s the cap era. We know talent is diluted. We know many players would jump to an archrival for a $500 raise. But does the state of the modern NFL mean “dynasty” standards have been lowered to the current New England Patriots? Heck, let’s just make the Cincinnati Bengals a “model franchise” because they’ve finally hit .500.

Let’s be clear: New England is a solid team with great role players and terrific coaching. Two years ago, they pulled a miraculous upset of the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl. Last year they missed the playoffs. Now they’ve run off 14 straight wins — the first 11 of which averaged just more than a touchdown margin.

Yet the dynasty talk continues. And we’ll cut to its heart: sportswriters are addicted to witnessing history. So addicted, in fact, that they’ll act like they’re seeing it even when they’re not. Vince Carter was the next Michael Jordan. Sergio Garcia was the answer to Tiger Woods. Now the Patriots are a win away from being the 1990s Dallas Cowboys.

Ultimately, there may be no dynasty with the salary cap as it’s currently configured. Our bet, though, is that NFL teams are figuring out how to build a long-term winner in this system. It might take another decade before a true dynasty shakes out. But until then, we won’t name one for lack of something better to do.

Mark Zuckerman and Jody Foldesy


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