January 20, 2003
The Barber Brothers:
While Tiki styled on the sidelines, twin Ronde clinched the game for Bucs with 90+-yard INT for TD. Super Bowl XXXVII:
Everywhere they want to be.

 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
PIRATE.  BOOTY.

As if Robert Louis Stevenson decided to come back and write a sequel to "Treasure Island," Super Bowl XXXVII between the Raiders and Bucs turns out to be full of subplots worthy of a great adventure novel. (Arrr ... think "pirate metaphors" might be one of them?) Here's a rundown of three of the more choice ones, with study guides.

Grudge Match
Bucs coach Jon Gruden takes on the team he helped build -- and left last offseason. Study guide: Chucky knows Oakland well enough to design wrinkles to defeat them; of course, as chatter emerges that Gruden wasn't totally beloved by his Oakland players, the Raiders seem to have just a little motivation.

Who's No. 1?
This is the Super Bowl's first matchup between the league's top offense (Raiders) and defense (Bucs). Study guide: Given recent Super Bowl history, it's hard to pick the best offense over the best defense. Last year, the hype was all about how the awesome Rams' offense would wipe out the Pats' D; the Raiders' offense isn't as hyped as those Rams, but the Bucs' D makes the Pats' D look tame. In fact, the better comparison for the Bucs is to the champion Ravens two years ago ... and that team dismantled the Raiders in the postseason.

All Talk
The game features the NFL's top-ranked yapper -- the Bucs' Warren Sapp -- against one of its bright up-and-comers, the Raiders' Jerry Porter. Study guide: The media's job this week is to get players to say crazy things. Both teams would do well to take lessons from previous weeks and just shut up and play; the winner can talk 'til September. But you know that won't happen.

Early Forecast
(Quickie riding 6-0 record in past two weeks ...) Bucs 27, Raiders 24. The Raiders' D is vulnerable enough to give up the big play or two that the Bucs' O needs to hand its own defense a lead it won't lose. Hearing the same crowd picking the Raiders that picked the Eagles. More booty for me.

What Next: Eagles
To get to the Super Bowl, do the Eagles need yet another chance to break through (like the Bucs),

"EVEN MORE STORYLINES" EDITION
CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE IN PLAY:
1. Historically underappreciated QBs
2. Deserving Tim Brown gets Super Bowl moment
3. San Diego: Who's throwing the hot parties?
CONVERSATION TOPICS THAT ARE SO OVER:
1. Bucs' curses: Can't win at Vet, in cold
2. Steve McNair is underappreciated
3. Last game at the Vet: quite the advantage
 
or did they miss most ideal opportunity they'll ever get -- playing an opponent they've owned in their own emotionally charged home?

More than "maybe next year" is in order. The Bucs were in a similar still-outside-looking-in position last season and were bold enough to change head coaches, but Andy Reid isn't the problem (though he was outcoached). Stay pat or deal: the headcase fans -- exposed nationally as the fan equivalent of Colonel Jessup -- won't approve either way.

What Next: Titans
During those last-second losses over the last few weeks, the prevailing wisdom was: Teams didn't lose it on one play; they had their chances. The Titans can pinpoint their missed chances to second-quarter fumble-itis, yielding 10 back-breaking Raiders points. It wasn't just the two players who fumbled; the defense looked shell-shocked.

While Oakland's players credit the influence of savvy vets and coach Bill Callahan's go-for-the-jugular philosophy, the Titans must conquer the mental game more than anything else. Maybe the younger players can learn from QB Steve McNair, who earned the lifetime adjective "gritty" from fans everywhere.

Keyshawn Bradshaw?
Catch Keyshawn in that old-school No. 12 Terry Bradshaw jersey? It's the most visible example yet of the growing trend

of players sporting throwback looks of teams not necessarily their own, which disproves the theory that young athletes have no respect for history.

Johnson may have been all about drawing attention (my Page 2 colleague Jason Whitlock sure thinks so, but at least he was showcasing symbolism of his commitment to being a champion.

Commercial Watch
That Las Vegas Super Bowl ad that the NFL rejected because of the city's association with sports gambling makes the league look doubly ridiculous; the ad turns out to be both inoffensive and clever: Hottie giggling/wriggling in back of a Strip-surfing limo heading to airport. Exits car transformed, on all-business phone call.

The tag line: "What happens here, stays here." Brilliant. A parody of Vegas' more randy good times rather than something as obvious as, oh, gambling.

Other notable Sunday ads:
Daredevil: Jennifer Garner? I'm in ... Nike: Soccer streaker pretty funny ... Bud: Comparing how women and men order in a restaurant a new classic ... Verizon: All I need is -- to kick that guy's ass ...

Eagles fans:
Way to boo your team while they're down. Enjoy continued Super Bowl oblivion.
 
 
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