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Thousands of Faithful Journey to Rome

November 23, 1996|FRANK MESSINA

It was a chance to stand in line for hours and be pelted by the cold morning rain, to wash down breakfast with plastic cups of beer and, most of all for more than 2,000 fans, to attend the Super Bowl of Smack.

Otherwise known as critical commentary with attitude, smack is the coin in trade of the Jim Rome sports talk radio show. Listeners stood in a block-long line enduring foul weather at 7 a.m. to get their two cents in at a live broadcast on Friday.

Fans drove from as far as Texas, pitched tents and camped overnight in motor homes outside the National Sports Grill to participate in a rare live radio appearance by Rome, whose syndicated show is heard on about 40 stations across the country.

"Where I come from, there's about two feet of snow on the ground right now," said John Bodnaruk, who flew in from Calgary, Canada. "My friends think I'm nuts for doing this, but it beats sitting home watching hockey all winter."

Over the past five years in San Diego, Rome has created a niche in sports radio he calls The Jungle.

"He tells it like it is," said Fred Berzuaza, who closed his Pasadena auto shop and camped out in a motor home overnight outside the bar. "Romey is real."

To Rome, USC football coach John Robinson is Robo-Fat, a reference to his waistline. David Robinson is the Little Mermaid, Rome's way of saying the 7-foot-2 center enjoys rough play like Howard Hughes craved publicity.

It was standing room only within minutes of opening at 7 a.m. Bartenders pulled drafts of beer and mixed Bloody Marys while waitresses served breakfast.

About 10 minutes before the 9 a.m. show time, Rome and his entourage arrived.

Within minutes, Rome had ripped into Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz, comparing him to "that grandmother you really hate."

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