Word to the wise: Ask no questions because there are no answers

January 29, 1995|By JOHN EISENBERG

MIAMI -- At the end of the hall on your hotel floor, next to the soda machine, there is a pile of empty Nike shoe boxes. It started small. It has grown taller and broader during the week, as though it were a hanging plant on steroids. It is now a monster reaching way over your head, encompassing hundreds of boxes.

The cleaning people don't touch it. They just roll their carts up to the foot of it every morning and stare, much as the cave men stared at fire.

There are questions to ask, plenty of questions to ask about the shoe box mountain down the hall, yet you don't ask them. You never ask questions during Super Bowl week, where it is understood that things happen that happen nowhere else. The fact that you are at the Super Bowl, where you once followed a donkey up an escalator (true story), is the answer to every question you could possibly ask.

* Funny. You don't ask questions at the Super Bowl, yet all you do is ask questions. You and 2,000 other reporters. You get on a bus caravan with a police escort and ride out to some obscure convention center early in the morning, and you talk to football players.

Thousands of questions a day.

You have no choice. They have no choice.

"Can you say something in Spanish?" someone asks 49ers quarterback Steve Young.

The quarterback is stumped. Blinks.

"Havana," he says, finally.

The questioner keeps the microphone at Young's mouth. The quarterback smiles.

It will have to do.

* On the schedule:

Sears NFL Legends Bowl I news conference. Habitat for Humanity Super Bowl Blitz Build news conference. Youth Education Town news conference. True Value/NFL Man of the Year news conference. NFL International news conference. Miller Lite/Player of the Year news conference. ISI-NFL Super Bowl Charity Golf Classic pairings party. Pregame Show and Doritos Super Bowl Halftime Extravaganza news conference. Coin toss news conference. South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee news conference.

Not on the schedule:

Kathie Lee news conference.

* Chargers coach Bobby Ross has become famous in the sporting press for his habit of using the word "wise" to form his own personal brand of grammar.

At the Super Bowl, he proves to be in championship form, "-wise"-wise.

"We lead the league in turnovers, total-wise," he says.

"My offensive coordinator is one of the real unknowns in the business, coaching profession-wise," he says.

* Mark Seay, one of the Chargers' receivers, is sitting at a table telling reporters the chilling story of how he was shot seven years ago. He was at a party at his sister's house in Long Beach, Calif. A gang member began shooting at the house. Seay dove to cover his 3-year-old niece. A bullet pierced his back and tore through his kidney. He saved his niece, lost his kidney and still has the bullet in his stomach.

A television reporter comes rushing up to the table, leading a cameraman.

L "Mark," he barks, "can you sum up the shooting in 20 words?"

* At the peak of the commissioner's Friday night party, at which 5,000 people get to experience what it was like to live in Rome before the fall, a country band plays a rousing rendition of "Dixie."

Quite a song to play at a party given by a league in which two of every three players is an African-American.

(Don't ask questions. It's the Super Bowl.)

* On a long bus ride one morning, you make lists.

The two things you would attempt to do in today's game if you coached the Chargers:

1. Pack the defensive backfield with eight players, making the 49ers beat you running the ball.

2. Throw swing passes to 245-pound Natrone Means, sending him straight at Deion Sanders, who announced this week that he prefers not to tackle anyone, thank you.

The two things the 49ers must do to win:

1. Show up.


* On the schedule:

NFL Players Association news conference. NFL F.A.C.T. (Football and Academics: A Championship Team) news conference featuring Dan Marino. Carolina Panthers news conference. McDonald's/NFL "Neighborhood Huddles" Football Clinic. ABC Sports news conference. CBS Radio news conference. Motorola Pro Football Writers of America Awards news conference. NFL Air-It-Out (four-on-four flag football tournament). Jacksonville Jaguars news conference.

Not on the schedule:

"Why This Super Bowl Has The Largest Point Spread Of Any Of The 235 Regular-Season and Postseason NFL Games Played This Season" news conference.

* There is a lot of talk about The Big Cruise. The one promising a group of former NFL stars, casino gambling and 200 naked women on three levels.

Talk about an aggressive marketing strategy.

"When my mother heard about the boat," says the Chargers' Steve Hendrickson, "she called me and said, 'Son, don't go on that platinum level.' "

* "Upfront-wise, we have to do better than we did the last time we played the 49ers," he says.

"In the red zone you need to be multi-dimensional, run-wise and pass-wise," he says.

* Jerry Rice: "When I was little, I used to chase wild horses for exercise."

Reporter: "Really? Why?"

Jerry Rice: "Because where I lived, horses were the only form of transportation. You had to catch them to get somewhere."

Reporter: "Really?"

Rice: "What do you think?"

* At midweek the NFL announces a battle plan for the Big Cruise. It will have a secret "presence" on board to identify which former players show up, presumably so league operatives can later rip off their fingernails or otherwise take away their privileges.

When the cruise sets sail Thursday night, a reporter from the Fort Lauderdale paper is on board. His report, printed yesterday: One ex-NFL linebacker on board. (Unnamed.) Naked women sitting around grousing about low pay. Jell-O bath. The cruise becomes a perfect metaphor for the Super Bowl itself: All hype, no news. A dud.

* "I am expecting an outstanding game," the commissioner says at his news conference.

Anyone else?

* The kickoff approaches.

The shoe boxes are still there.

E9 One day, you think you hear someone talking in there.

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