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January 23, 2003
Super Bowl Diary
ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Magazine senior writer David Fleming is on location in San Diego for Super Bowl XXXVII -- check out his latest diary entry.

2:02 p.m. EST

Caught up to FlemFile mascot and Washington Redskins tight end Zeron Flemister this morning. ZFlem was on his way to Colorado where he's working with a personal trainer for six weeks.

Gwen Stefani
There are perks to attending the Super Bowl, besides the game.

Big happenings in ZFlem's life at the end of the 2002 season -- many of them thanks to, of course, the FlemFile. First, the Saturday before the season finale against Dallas, the Redskins front office offered him a three-year contract with one provision: We need to know in 24 hours. He talked it over with his agent, family and teammates and decided to sign. Z wanted to stay with the same teammates, who he considers "family," stay in the same offensive system and not risk starting over with some other team, despite the chance for greater financial reward. "But that's like gambling," says ZFlem. "You hear about the big free agent signings but you never hear about the guys who are out of the league because they got greedy."

Z also flew down to Miami to watch his alma mater Iowa in their bowl game. He enjoyed hanging out with old teammates, but the game was so bad he left in the fourth quarter. Then, a few weeks ago, doctors cleaned out his knee and repaired a torn meniscus. Hoping he was suffering from altitude sickness in the mountains, I asked him at the end of our talk for 10 percent of his new contract, because we all know that a main reason the Redskins re-upped him was because of the pub and support of the FlemFile. He laughed and said, "Uh, no freakin' way dude."

Okay, fine, if you won't give me the 10 percent everyone knows I'm entitled to, then how about telling me who will win the Super Bowl? "Raiders," he said. "I'm feeling the Raiders."

I think Kenny Mayne is stalking me. Saw him Tuesday night, and twice again Wednesday in the Gaslamp where he was wearing a Seattle Pilots jersey -- a not-so-subtle reference to my mentioning of Ball Four a few columns back. Note to Mayne: Give it up dude, you're not getting a WHYLO Award.

Other celebs seen out and about yesterday: Goose, Jerry Rice and a solo Ricky Williams just wandering down the street by himself. One of the bars we went into last night in Mission Beach had a big sign on the door saying no one with face paint or NFL apparel would be allowed in on Sunday.

Fun with press releases: This comes from my own company. A presser from ESPN begins with, "Not tonight, honey. The game is on." And goes on to say that 83 percent of the people in a recent survey said they'd rather watch the Super Bowl than "make whoopee". That's sick people.

More Super Bowl love letters: Don Crisafulli writes, "As a dedicated hater of '80's synth/power pop (can't anyone here play the blues?) and wishing that overrated and past-their-times white Jerseyites like Springsteen and Bon Jovi would just go away, I have to say that your Bon Jovi music/Bengals football analogy was priceless. I enjoy your column, for the most part, but have noticed that you sure do take a lot of abuse while appearing to revel in it."

I'm off to the halftime press conference. I'm covering this because I'm a dedicated journalist, and not because Shania Twain and Gwen Stefani will be there.

7:11 p.m. EST

I always attend the Super Bowl halftime presser because 1) I am a pop culture addict, and 2) They always force the musicians to carry footballs with them on stage and there's nothing funnier than watching a musician hold a football. Ever see a guy in a department store who is holding his wife's purse while she tries something on? That's what it looks like. Or imagine Jon Gruden, or better yet Bill Belichick, being forced to hold an electric guitar while they talked football and you get an idea of what it looks like.

This press conference began with one simple question for producers Jimmy Iovine and Joel Gallen: Live or lip sync? "Live," said Gallen who went on to add that this show would be "more about music than a lot of the gimmicks they've had at past Super Bowls." (Like the last Super Bowl in San Diego which began with a few songs from KISS, who were cheered on by 1,000 face-painted teens? Or the game in Tampa that featured hundreds of dancers in white body suits with giant sails on their backs? Perhaps the two scariest things I have ever seen.) Iovine said the goal of the show was to connect the world of music with the world of sports and anyone who reads this column regularly understands my belief in that philosophy.

The star of the pre-show show was No Doubt drummer Adrian Young, who wore a Braves shirt (?) and asked the touchy no-no NFL question of when Los Angeles might get an NFL team. Had Tags been there he might of whispered, "The same year you guys cut a record with Pat Boone" in his ear. Young also managed to keep his clothes on for the entire event, which is rare.

The best part of the brief conference, however, was when Shania Twain laughed out loud after Gwen Stefani said something about having artistic freedom during the halftime show. Let me tell you something, there was real tension in the air -- unlike the fakey posturing of Romo and Warren Sapp this week. All the air in the room seemed to be instantly vacuumed out as members of the press wondered breathlessly if a Miller Lite commercial was going to break out right before their very eyes. It didn't. Exhale.

Twain went on to line-dance her way out of the situation and then mentioned something about how she grew up a hockey fan. All in all, though, she came across either incredibly nervous or unbelievable clueless. Stefani, on the other hand, said that when the band played the Super Bowl pregame show last year it was the first time she looked out from the stage and saw people in the audience wearing beer hats. She dug it. I knew there was a reason I liked her so much.

One really bad trend I'm noticing among male TV types this year: the use of a bronze chemical tanner that leaves them with an almost orangey kind of glow. It makes them look like walking Pez dispensers.

I know he comes across as a big old goofy Opie type guy, but a former teammate of Brad Johnson's told me he was so hyper-competitive at everything, including darts, that teammates once plotted to slip a valium into his drink during training camp.

When the Super Bowl was in Phoenix I saw a fan dive into a steaming pile of horse manure, bury himself in it and rub it all over his body in order to win a ticket to the game. What's crazy is, I always seem to get a seat next to this guy whenever I fly.

No Kenny Mayne sighting today, but give it time.

Quote etched into the sidewalk in downtown San Diego: "The question isn't whether we will be extremists. But what kind of extremists will we be? Will we be extremists for hate? Or will we be extremists for love?"

Useless Super Bowl fact: Did you know Cheryl Ladd performed the National Anthem before Super Bowl XIV?

I hate to interrupt all this folly with some actual football, but the key to Sunday's game is going to be Bucs safety John Lynch. Not so much the kind of game he has, but where he lines up -- or is forced to line up -- as the game settles in sometime in the second quarter. You see, if the Raiders can establish the run early and force Lynch to walk up into the box for run support, this will be the signal for Rich Gannon to begin picking apart the Bucs secondary with his trademark laser-guided short passes.

However, if you notice Lynch backing up to take a deep spot in the Bucs' Cover Two scheme, this means Tampa has stuffed the run and can now flood those shallow zones with DBs and keep the Raiders from dinking and dunking their way down the field. "The key to the whole deal with Gannon is [RB] Charlie Garner," says Lynch.

Lynch is No. 47, and if you can see him in your TV screen near the line of scrimmage during the second quarter on Sunday, things are looking good for the Raiders. If he's out of the picture, so too are the Grayders.

David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at dave.fleming@espn3.com.



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