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Ali beats traffic as Tyson beats Francis

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Posted: Saturday January 29, 2000 10:18 PM


Muhammad Ali never had any trouble recognizing when a fight was over. He still doesn't.

"The Greatest" attended a special screening of the Mike Tyson-Julius Francis fight at the Grand Hyatt media room on Saturday night, but didn't wait around to see the end.

"That's it, Mike Tyson has it," he said after the first round, during which Tyson twice knocked down Francis. "Let's go."

Ali didn't miss much. Just 1 minute, 3 seconds into the second round, Tyson finished off Francis by knocking down the Brit for the fifth and final time.

Rooney tunes

There's no one more fit to comment on the state of the NFL on the eve of its annual showcase than Pittsburgh Steelers president and new Hall of Fame inductee Dan Rooney.

Just hours after receiving the news of his induction, Rooney discussed the sport he's dedicated more than 40 years of his life to.

The first matter of business is debunking the myth that a "Small Market" Super Bowl is boring.

"I think there's no problem with this so-called small market. I think that the enthusiasm is really there," Rooney said. "I don't think there's a problem."

The NFL's image did have a problem this week, thanks to freezing temperatures in Atlanta and in the person of Rev. Jesse Jackson, who branded the NFL's hiring practices racist. Rooney saw no evil with either issue.

"I don't think there's a problem with the weather," he said. "I said that in the paper the other day. I said, "What do they want us to do, play all the games in Hawaii or the Bahamas?" Basically I think it's gonna be a good game [he picked Tennessee] and I think that's what the public wants to see."

"He was not criticizing the NFL," said Rooney, when asked about Jackson's remarks. "He was talking more of the situation. He said he wasn't criticizing the NFL. He said he really thinks the NFL does good in the things that we're doing. So I don't consider him criticizing us."

One criticism of sports in general that he'd like the NFL to steer clear of is the dominance of big-market teams, a cause that hits home for the Pittsburgh president. "I think we have to look at our whole thing, the revenue sharing and things like that. I don't think we can get away from things that. I think it's too important. We want a normal team that when we play a game, the outcome has to be in doubt. You can't have a situation like in other sports, where they know."

If things go right next year, two major players from Rooney's Pittsburgh dynasty, receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth will join Rooney in Canton.

"I would like to see them get in," he said. "I really hope my entrance didn't proclude them from getting in or hold them back, because they deserve to be in."

Scout's honor

Dan Rooney, Jr., East Coast scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was all smiles as he waited for Dan, Sr. to complete his interview.

"It's really exciting to see this come true," he said. "Growing up around my father, seeing how hard he worked for the league, for the Pittsburgh Steelers, trying to make our team successful, as well as the league, I was always hoping this day would come that he would get in."

Dan, Jr., an Eastern Scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is looking ahead to next season and believes Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick and Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington will go one-two. If he had his way, he'd love to see the Pittsburgh-born Arrington, in black and gold.

"He really fits the 3-4 defense that we use. I think he'd be just a perfect fit to the athletic linebacker and tough guy that we love and he's from Pittsburgh, so it'd be nice to keep him home.

He also offered a sleeper in Lehigh quarterback Phil Stanbaugh.

The best question never asked

You'd think that with the litany of questions thrown out by the media this week, just about every possible subject would have been covered.

Just in case, we asked Trev Alberts, Bob Lorenz and Ron Meyer, hosts of CNN NFL Preview what question or piece of information had not been asked?

"The only thing, at the start of the season, the AFC Central was this really weak division," said Alberts. "The two teams that played in the Championship came from the AFC Central. That really hasn't been talked about much."

"Special teams haven't, except for Jeff Wilkins and his leg status," volunteered Lorenz. "Tony Horne could have a huge impact in the game, returning kickoffs."

"I'm surprised we haven't gotten more in depth with some of the assistant coaches that have some unique stories, like Jim Washburn, Titans' defensive line coach," said Meyer. "Very unique story there."

Montana, Lott spread the warmth

While it was cold and rainy outside,'s John Giannone reports that it was heart-warming inside Hanover Hall at the Hyatt Regency, as Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott led the newest class of inductees to the NFL Hall of Fame.

It was a perfectly fitting picture.

There they were, the heart and the soul of the 49ers dynasty, embraced in a vise-like, tear-stained hug as the marquee members of Canton's Class of 2000.

Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott reminisced, gave thanks and celebrated on Saturday morning as two of five inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Lott openly wept as he recalled Montana's determination to recover from debilitating back surgery and his own ultimate sacrifice -- having the tip of his left pinkie finger removed so he could return to the field in time for a 1985 playoff game.

Montana's eyes welled up with tears while explaining that his son, Nicholas, actually has two fathers -- he and Lott, Nicholas' godfather, entering the Hall.

