Rendell's record isn't good sign for gubernatorial Super Bowl pick

February 05, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Normally, I don't care much for politicians who inject themselves into sports any more than I like athletes or actors lecturing me on politics, but I'm making an exception for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

The affable former Philadelphia mayor is a diehard Eagles fan and a true-blue Democrat, and I still can't help but like him, though I have to take issue with his prediction that Donovan McNabb and Co. will squeak out a victory tomorrow in the Super Bowl.

Hey, he picked Smarty Jones to win the Belmont and he picked John Kerry to win the presidency, so if he says that the Eagles will win a 24-21 squeaker and finally ease the pain of their long-suffering fans, I say bet the Liberty Bell on the Patriots.

Rendell is convinced that the human energy being transferred from Philadelphia to Jacksonville will help carry the Eagles over the top.

"I've walked around town and seen thousands of Eagles fans," he said, "and I have yet to see anyone in a Patriots jersey."

Perhaps that's because all the Pats fans have been mugged and stuffed in dumpsters by now, or maybe it's just because the average Eagles fan doesn't exactly have a diverse wardrobe. I mean, you've got to wonder when you get off the airplane with a few dozen guys in McNabb jerseys and blue jeans and none of them even bothers to stop at baggage claim.

"Maybe it's because [the Patriots fans] already have been to the Super Bowl a few times," Rendell said. "... God, if you're listening, we want it more."

The Guv is convinced that Alltel Stadium will feel a lot more like The Linc than Gillette Stadium, based on anecdotal evidence that he apparently gathered while touring a local trailer park.

"I walked by a big RV," he said. "Nineteen guys came down with no tickets and no place to stay. They're sleeping and showering in the RV."

That would be consistent with my image of the typical Eagles fan, except that they haven't found a 5-foot-5 guy in a Pats jersey to stomp into the sidewalk.

Rendell knows what he's talking about. He's not just some dilettante who shows up in the State of Pennsylvania luxury box for the free tax-supported food. This guy is an Eagles fan himself, and a large enough one that I would not be comfortable wearing a New York Giants jersey around him. He's a regular on the post-game show during the regular season.

"The Eagles fans, probably because of the Comcast show, I know them all," he said. "Sometimes, I shake my head, but I know them all."

Well, if he really knew all of them, he'd be shaking his head so much he'd look like an Andy Reid bobblehead doll, but he has to stand up for his people, especially since he gleefully admits that he was at the game when the fans "beat the heck out of Santa Claus."

"I think they are great fans," he said. "I think that is so overblown. We've got tough fans, but there are tough fans all over. We have great fans."

I'll have to take his word for that.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue isn't known for his slap-happy sense of humor, but he got a big laugh when a Canadian reporter asked him if he would see an NFL team north of the border in his lifetime.

"Depends on how long you expect to live," Tagliabue said.

The commish went on to say that there was a good chance that the franchises beyond 32 teams would likely come from outside the United States and mentioned Toronto as a possibility, but quickly switched gears and announced that he is going to China in early May to have discussions about staging a pair of preseason games there before the 2008 Olympics.

Can't imagine this will go over well in Ontario, where it had to sound like Tagliabue would rather build a new stadium in Tiananmen Square than put a team in Canada.

Sammy Sosa took the high road out of Chicago, taking out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune on Thursday, thanking the greatest fans in the world for "13 wonderful years."

And thank you, Sammy, for giving something back to the company that paid $12.5 million to get you out of town. Full-page ads aren't cheap, and since The Sun is a Tribune paper, I'm waiting for my cut.

Security was so tight around the cruise ship berth in front of the Adams Mark Hotel that a chauffeur came out of the lobby yesterday morning to find that his limousine was gone, apparently towed away.

"I don't know what happened," a hotel employee told him. "It was here last night."

Maybe it was commandeered by Sosa, who apparently had a diva moment Wednesday when an Orioles employee tried to pick him up for his physical in a personal vehicle.

Sosa, who was accompanied to Baltimore by agents Adam Katz and Tom Reich as well as some other companions, requested more comfortable transportation and waited about an hour for a limo to be summoned by hotel personnel.

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