Playing in Pro Bowl? Stars don't say, `I do'

Not gathered in Hawaii, NFL's best flout vow to love game in sickness, health

Sports Plus

February 10, 2002|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

You'd think a trip to Hawaii would be incentive enough, but for the NFL's Pro Bowl organizers, luring the league's top performers to its annual all-star showcase has been nothing but trouble.

This year, the sport's standouts were promised an upgraded deal that includes two first-class tickets instead of one, top-flight hotel accommodations and limousines to transport players and guests around the island.

So which invited players were missing from yesterday's game for reasons ranging from illness to alleged injury? Tony Gonzalez, Brett Favre, Isaac Bruce, Orlando Pace, Troy Vincent, Charles Woodson, Rod Smith, Jerome Bettis, Jimmy Smith, Derrick Brooks, Wesley Walls, Sam Madison, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Trevor Pryce and Zach Thomas.

Matt Birk, too, only he had the best reason.

The Minnesota Vikings center got married Friday.

His wedding date was set more than half a year ago - well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks pushed the season and Pro Bowl back a week. When Birk learned in early January that he had been voted to the NFC team for a second straight year, it was too late to postpone the nuptials.

"I think if I don't go through with it then, she might not want to go through with it at all after that," he said.

Smart man.

Birk's wedding made a happy man out of San Francisco 49ers center Jeremy Newberry, his replacement on the Pro Bowl squad.

"He [Newberry] better get him a nice wedding gift," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said.

Enemy territory

Norman Chad, who writes a sports humor column on, takes a more pessimistic view of marriage.

Commenting on the fact that an American soldier in Afghanistan proposed to his girlfriend live on Fox's Super Bowl pre-game show, Chad wrote:

"I know war zones are tough, but there's no reason to lose your head."

Behind every man ...

There's nothing like an NFL wife to put a player's career into perspective for the public.

When St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner won the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award last month, he had bruised vocal cords and was unable to answer questions from the media.

Brenda, his wife, filled in, opening her remarks by saying: "Kurt would first like to thank his wife for everything he's ever done."

Soft landing

A week after being fired by the Buccaneers, Tony Dungy was named coach of the Indianapolis Colts, who will pay him about $1 million more a year than he made with Tampa Bay. He also inherits an offense led by Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison.

"If this were a divorce," said David Whitley of The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel, "it was like being kicked out of the house by Leona Helmsley and having Jennifer Connelly pull up in a Ferrari and ask whether you want to go for a ride."

23 skidoo

Before NBA star Michael Jordan and his wife, Juanita, announced that they would try to reconcile their differences, sports columnists had a field day with their apparently impending divorce.

Wrote Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union: "Juanita Jordan is asking for half of Jordan's property. If Juanita gets her way, that means she gets three NBA rings without scoring a point?"

Added Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Steve Hummer: "So who gets custody of Ahmad Rashad?"

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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