HE STOOD at the
podium seething inside, yet appearing as sapped of ferocity as a zoo lion. This
should have been a great day for Joey Porter, an opportunity for one of the
NFL's most voluble players to unleash his stream of consciousness on an
international media horde gathered before him at Ford Field. Instead, on media
day before Super Bowl XL, the Pittsburgh Steelers' All-Pro outside linebacker
was making brief, flattering statements about the Seattle Seahawks,
disappointing the crowd that had come to prod him in his cage. Why did I
promise my coach I'd do this? Porter thought to himself. And why is he muzzling
me in the first place?
January, before an AFC divisional playoff game in Indianapolis, Porter had
called the Colts soft, and afterward he'd accused the refs of cheating to help
Peyton Manning win an NFL title. Before the Super Bowl, Steelers coach Bill
Cowher had instructed his players to avoid inflammatory quotes. So now Porter
stood--fighting his every impulse--near one end zone of the Detroit stadium,
resenting questions from reporters about sensationalistic subjects, such as the
time he'd been shot in the butt outside a Denver bar, when they should have
been asking about his recent destruction of three of the AFC's top-rated
offenses. He dutifully praised the Seahawks, lauding their MVP running back and
their All-Pro left tackle. That was killing him.
interview session Porter felt like showering. He was still in a funk the next
morning when, under a large tent adjacent to the Steelers' hotel in suburban
Pontiac, he took a seat at his preassigned table and prepared for another 60
minutes of torture. Then it happened: Blessedly, beautifully, a reporter
apprised Porter of a media-day quote from Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens. In
response to a question about retiring Pittsburgh halfback Jerome Bettis's
return to his hometown to play in the Super Bowl, Stevens had said, "It's a
heartwarming story and all that, but it will be a sad day when he leaves
without that trophy."
To Porter the
words felt like warm sunshine on an early spring morning. He closed his eyes.
"You ever seen the movie Underworld: Evolution, where the blood drips down
there, and it wakes up Marcus?" he asked excitedly, comparing himself to a
dormant vampire. "Well, Marcus now got woke up. I was asleep all week. I
just tasted blood right there ... and you crave it when you haven't tasted it
in a while. Now I'm thirsty."
understood what Porter was talking about; they just knew their week had become
less boring. For the next two days Porter was the best story at the world's
most-hyped sporting event. In a pair of interviews televised live by the NFL
Network, Porter skewered Stevens with increasing intensity, calling him soft
and "almost a first-round bust" and vowing to remind him of what he
said "every time I put him on his back." Porter promised to try to
"tap out" as many Seattle players as possible--slang for when a guy
taps his helmet to signal he wants to leave the game. Reporters loved it.
Porter was ecstatic.
He was still
jaw-jacking late on Super Sunday when Stevens, who'd scored the Seahawks' lone
touchdown, dropped his fourth pass of the day with three seconds remaining in
the Steelers' 21--10 victory. "You could've been the difference in the
game," Porter barked at Stevens. "Now you'll be mad the whole
off-season." Part of Porter wanted to hug the guy for his efforts; instead,
he kissed the Lombardi Trophy and kept right on yapping through the long,
later, in the pool house behind his lovely home in Southern California's least
glamorous city-- Bakersfield, where foam truckers' hats never went out of
style--Porter was again talking, in his gravelly rasp, about a player unworthy
of being a champion. This time the target was point guard Jason Terry of the
Dallas Mavericks, who were down three games to two before Game 6 of the NBA
Finals. As more than half a dozen members of Porter's Bakersfield crew sucked
down Budweisers before the game, the room was alive with the sound of spirited
" Jason Terry
ain't got no A jumper!" Porter growled. "Dirk [Nowitzki] does; Ray
Allen does. Terry, he's got a C."
B," fired back Corny Asada, a.k.a. Kanieln Inouye--he was given his
nickname by Porter at a Vegas craps table--prompting a protracted debate over
NBA shooters. Soon Porter was screaming, "Terry ain't no B! Gilbert Arenas
is a B. D-Wade is a B. Paul Pierce is a B!"