- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2004

SEEN AND HEARD AROUND HOUSTON

Well, it took all week, but downtown Houston is finally abuzz with Super Bowl fever. Where the streets outside George R. Brown Convention Center were desolate a few days ago, you can’t maneuver 3 feet now without sashaying around fans, celebrities and ticket scalpers.

Even more crowded is the lobby at the Hilton Americas, headquarters for both the NFL and the media. Maybe that’s because anyone who wanted to venture outside yesterday needed a goosedown parka and mittens. We’re supposedly in one of the southernmost cities in the United States, but the gray skies, ever-present drizzle and steady wind had these northerners thinking they were back in D.C.

Give the fine folks of Houston credit, though — they’re not letting the bad weather and bad press get them down. They fully realize they’re holding their first Super Bowl in 30 years, that it may be awhile until the big game comes back and that they might as well live it up while they have the chance. …

When we walked into the hotel cafe for a quick bite Thursday night, who else was dining but Bruce Smith. The recently crowned NFL sack king, who still hasn’t officially announced his retirement from the Redskins, looked in good spirits. He would, however, have looked even better in his burgundy and gold “All-Time” robe.

THE BUZZ

WASHINGTON’S SUPER HOPES

[down arrow] Tags conspicuously leaves nation’s capital out of future-site discussion.

MEDIA OVERKILL

[up arrow] The Houston Chronicle has 37 reporters slated for game credentials.

SALES PITCHES

[up arrow] Who are this year’s Budweiser Frogs? We’re juiced for Super commercials.

POLITICS, WALL STREET, THE ARTS

[down arrow] Let us know if we’ve missed anything from the outside world.

BY THE NUMBERS

69

Days since the New England Patriots last trailed in a game.

9

Games the Panthers won this year by seven or fewer points.

QUOTABLE

“You start thinking like that, and that’s when you get smacked in the face. I don’t even want to touch on that, because it’s scary. It’s a scary thing.”

— Linebacker Larry Izzo on talk that the Patriots are one win away from achieving dynasty status.

“We all compare it to somebody lobbing grenades. When you’re in the locker room and he’s walking away and you think the conversation’s over, he lobs a cliche at you from about 50 yards.”

— Panthers center Jeff Mitchell on Nuke LaLoosh-esque coach John Fox.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

We’re surprised the news conference didn’t end with, “… and don’t forget to tip your waitresses, ladies and gentlemen.”

All right, commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s “State of the NFL” wasn’t exactly a comedy club routine. We’ll admit that at a few points in the lengthy Q&A; — does every city in the country have to get a generic quote about its hopes as a Super Bowl site? — we nearly fell asleep. But typically prosaic Tags did get in a few zingers.

First, in response to a question about whether game officials purposely overlook infractions during the postseason, Tagliabue’s meandering response found its way to a potshot at the Kansas City’s defense — several members of which he had introduced in connection with Chiefs guard Will Shields, the NFL’s Man of the Year.

“Nothing happened between the Kansas City game and the New England game that affected the Colts’ [offensive] performance,” Tagliabue said. “What happened was the New England defense was on the field and not the Chiefs defense.”

Oooooh, went the hundreds in attendance.

Later, the commish was asked about the hopes of a truly global Super Bowl, one in which players from all over the world participate. Tags answered in the affirmative, then laid a bet on the winning quarterback of Super Bowl CCXXVI:

“Yao Fling.”

Mark Zuckerman and Jody Foldesy


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