The Super Bowl officially began for me when Brian Urlacher stepped off the Bears' airplane holding a drink of some sort with a bold "54" distinctly visible on the label. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called knowing how to play the game.
William E. Amatucci Jr./WireImage.com
Big Tony capitalized on his five minutes of big fame.
For the most part, this week isn't all about football, no matter what the players and coaches say. The agents and the marketers work like famished dogs to figure out the best way to parlay all this free publicity into an even bigger payday for them and their guys.
Of course, winning is important, since it increases the stakes, but a guy who plays the game during the week can offset the importance of the outcome.
Urlacher's opening gambit was good, but he's got a lot of work ahead of him if he's going to come close to the reigning champion of Super Bowl week -- Tony Siragusa. When he played for the Ravens -- the victorious Ravens, lucky for him -- he and his guys had the whole scene scoped out. Within two weeks after the Super Bowl, the guy had done every television show from Letterman to "Turkey Hunting With Ed" on the Outdoor Network.
So when you see Siragusa working the sideline for Fox and ponder the age-old question -- how in the hell did that happen? -- remember Ravens-Giants, and the week Big Tony got a good hand and played it perfectly.
THIS WEEK'S LIST
• And if you have any doubts, just ask Tiger himself: The big talk of Tiger Woods' winning streak is diminished some by one inconvenient fact -- it's not really a streak when you do things like well, like not win, in the middle of it.
• Oh God, oh please, oh not again: The latest in the ongoing let's-all-gather-together-and-help-out-the-poor-poor-multimillionaire-athlete saga concerns Todd Helton, whose possible trade to the Red Sox was greeted in some Denver circles with the predictable "He's a good guy and deserves the chance to win" refrain.
• Speaking of the oh-no-not-again file: A headline from Monday read, "Rocket undecided about future."
• To anyone even tempted to write such a column, please ask yourself this: If you lost your job tomorrow, would the athlete in question spend even one second worrying about whether you are a good guy who deserves a chance to win?
• You can debate the best baseball move of the offseason all you want, but there is absolutely no doubt as to the worst: Barry Zito has requested that his locker be next to Barry Bonds' in the Giants' clubhouse.
• Here's a random prediction: Stanford will win a national championship if the Lopez twins decide to stay beyond their sophomore year.
• So really, when you get right down to it, when your comparison invokes the word "million," it's really not anything like it at all: Rex Grossman, asked about the Super Bowl, said, "It feels kind of like a college bowl game -- that intensity times a million."
• One more example of why being a professional sports owner is the best job welfare can buy: Politicians in Washington, D.C., are debating whether to give Wizards owner Abe Pollin $50 million from tax increases levied on ticket sales to improve luxury boxes and replace a scoreboard at the Verizon Center.
• And thereby causing fathers everywhere to ask the important question, "How much is it worth to me to help someone beat up my son?": Floyd Mayweather Sr. will not train Oscar de la Hoya for his May bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. because Senior asked for $2 million for the privilege of teaching Oscar how to beat up his son.
• OK, let's try to find the most unbelievable aspect of the following news item: Latrell Sprewell, who now lives near Milwaukee on a yacht he recently purchased, is being sued for $200 million by the mother of four of his children for allegedly reneging on his promise to stay with her in their Westchester County (N.Y.) home.
• For those of you having trouble spotting the most unbelievable aspect of the preceding news item, here's some help: If there's even a remote possibility you're worth $200 million, you should not be living on a yacht anywhere near Milwaukee, unless it's Milwaukee, Tahiti.
• Unsolicited advice for all the journalists in Miami: I'm guessing Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy will remain black throughout the week, so don't burn your best stuff early.
• And, finally, the pick -- Bears: I saw a video clip of DB Charles Tillman when he was miked against the Seahawks, and after Shaun Alexander scored a touchdown, Tillman shrieked, "We're better than that!" You just don't get incisive commentary like that from a team that loses the Super Bowl.
Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Page 2 here.