- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

SEEN AND HEARD AROUND HOUSTON

The city’s starting to swell. Downtown parking lots are fenced off and crammed with tents, which are crammed with kegs. NFL players and personalities are popping up (and popping off) all over town. And the lobby at the Hilton, the media’s home base, is thick with fans hoping for a glimpse of someone famous.

So who are they buzzing about? How about us.

No, not reporters from The Washington Times, silly. The only autographs we sign are on the credit card receipts we keep piling up. But television sports reporters seem to be approaching rock star status. Chris Berman, Ron Jaworski and Peter King might earn their paychecks shooting the breeze, but they turn far more heads than their pudgy waistlines merit.

Not everyone, though, was partying in Houston. In the elevator we bumped into former Redskins quarterback Shane Matthews, who was getting ready to head back out of town. Why the quick turnaround? It seems the Bengals, Matthews’ new team, make their players pick up their own Super Bowl tickets. Though not attending the game himself, Matthews had to get his tickets for some friends.

Most teams, according to one source familiar with such policies, pick up tickets in bulk and let players and staff get them at their leisure. Not the Bungles. The source laughed and said, “That’s the Bengals being the Bengals.”

THE BUZZ

SUPER PARTIES

[up arrow] — It’s that time of the week. Where the heck are our invitations?

PEACE AND QUIET

[down arrow] — The Super clamor rises each day. Guess we’ll have a cold one, too.

KNOWLEDGE

[up arrow] — NFL Players Association announces Panthers (42) and Patriots (35) rank first and third in players with college degrees.

LARRY CENTERS

[up arrow] — We never figured the former Redskin would be grabbing passes in Year 14.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Patriots WR Troy Brown — Diminutive 32-year-old came up big in Super Bowl XXXVI (six catches, 89 yards).

vs.

Panthers CB Ricky Manning Jr. — Diminutive rookie came up big in NFC Championship game (three interceptions).

BY THE NUMBERS

$35,000

Asking price on EBay for two Super Bowl tickets, two tickets to tomorrow’s Rockets-Nets game and accommodations at a four-bedroom home 15 minutes from Reliant Stadium.

5

Postseason touchdowns the Patriots and Panthers have combined to score in 16 red-zone possessions.

QUOTABLE

“I don’t know anything about them politics. You lost me on that one.”

— Carolina safety Deon Grant when asked whether the Panthers’ surprising march to the Super Bowl is similar to North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Teammates are always razzing, ‘You don’t do anything.’ But we always say, ‘Do you want to be us on Sunday?’ and they’re like, ‘Heck, no.’”

— New England’s Ken Walter on life as an NFL punter.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

Bill Belichick and Jon Bon Jovi. The two names seem to go together as well as asparagus and Hershey’s syrup. So imagine reporters’ shock when the notoriously dull coach talked about his unlikely friendship with the flamboyant rock star.

Belichick became friends with Bon Jovi, a New Jersey native and a huge Giants fan, during his days as an assistant coach with New York. The two remained close even after Belichick moved on to Cleveland and New England.

“He likes football. I like his music,” Belichick said. “We have a real good friendship. And he is an owner of a professional [Arena League] football team. He is getting closer to football than I am to music.”

Belichick even pipes in Bon Jovi music from time to time when the Patriots practice dealing with crowd noise. A better Bon Jovi-related distraction, we think, would have screaming females tossing undergarments toward the line of scrimmage.

Jody Foldesy and Mark Zuckerman

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