Also enshrined will be Howie Long, the long-time Raider sackmaster who said he was "shocked" to hear he was a finalist and "even more shocked" when his name was called.

A beaming Steelers' executive Dan Rooney stood in front of a picture of himself posing under a statue of his Hall of Fame father, Art, the architect of one of the NFL's most successful franchises.

Ex-Niners LB Dave Wilcox also gained a Hall entrance from the senior committee. All-time great LB Dick Butkus recently said of Wilcox, "Who was better?"

Lost amid all the celebration was the disappointment of former Pittsburgh wide receiver Lynn Swann. Once again, the Susan Lucci award went to Swann, who fell short of election for the 13th straight year, even though he's been a finalist every time.

"Every year Lynn Swann's name is the one that is mentioned the most," one veteran of the 38-member voting committee said. "This year it was no different."

Ad time is of the essence...and available

Got $1.4 million burning a hole in your pocket? Why don't you give the people at ABC a call? According to USA Today, you might still be able to buy a 30-second slot during Sunday's Super Bowl.

Despite the insistence of ABC Sports spokesman Mark Mandel that the game's ad time is sold out, two media brokers said that, as recently as a week ago, Disney-owned ABC still had two 30-second commercials unsold.

As of Thursday, ABC had sold 61 in-game, 30-second slots to 36 advertisers.

That included the U.S. Census Bureau, which picked up a bargain slot this week, and a spokesman for 20th Century Fox said that in the past two weeks his group had acquired a prime first-quarter slot.

No one would have expected that selling time for the Super Bowl would be this difficult, especially following the rush of "dot-com" advertisers who talked boldly about entering the advertising fray back in the fall.

In anticipation of that expected rush, ABC raised its original asking price of $1.9 million for a 30-second ad to the $2 million-to-$2.5 million range.

That scared off some of the more traditional Super Bowl buyers. ABC was suddenly forced to compromise. That opened the door for bargain-hunters like the Census Bureau.

Mandel said the Census slot could have been a repurchase of ad time owned by another advertiser trying to get out of the game.

Super Bowl IV alums to flip on Sunday

When it comes to the Super Bowl, everything is serious business, including the coin toss.

Jim Auchmutey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was one of about 100 reporters on hand at the Hanover Room of the Hyatt Regency for the announcement of the honorary coin tossers for Sunday's game.

The NFL will honor seven alumni of Super Bowl IV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.

"We all get a coin and we're all going over to the Dome to make sure we know how to toss it," Bud Grant, the longtime coach of the Vikings, said. "That's just the overkill the NFL comes up with."

They really do rehearse it, down to the second, like everything else in the Super Bowl broadcast. And when it's over, the great moment is enshrined, as one of the special commemorative half-dollar-sized coins is shipped off to the Hall of Fame.

The Super Bowl coin toss might be historic, but Grant still didn't seem to think that practice was necessary. "I'm a good coin flipper," he deadpanned. "Give me a silver dollar, and I can get heads 80 percent of the time. If I were one of the teams in this game, I'd call heads."

McNair speaking out

Oh, not Steve. Bob, the owner of the new NFL expansion franchise in Houston.

In fact, he hasn't stopped speaking and promised that the franchise's head coach (yet to be named), and all his assistants (ditto) will do the same.

According to Joe Biddle of The Tennessean, McNair attended the Pro Football Writers Association annual meeting and his openness has made him a media favorite.

Former Jets Coach Bill Parcells kept his assistants from speaking to the media.

Louder is better

All appears quiet as time winds down to Super Bowl XXXIV. It's been that way all week and, thanks to Eugene Robinson's attempted misdeeds last year, it's unlikely there's going to be a sudden explosion of news.

That's a shame, says Larry Woody of The Tennessean. He regrets the transformation of "Hype week" to "tripe week" and finds the word "distractions" especially abhorrent.

When Joe Namath guaranteed a Jets victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III, was that a distraction? When quarterback Jim McMahon mooned a news helicopter before Super Bowl XX, was that a distraction?

Woody longs for a return of the Oakland Raiders of Super Bowl XV -- a biker gang living in the NFL under the federal witness protection program -- despite having a curfew: kickoff.

Rams coach Dick Vermeil knows all about those Raiders. They thrashed his Eagles, 27-10. Namath's Jets won 16-7 and McMahon's Bears walloped New England, 46-10.

Maybe hitting last call before hitting the field isn't so bad, after all.

Bills' Smith feeling better

Bruce Smith, defensive end for the Buffalo Bills, is feeling better Saturday, one day after fainting during an interview on TNT.

The 36-year-old Smith was talking with CNN Sports Illustrated analyst Trev Alberts when Smith lost consciousness.

Smith quickly regained consciousness and was cleared by medical personnel before leaving the TNT studios under his own power. He said he was a bit dehydrated because of the flu, but was feeling fine otherwise.

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