Rice a Falcon? Maybe
Posted: Friday January 28, 2000 12:00 AM
Jerry Rice still can draw a crowd, whether it be on the football field or in front of hundreds of adoring fans Thursday night at the NFL Experience.
And he thrilled the crowd gathered at the Georgia World Congress Center by saying he would strongly consider signing with the Falcons if things don't work out in San Francisco.
"I'm not going to start calling teams, but my options are open and [Atlanta is] one of my options," Rice said. "This is closer to home [Rice is from Starkville, Miss.] and I feel like I can bring something to Atlanta and Atlanta can bring something to me. We'll see, but I would like to come here."
Make no mistake, Rice's heart is in San Francisco. The 37-year-old led the 49ers with 67 catches, but the Niners' salary cap situation may finish his 15-year career in San Francisco for him.
"I would like to retire a 49er," Rice said. "I still can make plays. I still can win Super Bowls. But if it doesn't work out, I have to look at my options."
Kids say the darndest things Rice held perhaps a 20-minute question-and-answer session with fans attending the NFL Experience.
Some questions were typical. Who was your favorite quarterback? What was your favorite Super Bowl moment? Who is the best quarterback you ever faced?
And then, there was the not-so typical.
A young fan asked Rice: "Mr. Rice, I heard a rumor that you were the greatest touchdown catcher in NFL history. What do you have to say about that?"
Rice's response: "I heard that rumor, too."
Smells like teen spiritless
It's difficult on Thursday to gauge how a team is going to play Sunday, but, according to CNNSI.com's Josie Karp, St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil was dissatisfied with the team's effort in its Wednesday practice.
"I wasn't totally pleased," he said, noting that the team wasn't as sharp as he was used to seeing them. "These kids have spoiled me."
Vermeil then went on to offer probably the closest thing to bulletin board material that we're likely to see -- when he said that as far as he was concerned, Jacksonville had been the best team in the league this year. He quickly added that he's since had to rethink that opinion, the Titans beating the Jags three times and all.
The disassociated press
Anyone who claims he or she was unable to get a quote from Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair wasn't trying very hard.
According to CNNSI.com's John Giannone, McNair had an entire table to himself inside the Titans' press tent and stayed the entire hour to field questions. He outlasted the mass of reporters, which, by the end of the session, had whittled down to number only three or four around his table.
McNair's access is unprecedented according to Giannone, covering his eighth Super Bowl, who claims he's never seen a quarterback stay an entire press conference. Also unprecedented was the lack of action surrounding a starting quarterback.
Giannone said that the attendance over the last two days was smaller than any Super Bowl he'd ever been to. He attributes that to the combination of newspapers sending fewer reporters to this year's game and the reporters who did show up simply running out of material.
Titans to NFL: You're getting warmer
Super Bowl fever took on a whole new meaning today.
According to CNNSI.com's John Giannone the NFL went to great lengths to make sure the conditions in the Tennessee Titans' press tent weren't like yesterday, when everyone at the morning press conference was in danger of catching a cold due to freezing temperatures.
Giannone noticed that there were 12 extra propane heaters inside the press tent and that it was at least 60 degrees warmer.
"It was downright hot," said Giannone. "As cold as it was yesterday, that's how hot it was today."
Many players were bundled up, expecting arctic conditions similar to yesterday. As a result there was a five-minute period when the players stripped all the extra layers of clothing off.
According to CNNSI.com's Damon Fontenot, getting away from Jevon Kearse may not be the toughest task for the Rams on Sunday.
They should try getting away from the Titans' media relations people.
One reporter learned that lesson the hard way.
According to Fontenot, a member of the media went up to the man nicknamed "The Freak" seeking autographs on several issues of this week's Sports Illustrated featuring the Tennessee defensive lineman on the cover. Seeking autographs is discouraged for members of the press.
Kearse politely obliged ("He's too nice," Fontenot said of Kearse).
Unfortunately for the reporter, a member of the Titans' media relations staff saw what happened, and, after scolding him, confiscated the magazines, which are now worth a lot more than the cover price.
According to GameDay 2000 outcome, Rams will win
On Thursday night at the 989 NFL Player's Party at Atlanta's Apparel Mart, Titans tight end Frank Wycheck and Rams running back Marshall Faulk took to the virtual field in a spirited head-to-head match of the video game NFL GameDay 2000.
The stakes, however, were potentially greater than just bragging rights -- the winner of the annual pre-Super Bowl video game duel has won the real game every year for the past four years.
