TAMPA, Fla. — I've been away from my wife and kids for five days and, frankly, that's more peace and quiet than I can handle, so I stopped by Shannon Sharpe's table Thursday so I'd feel right at home.
This guy talks like someone is paying him for every word he says. Someone asked him if his brother Sterling, who is seen on ESPN, has ever told him to just shut up.
"No, because I'm better looking, got more Super Bowl rings, and got more money," he said. "So I guess I get to keep talking."
By most accounts, this is the Baltimore Ravens' team leader, and the rest of the players supposedly hang on his every word before running through the doors to destroy the enemy--or run through the doors just to get away from listening to him.
I know I've seen the look of terror on the face of some of our reporters when trapped by the boss, and Bill Dwyre starts talking about tennis and there's three hours to go before lunch so there's nothing to tear him away. I went to a WNBA game once because it was the only excuse I could think of to escape.
ON WEDNESDAY, SHARPE abandoned his own interview table, noticing that teammate Ray Lewis had attracted a bigger audience, and placing his hands on Lewis' shoulders--a sign to shut up so he could speak--he began blabbering.
On Thursday, someone wanted to know what his teammates thought of his 479-word unsolicited defense of Lewis.
"They liked it," Sharpe said, "and let me just say that Trent Dilfer never had a better practice and only two balls ever hit the dirt, and everybody was flying around . . . "
I stopped him in mid-sentence, because I have experience in these things at home, and I wanted to know if I understood him correctly that because he had defended Lewis, the team had rallied, and Dilfer finally had a good practice?
Sharpe said that's what he was trying to say, all right, and I bet the fans in Tampa today are wishing Lewis had been accused of murder years ago and Sharpe had gone on a speaking tour to defend him, thereby prompting Dilfer to complete a few passes for the Buccaneers.
AS YOU PROBABLY have already guessed, Sharpe asks himself the questions so there's no down time for his mouth.
"Are we cocky?" he asked. "Yes. Is that a good thing? Maybe not for you all, but for us, yes, that's who we are.
"A leopard is a leopard," he said, and 100 reporters wrote that down, "whether he's in the Serengeti or the zoo. It's just a different environment, but he's still what he is. This is who we are."
The Baltimore Leopards haven't stopped talking, or bragging, since they got off the plane. Lewis has guaranteed a win. Sharpe, who will be playing in his third Super Bowl in a span of four years after winning two in Denver, said it may take only two points to record a victory. Several Baltimore defenders have let it be known the team's goal is to become the first in Super Bowl history to shut out the opposition.
The New York Giants, meanwhile, "have been real subdued," said Sharpe--obviously because they haven't been able to get a word in.
I HAVE A pretty good idea what it's like when Sharpe and Baltimore Coach Brian Billick try to talk to each other. It's like Thanksgiving at the Geiselman house, where everyone is talking, no one is listening and I'm in the other room cranking up the volume to hear the football game.
But these guys are not only nonstop jabberers, they also believe they are smarter than everyone else and say so.
"I'd like to be as good looking as Jason Sehorn or have the body of Michael Strahan," Sharpe said, "but they would like to have my brain."
Or as Billick noted this week, "So far, I look at what I've done, whether it's as a coordinator or a head coach, and I feel pretty good about that."
Together I'm pretty sure they think they can outsmart the Giants, and I wouldn't be surprised if the plan this week has been to bait reporters into getting angry and going after Lewis, Billick and Sharpe as a reminder to everyone on the team that it really is "us against the rest of the world."
Offense-minded teams have to control their emotions to execute properly, but the Ravens have no offense and can only win Sunday with their defense playing in a rage. Baltimore, however, is not playing against reporters Sunday, and you wonder if the Ravens haven't gone too far.
"I'm sick of hearing them," Giant defender Keith Hamilton said.
Or as Giant safety Sam Garnes said, "It's like lifting weights--the more they talk, the stronger I get, the stronger we get as a team."
Hey, I've been married 28 years. I'm so strong I don't even need the earplugs anymore.
I'D LIKE TO think we've finally hit the bottom in digging for every Super Bowl story imaginable, this one having appeared in the Boston Globe.
Giant fullback Greg Comella confirmed to the media that TV broadcaster Lesley Visser used to change his diapers.