Holy week begins for Baltimore, New York
Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2001 11:38 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
TAMPA, Fla. -- In all its ridiculous excess, Super Bowl week is upon us. Burning Questions, of course, are everywhere in this most holy of weeks on the media calendar. But we'll bring you only best of the best in terms of Super Bowl style, substance, and who knows, maybe even insights.
1. It's early, but what are the most obvious omens so far this week for the Giants and Ravens?
Answer: For starters, Giants fans may question the team's choice of in-flight movie en route to the Super Bowl on Sunday afternoon. Remember the Titans? Yeah, we remember. We remember they lost last year's Super Bowl to the Rams. That's not the kind of mental image you want to be reminding your team of about now, is it?
Denzel Washington's star vehicle might be a fine little ode to the rewards of team play and brotherhood set against the backdrop of football. But c'mon, Jim Fassel. Spirit of St. Louis might have set more a winning tone. Then again, the Giants lost to both the Titans and Rams this season.
On the Baltimore side, when one of the buses in the team's convoy to the airport sideswiped a police car Monday, the Ravens' road to the Super Bowl didn't get off to a glitch-free start, either.
When asked if thought the accident as portended trouble this week, Baltimore head coach Brian Billick quipped: "Just for the guy who got hit. His day is pretty well shot."
Two other leading indicators of success or failure have so far surfaced. First, the team reporting on site to a Super Bowl on Sunday has never lost to a team that has reported on Monday. That favors New York.
But take heart, Ravens fans. This is Tampa's third time as Super Bowl host. For the other areas/cities that have hosted at least three times -- Miami, New Orleans and Los Angeles -- an AFC team has always won the third game.
2. John Elway played it. So did Bruce Matthews. So who is it this year that finds themselves in the role of Super Bowl sentimental favorite?
Answer: We give you the New York Giants' eminently likable left offensive tackle, Lomas Brown, a 16-year NFL veteran who is partaking of his first Super Bowl. Brown got as close as the NFC title game once, in Detroit in 1991, but the Lions were trounced by Washington.
It was an unhappy year with the woeful Browns, and Brown was labeled a troublemaker by some in the Cleveland front office. He was released and wound up signing with New York to take one last stab at a Super Bowl run.
"I saw Bruce Matthews before we played them this year," Brown said. "We were both co-captains. He said, 'Hey, old man.' And I was like, 'Now wait a minute. You're older than me.' But it did inspire me last year when I saw him go to the Super Bowl after all those years. I said, 'Maybe it can still happen for me.' You never know."
Sentimental runners-up? Giants left guard Glenn Parker, an 11-year veteran who is 0-4 in Super Bowls after starting his career in Buffalo, with four consecutive losing trips to the big game. Baltimore free safety Rod Woodson, a 14-year veteran and member of the NFL's 75th anniversary team. Woodson's 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers made Super Bowl XXX, but lost to Dallas. This is Woodson's second Super Bowl appearance. And Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer, whose rocky six-year career in Tampa Bay ended after 1999. In the most exquisite irony, Dilfer is back in Tampa for the Super Bowl, while the favored Bucs were first-round playoff losers.
3. Ridiculous questions are commonplace on media day, the two-hour orgy of interviews that officially starts the hype-fest of Super Bowl week. Do we have a winner for the most outlandish inquiry of the day?
Answer: Indeed we do. Five minutes into his morning, New York defensive end Michael Strahan was asked the following: "Is Tiki [Barber] going to wear his G-string underpants during the game?
"Tiki probably has his G-string on right now. Go check. I think the leopard-[skin are his favorite]. He likes those. I noticed he wore those a couple days in a row. I was simply checking him out."
Don Banks covers pro football for CNNSI.com.