After finishing regulation tied 14-14, the game went into sudden-death overtime, where Faulk orchestrated a Kurt Warner bomb to Isaac Bruce that resulted in a Rams victory.
After the hoopla subsided, Wycheck was confident that the GameDay jinx wouldn't hurt the Titans.
"Hopefully the outcome will be different in the real game," Wycheck said. "I don't want to be the reason for our downfall on Sunday."
The biggest thing on Japanese television
Fontenot also witnessed one of the more humorous events of St. Louis' morning press conference, when a Japanese television crew, consisting of two cameramen and an anchorwoman, decided to interview Rams tackle Orlando Pace.
The 6-7, 334-pound tackle shared some laughs with the crew, the biggest coming when he showed just how easily he could sweep the anchorwoman, who Fontenot said probably weighed no more than 90 pounds, off her feet.
Losing my religion
Now that Steve McNair has answered all the racially charged questions, reporters intent on finding something divisive to write about have turned to religion.
Yesterday Rams wide receiver Az-zahir Hakim was inundated with questions about his Muslim beliefs. Thursday, it was Isaac Bruce's turn to answer questions about his faith.
According to CNNSI.com's Damon Fontenot, not much was learned but the word Jesus was said a lot.
There's no truth to the rumor that McNair is actually Muslim, which would make him the first Black Muslim quarterback ever to play in a Super Bowl, but allegedly, Bruce was asked a question pertaining to -- are you ready for this? -- football!
Rams' Fletcher 'Pure inspiration'
For Rams' middle linebacker London Fletcher the Super Bowl really is just a game.
Fletcher is known as "dot-com" because he's "on-line with the opposition." He also may be more down to Earth than anyone on either team in Atlanta this week. And that is not a height joke directed at the Rams' 5-foot-9 middle linebacker. In a week where everyone and everything is larger than life, Fletcher remains grounded, living a life that Jon Saraceno of USA Today describes as "pure inspiration."
With no disrespect to Kurt Warner, Fletcher is a far more compelling "rags-to-riches" story, even if it hasn't been as well chronicled as Warner's.
Saraceno describes Fletcher as "a spirited, fun-loving guy who has overcome life's hardest hits. He bangs, he pursues, he jabbers. This Fletcher guy plays middle linebacker the way Generation-Xers tangle in a mosh pit, the way Huff and Nitschke and Lambert and Singletary played -- with angry, unrelenting, blood-spitting fury."
No one could blame Fletcher for being angry off the field as well. His life story isn't a happy one, having overcome the emotional scars of the rape and murder of his sister, when he was 12, and the day-to-day struggles of his drug-addicted mother. But he's channeled his energy, turning the negatives into positives.
Bruce Matthews will play in his first Super Bowl after playing 17 years in Houston and Tennessee. AP
"My mom is inside me," the Cleveland native told USA Today. "To do the things I do, she's given me an attitude. The situations I dealt with shaped the way I am, not only as a person, but as a player. I often find myself thinking about my sister, wondering how her life would be today. The things that happened with my mom and my sister I've used as inspiration."
Needless to say, he's had no problem keeping Sunday's game in perspective.
"My battles are in a game, her battles are in life. Her battles are more extreme. If I lose a game, I get another opportunity. If she loses a battle, that could be it."
Fletcher is another example of "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog". Although predictably labeled "too small," Fletcher has taken great delight in proving the scouts wrong.
"ESPN The Magazine said 'if London Fletcher is the starting middle linebacker by Halloween, we'll buy him a car,'" Fletcher recalled with a laugh. "Well, I'm still waiting for my Rams-blue Mercedes-Benz 600."
Continuing the dream
According to Nick Wishart of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wednesday's awarding of the 1999 Miller Lite NFL Player of the Year is the most meaningful to Rams quarterback Kurt Warner.
Warner, honored earlier in the month as the NFL's most valuable player, was handed the award in front of several hundred people assembled in a Hyatt Regency ballroom.
With a humbled look on his face, the St. Louis QB thanked God, the five finalists he beat out for the award -- which included Rams running back Marshall Faulk -- and his entire team. He then talked about why this award meant so much. Getting a chance to donate the $30,000 from Miller Brewing Co., to Camp Barnabas in Purdy, Mo., -- a Christian summer camp for disabled children -- is what this is all about.
Kurt and Brenda Warner's fifth-grade son, Zachary, is partially blind, due to an accident when he was an infant, that left him unable to see objects unless they are held within inches of his face.
