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The Big Picture: No such thing as a stupid question?

Saturday, January 22, 2000

Welcome to Stupid Bowl week in Tampa, Fla. Come on in, the media pool is warm and relatively harmless. It certainly isn't deep.

The football finale that bears Roman numerals attracts notebooks and microphones from the global village like moths to road kill. Or maggots to light. Whatever, they can pose some of the silliest questions, say some of the most absurd inanities.

This one's for Tom Collins. Oops, I mean, Kerry Collins ...
Ray Lewis? Yeah, Ray, how long have you been surrounded by thugs?

You assemble 3,000 of the world's football media and provide them with five days of accessibility from which they can blow this game into infinitesimal proportion, you're bound to have some real wieners.

Vegas puts odds on it, I think.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Tree Rollins -- rich, tall and able to dunk.

(To Oakland quarterback Jim Plunkett) Is that a dead mother and a blind father?
Wouldn't you rather ask me how long I've been a Native American quarterback?

Can you name the Backstreet Boys?
Huey, Dewey and Louie. Or is it: Curly, Moe and Shemp? Groucho, Harpo and Zeppo?

These are all real, honest-to-badness questions from previous Stupid Bowl weeks.

The answers I made up.

Forget the mouths of babes. It's amazing what comes out of a select few members of the fourth estate.

(To hefty Green Bay defensive tackle Gilbert Brown) Do your thighs get rashes from rubbing together?
No, just brushfires.

(A Japanese journalist to hefty Chicago defensive tackle Refrigerator Perry) Ever tried Sumo?
"What, is that some kind of sandwich?"

True questions and, that last time, a true answer.

Once in a while, the players at the Stupid Bowl ask for it. Whenever Deion Sanders preened in the Roman Numeral spotlight, there was never such a thing as a stupid question, just an opening for a stupid answer. When Ray Buchanan wore a leather, silver-studded dog collar to the annual Tuesday infestation known as Media Day -- apparently because his Atlanta club was an underdog -- it was just an opening for a Comedy Central reporter to query, "Are you housebroken?"

Nobody covers the Stupid Bowl like Comedy Central.

Anyway, the media stars this week are easy to spot. Baltimore's cornerback Chris McAlister and Tony Siragusa, a former Pitt defensive tackle, won't rest until every notepad and piece of tape is filled. Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe also will exhaust the media throng, although he admittedly will be rather preoccupied looking out for his soulmate, the soon-to-be-beleaguered Lewis. "The key," Sharpe said before departing for Tampa, "is to keep Ray from getting frustrated."

On the New York side, with its thousands of tabloid and inflate-to-massive-headline-size journalists descending, the most sought-after interviewees figure to be Collins, former Pitt defensive end Keith Hamilton, defensive end Michael Strahan, talkative tackle Lomas Brown and Mr. Angie Harmon, alternately known as Jason Sehorn.

We will hear Giants Coach Jim Fassel revisit his "guarantee" billions upon billions of times. We will hear Collins and Lewis relate their tales of woe ad nauseam. We will hear a lot about a couple of former Pitt coaches now serving as the defensive coordinators du jour, John Fox of New York and Marvin Lewis of Baltimore.

Which begs the question: All that playing and coaching talent, and Pitt's defense hasn't been dominating for, what, 15 years?

One last thing about Stupid Bowl week: Remember the infamous inquiry reputedly lobbed at Doug Williams in 1988 -- "How long have you been a black quarterback?" The media cannot even decide if that actually happened. Some say they overheard it. Others support the original questioner, one Butch John then of the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss.

John, whom I knew and trusted from my Southern-fried experience a century ago, claimed that he was misquoted. He used to write about Williams' younger brother at Grambling and, during a lengthy group session with the Washington quarterback in San Diego, decided to pose this question, which he said he uttered verbatim: "It's obvious you've been a black quarterback all you're life. When did it start to matter?"

That's the funny thing. Life doesn't seem to matter in this mad, mad media world until Stupid Bowl week.

It makes me so proud.

So, Marvin Lewis, what important battle was fought on the site of your old high school that it's called Fort Cherry?

Program notes

The dot.coms went agog Tuesday, falling over each other online to report that Oakland Coach Jon Gruden -- yet another former Pitt assistant -- was on an airplane heading to interview with Ohio State officials. Talk about a frenzy feeding upon itself. Turned out, at the time of this supposed Columbus flight, Gruden was telling Bay Area reporters that he had just gone to a California pawn shop to buy acoustic guitars for himself and his 6-year-old son.

In a poll sponsored by Mexican-food brand Jose Ole, 44 percent of the respondents contended that what they like most about Super Bowl Sunday is being with friends and family. Second was the game itself. Third was the party atmosphere -- though it shouldn't surprise anyone that this poll found Mexican food as the respondents' favorite ethnic menu and chips/salsa finished their second-favorite food for Super Bowl bashes.

Maybe it isn't Dennis Green after all: The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 in NFC championship games when KDKA-AM's Thor Tolo is in the house.

You can reach Chuck Finder at cfinder@post-gazette.com

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