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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

With Media Day Over, He's Breathing Easier

January 22, 2003|T.J. Simers

Super Bowl diary: Day 1.

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SAN DIEGO -- They unveiled a 13-foot bronze statue of a former San Diego Union sportswriter here outside Qualcomm Stadium on Tuesday, and so you can understand why I was waiting late in the day for the doors to the Super Bowl Snore-off Press Conference to open.

Let's face it, they're probably not going to unveil a statue of a sportswriter in Los Angeles unless he really separates himself from the pack, and with 3,000 members of the media here for Super Bowl Number Whatever, that's one big pack.

The NFL even makes sure the pack moves together, busing everyone to the stadium for interviews so hundreds and hundreds of scribes can all surround Jon Gruden at the same time, while the other lemmings are

offered Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson.

I'm sure a check of the Internet today will indicate all the stories written will read pretty much the same. The exception will be sports columnist Bill Plaschke, of course, who will be looking for a blind referee or homeless center to interview.

If successful in his dogged pursuit of misfortune, the writing will be brilliant, of course, but do you really want a 13-foot reminder you should be crying every time you enter a stadium? OK, so maybe a Plaschke statue outside of Dodger Stadium might be appropriate.

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THERE IS no way I can compete with Plaschke the way his ear is tuned to the sound of distant ambulances. And when I come to a Super Bowl I also like to stay as far away as possible from Diane Pucin, J.A. Adande and the other Times writers here writing stories so there's no danger of duplicating what they do.

Imagine how foolish I'd look interviewing a life-size nose at the Super Bowl Snore-off Press Conference only to learn later Pucin or Adande had done the same thing, so I've got to go my own way, and often in secrecy.

That's why I refused to sign in at the door of the news conference, and while the security guards thought I was just too embarrassed to let anyone know I had gone to such an event, I told them I go to UCLA basketball games all the time and make no attempt to hide.

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ONCE INSIDE the news conference, Jerry Rice took center stage. Now I happen to think there's an argument to be made that Rice is the best player to ever play the game, and I was pretty sure he was going to tell me on this occasion when he's going to retire. That would certainly separate me from the pack.

He was telling everyone else about the importance of wearing a nasal strip and handed a $10,000 nasal strip check to Detroit's Jody and Ed O'Sullivan because Ed snored louder than 1,000 other competitors and Jody got it on tape.

I've suggested video equipment for our bedroom, but the wife just won't allow it. I don't know if we could get $10,000 for it, but it seems to me worth the try.

"This is my husband and I have to sleep with him every night," Jody said, while playing a tape of Ed snoring, which frankly sounded a lot like LL Cool J singing at halftime of the Raider-Titan on Sunday.

Now I was watching Rice, and he nodded to me as if he couldn't wait to spill his guts, but then the nasal strip affair really got rolling with the introduction of two NFL players who were going to be graded on their snoring. San Francisco's Dana Stubblefield was brought on as the first contestant.

His wife Kim took the microphone and complained Stubblefield snored loudly, ruining any chance she had to get a good night's sleep. I kept my eye on Dana, fearful of how he might react. A little more than two years ago, Stubblefield was arrested for a domestic dispute in an argument gone sour with his wife, and although the charges later were dropped, he told the media at the time it was "just one of those normal arguments you get with your wife."

I'm not sure Leah Stevenson, the marketing director overseeing this "Breathe Right" news conference, was aware of the previous disagreement between Kim and Dana, but Stevenson told me later, "Our product saves marriages."

I don't know what that has to do with Indianapolis quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brock Huard, but they were introduced next, and Manning told a woeful tale of what it's like to sleep with Huard in the same room.

The Snore-O-Meter was activated, tapes of Huard and Stubblefield snoring were played and Stubblefield was voted the loudest. That was a relief to the two security guards in the back who would have had to settle any more disputes.

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WITH THE news conference over, I'm pretty sure Rice was about to tell me when he's going to retire, which would have provided a good foundation for that new Los Angeles statue some day, but we were interrupted by the "Violator."

Rancho Cucamonga carpenter Wayne Mabry plays the role of Violator on weekends, and he was telling me, "I'm your worst nightmare," and I always thought it was playing golf with Sports Editor Bill Dwyre.

Next thing I know, Rice is gone and I'm this close to rocking everyone with the biggest story in this pre-hype leading to the Super Bowl.

I guess it's going to be a lot harder than I thought to make a case for a 15-foot statue in Los Angeles for a sportswriter.

I haven't even gotten into the problem of what the statue will look like -- worried now that the one in San Diego honoring Jack Murphy includes a bronze image of his dog, Abe of Spoon River, because he always wrote about the dog.

How is it going to look standing next to a Grocery Store Bagger?

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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