- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2009

POSTCARD FROM TAMPA, FLA.

Bruce Springsteen is the best.

Period.

Although he was 15 minutes late to the press conference for the Super Bowl halftime show, The Boss delivered once he took the stage, sitting front and center with Garry Tallent, Nils Lofgren and Max Weinberg to his right and Steven Van Zandt, Patti Scialfa, Roy Bittan and Clarence Clemons to his left.

The audience of more than 1,000 — which included the new Miss America and dwarfed any briefing held by the teams playing for the trophy — forced a change of venue to the second floor of the Tampa Convention Center, and Sir Scribble lost count of the television cameras at about 50.

Several of the performers held microphones, but this was Bruce’s show — and he delivered.

• On who decides the playlist for the four-song performance: “I’m The Boss. I decide. People may suggest, hint, beg and cajole, but I decide.”

• On the past year, which included two albums, a Golden Globe and successfully stumping for President Barack Obama: “Sometimes you go through years where everything happens.”

• On the condensed, 12-minute performance: “It will be like you will be getting into the stadium two hours, 48 minutes into the show.”

• On the E Street Band’s longevity: “We’ve stayed together, and we’ve stayed alive, which is hard to do for some people in our business.”

• On why he agreed to play the Super Bowl: “Mercenary reasons.”

The only thing better would have been a quick acoustic set onstage, but Scrib is a little worried about the set list. If The Boss is totally in charge of it, it will feature at least two new songs when Scrib and the fans want to see oldies.

— Ryan O’Halloran

MATCHUP TO WATCH

STEELERS NT CASEY HAMPTON vs. CARDINALS C LYLE SENDLEIN

Hampton is massive (generously listed at 325 pounds), and because he’s 6-foot-1, he has a low center of gravity. That makes him tough to move. He’s a big reason why Pittsburgh is second against the run and why Arizona shouldn’t try running up the middle.

In Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme, the nose tackle is assigned to take on two blockers to let the linebackers flow to the ball carrier or passer. The Steelers’ top two tacklers were linebackers — James Farrior (133) and James Harrison (101).

Sendlein is giving away 25 pounds, but against Philadelphia he did a nice job of directing the offensive line against blitzes. Quarterback Kurt Warner doesn’t want the pressure to come from the middle, so Sendlein will have help blocking Hampton in the form of guards Reggie Wells and Deuce Lutui.

THREE QUESTIONS WITH STEELERS SAFETY RYAN CLARK

1. How big of a challenge is it facing an Arizona offense that is on a roll?

A: “What they’ve been doing, scoring 30 points every game in the playoffs against good football teams, is spectacular. We’ve had big challenges all year, and we step up every time. It’s like [defensive coordinator Dick] LeBeau says, ‘Sometimes you’re going to get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you.’ They’re going to make plays. Larry Fitzgerald is going to make a play that you’re all going to get to talk about for the next week, but as long as we score one more point, we’ll be OK.”

2. How interesting is it to play alongside a player like Troy Polamalu?

A: “I’ve been blessed in my career to play with probably two of the most unique safeties in modern-day football [Polamalu and Sean Taylor]. It’s just fun. I want Troy to be great. I want him to jump over the pile on fourth-and-1. I want Troy to be able to leave his man and get an interception and score a touchdown. I want him to feel like he can do those things and be covered by me, so I tell him, ‘You go be you, and I’ll figure it out.’ ”

3. Kurt Warner said he doesn’t like trick plays. How about you?

A: “Playing a team like us, you’re probably going to have to run a couple. I think you try to keep a team that’s going to blitz you and going to pressure on their heels. Kurt may be trying to be a little sly there. I’m not going to say he told a fib, but a trick play is good when you throw it 65 yards to Larry Fitzgerald and he’s one-on-one.”

PROP BET

First end-zone celebration:

Spike 2-1; backflip 3-1; snow angel 4-1; chicken dance 4-1; dunks football through uprights 4-1; takes cheerleader’s pompoms 10-1; signs football with Sharpie 15-1; moons fans 20-1

UP-DOWNS

Bruce Springsteen (UP)

The Boss was a riot during one of the few press conferences of his long career, admitting his knowledge of football is nearly nil.

Faith Hill (DOWN)

The pregame show performer looked great but probably doesn’t know whether a football is stuffed or puffed.

Weather (DOWN)

It rained Thursday afternoon. Hey, it can’t always be perfect here.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Other than the Bears, the Steelers are probably the team that’s closest to my heart.”

— President Barack Obama on whom he’s rooting for in the Super Bowl

NUMBER OF THE DAY

$123 million

Projected salary cap for 2009, according to the NFL Players Association.


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