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Clinton the character (cont.)

Posted: Monday January 9, 2006 3:40PM; Updated: Wednesday January 11, 2006 1:36PM
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As far as I can tell, Portis is probably the only running back in the NFL whose official Web site homepage features a photo of him wearing a wig and a Zorro mask, portraying what appears to be his favorite character, "Southeast Jerome." The lead story in the news section of Portis' site is a recent article about Portis' mother punching another woman in the face during the Skins season finale in Philly. As Portis noted, "She busted some lady in the nose."

I caught up with Clinton's appearance on MTV Cribs, where they featured his Colorado home. The house's upper level seemed relatively normal, if you count a bust of your own torso and a mirrored headboard on your bed as normal. Downstairs, though, Portis revealed a part area, populated by a tremendous bed illuminated by blacklights in the center of the room and a stripper pole. "I know it looks like I'm kinky," Portis told to the camera in an aside, "but I'm not."

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I understand this could all be a bit much for some people, particularly those who like athletes to give concise, uninspired soundbites. For the last two seasons, I've watched Eli Manning move to Manhattan and be praised by Giants fans, but I've never heard him say anything remotely interesting or thought-provoking.

Is Portis doing this all to promote himself? Shouldn't his eye-popping stats be enough? I doubt wearing neon wigs and speaking in various accents will increase his Q-rating. When the Redskins hit a losing skid at the end of November, I became terrified that Portis would knock it off, that he'd allow the team's 5-6 record overshadow his joy. But he said his teammates asked him to keep it up, so he did.

Saturday, as the tough Tampa defense held Portis to 53 yards on 16 carries, I stayed glued to the tube, rooting for my new favorite NFL player and his team. I then flipped over to the postgame interviews, hoping against hope that Portis would debut a new character. Mark Brunell came out looking like a corporate middle manager, and coach Joe Gibbs' NASCAR history wasn't far below the surface.

Portis came out in a brown shirt, oversized Jackie-O style sunglasses and a brown beret, perched atop his head at a jaunty angle. He wasn't Southeast Jerome, but at least he was himself.

And that's something I'm always a fan of.

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Since I've heard him referred to by several different nicknames, I asked Spurs forward Robert Horry which name he prefers, Big Shot Rob or Big Shot Bob. "Neither," he said. "My name is Robert." But answer the question, Robert. "Well, if I had to choose, I'll go with Big Shot Rob." So there.

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Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com.


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