Warner had a message for other children like Zachary, who suffer from disabilities.
"Just keep on dreaming," Warner said. "Don't ever give up on your dream. If I had given up a few years ago I never would have been up here today. I tried to stay focused on that.""
All in the family
According to Jeff Legwold of The Tennessean, the most heartbreaking moments of Bruce Matthews' career had nothing to do with any game he played, and that when he takes the field on Sunday, he'll be playing as much for his brother, Clay, as for himself.
The 17-year NFL veteran described the three losses in the AFC Championship Games by Clay's Cleveland Browns as the most difficult part of his career.
According to Matthews, not playing in those games made the losses harder to take.
"As a player you always feel like you have at least some control over what's going on or you're at least contributing somehow to what's happening," Matthews said. "If it doesn't go your way, you feel bad, but you come back to work and then you move on.
"But as a fan it's a lot harder to watch. Those are the ones I remember, because you're sitting there and you can't help. So, those games just killed me."
Tying one on
While on the subject of his athletic family, Matthews told The Tennessean this little family jewel.
"My grandfather, Matty, played baseball. Clay sent me a clipping a while back that had my grandfather, when Ty Cobb was supposed to be the fastest runner anywhere, beating him in a race."
On the outside looking in
David Climer of The Tennessean believes that the same lack of respect the two working-class cities have received from the public has been echoed by the NFL itself. He writes:
"Look at it this way: If the Broncos were in the Super Bowl, I'm betting the NFL wouldn't erect some cheesy tent next to the team hotel, blow in some tepid air and pretend that it's suitable habitation for the next hour while players are required to sit for interviews.
"Bring the Packers to town and the NFL wouldn't have to think twice about permitting them to practice indoors at the Georgia Dome instead of on the ice rink at Georgia Tech.
"And if the Cowboys -- you know, America's One-and-Out Team -- should ever make the Super cut again, the NFL would put a dome over the entire host city so Jerry and Troy and Deion could feud indoors."
This ad's for you ...
There's only one thing that Super Bowl viewers can count on every year. That is that the commercials will be better than the football game they actually squeeze in between ads. Over time, ads for beer have caused the greatest stir. Michael McCarthy of USA Today gives a preview of what those watching on television can look forward to:
Anheuser-Busch will be the biggest advertiser on Super Bowl XXXIV this Sunday with 10 commercials starring the "Wassup?!" guys, cute pooches, Clydesdale foals and the Great Gretzky. A-B's cantankerous Lizards will appear in pre-game commercials.
The Wassup?! guys are African-American buddies who yell "Wassup?!" at each other over the phone. "The spots are about male bonding, about guys being guys," Lachky says.
Can a sitcom be far behind?
Other A-B's game ads include:
Rex: On a movie set, a director pleads for sadness from "Rex." The method-acting pooch remembers the day he was chasing a Bud truck, only to collide with a lawn supplies truck. Rex howls like a wolf. "That's a wrap," yells the ecstatic director. Tagline: "This Bud's for You."
The Great One: In a humorous twist on designated drivers, Wayne Gretzky drives a pal home from the bar in a Zamboni. Tagline: "Every designated driver is a Great One." A-B has signed Gretzky to push Bud Light, Lachky says.
Miller Brewing began a $50 million campaign this week for Miller Genuine Draft with the slogan, "Never Miss a Genuine Opportunity."
Spots created by J. Walter Thompson, Chicago, use simple humor to deliver the message.
One shows a guy getting stuck with the last pair of bowling shoes, a pair of size 19's. He coyly uses them to impress a woman a few lanes over. In another, a young dot-com entrepreneur has no luck scaring up angels -- until he cracks open a bottle of Genuine Draft.
Next month, Miller kicks off an ad campaign aimed at Hispanic consumers. "The Hispanic community is a very important component of MGD's business," Mikulay says.
Sadly, there are no new "High Life Man" ads on tap for Super Sunday. But then, any beer ad is good enough ... for a High Life Man.
Sockin' it to 'em
McCarthy also warns viewers to keep an eye out for the newest ad sensation:
"A serious contender in this ad Super Bowl is a comic sensation just 12 1/2 inches tall. He carries a mike and wears a watch as a collar. His ears are held on by safety pins. His dressing room is a plastic bag.
Meet the Pets.com Sock Puppet, a breakout star from the dot-com ad blitz. He has starred in 10 spots since August.
"The Puppet has a cult following. People talk about the ads all the time," says Felicia Lindau, CEO of online greeting card retailer Sparks.com.
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