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Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Updated: January 15, 1:22 PM ET
McNair won't escape Black Hole

By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

Sure, One Nation will bite down hard on the necks of the Tites in the Black Hole, this in spite of Steve McNair. This week, McNair is like Han Solo without the Millennium Falcon. He's like Duane, the black guy in Romero's "Night of the Living Dead." Duane can put up the good fight, though we know what happens in the end.

Steve McNair
Steve McNair has been Mr. Tough this season, but even he can't run from the Black Hole in Oak-Town.

But did you see what McNair did last week? Imagine this. Your No. 1 running back folds up like an accordion. You are stuck the rest of the game with a Smurf of a situational back named Holcombe. Your tight end is your fave target. He runs at best a 5-flat 40. You have two receivers who are as a green as the grass at Augusta, and in no way compare to Randle El, Hines Ward or Plexiglass. One of your guys has not yet even caught a pass. You are facing a 15-mph wind in the fourth quarter and overtime. You scrape open the thumb on your throwing hand down to the white meat. Now. Go beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. McNair does it.

You can't say enough about the man, except -- R.I.P.

One man, even one great man, is not enough to beat back One Nation, smelling blood and rent flesh, at home in the Black Hole. But one great man can make it interesting.

Don't even bring Jevon Kearse up in here. Do you hear One Nation chanting "Oak-Town"? Did you hear the strains of the master of the Mothership Connection playing "One Nation Under A Groove"? And did you see the way Lincoln Kennedy inhaled John Abraham? We could go on and on about matchups, and costume design, and strange dietary habits, but there is no need. The denizens are the Black Hole are suiting up. One Nation is hongry.

Also, the Iggles are going to beat Tampa Bay. And you know this, man. How do we know? Ah, there's the beauty of what we do. We know because we know history ... we'll do an autopsy next week and point out slug entry points.

Meanwhile, here are the NFL conference title Uncensored Thought Balloons, bubbling, bubbling, toil and troubling, best served cold, while muttering this incantation: "Eye of Newt, tongue of Frog, Jason Whitlock, and half a hog ...":

Mike Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons -- "(Dodging defenders, under fire, on his way to the end zone at the Vet) ... This ain't so hard, oh, you want some of this, here's some for you ... unnhhhnnn! ... owww. What was that! Who shot me. I been shot! No? Dawkins? Where'd he come from. He wasn't even on my screen. Flag? He just perforated my kidney, and you're calling it back? Look at Donovan out there. Geez. He's a lot bigger that I thought. And he didn't take a shot like that one, either. Hmm. My kinfolks back in Newport News felt that. Let's not play anymore right now. Let's wait til next year. Let's choose up different sides ..."

Donovan McNabb
"The only problem for Warren is, I'm just as big a predator as he is."

Dan Reeves, coach, Atlanta Falcons -- "Holdin'.? You call that holdin'? Lemme get my hands around your chicken neck, ref, and I'll show you holdin', and squeezin' too ..."

Arthur Blank, owner, Atlanta Falcons -- "Happy? I'm ecstatic. We're selling out the building ... would've been nice to get a home playoff game, though, guys ..."

Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles -- "Felt good being back in the saddle ... so. Now we got Sapp and Co. Warren would probably like to cheap-shot me, like he did Jerry Rice, like he did Chad Clifton ... the only problem for Warren is, I'm just as big a predator as he is. My eyes are in front, jut like his. His blood is as red as mine. Another problem for Warren is, Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas and my boys. Yeah, I'm gonna break my broken foot again, only this time I'm gonna break it off in Warren's ..."

Andy Reid, coach, Philadelphia Eagles -- "I should work out more. Would cut the stress big-time, although I do love scheming it out, especially with a triggerman like big 5 ... I also need to work out because a couple of times I've been mistaken for Santy Claus ... I tell you, it's ugly up under here, but I've been a blessed with a stacked mind ..."

Brian Dawkins, DB, Philadelphia Eagles -- "Hunh? Where am I? Why am I? I just knocked who out? Myself? Oh, yeah, I remember. We're at the prom, right? No? ..."

Herman Edwards, coach, New York Jets -- "Huck ... I mean, Chad, a raft is what we're after. It don't leave no track."

Chad Pennington, QB, New York Jets -- "That's all well and good as far as it goes, but tell me, what does these things stand for, Herm? Jeezsus, Santany, can't catch a cold today, kin ya? Well, Jim, I mean Herm, we do need a raft. So we can float out of this g%#^@&! Black Hole ..."

Chad Pennington
The trip down the Super Bowl river had been moving so smoothly ...

Rich Gannon, QB, Oakland Raiders -- "I look off the safeties, bam, voila, we're in San Diego, sunning it up, collecting six figures ... so why am I so sour? ... I ... I don't know. It's like this strange alien being is inside my head. Plus, you have to stay on guys, else they'll forget what we play for. What do we play for? Money, and lots of it."

Al Davis, managing general partner, Oakland Raiders -- "Vader will betray me ... by his own son ... but the Dark Side of the Force is not to be underestimated. Vader is even now inside his son Gannon's helmet, calling him. Callahan too is being driven by what's left of Vader's life force ... I like the sequence Vader is calling. Hacketted Paul Hackett. Some people call me the Space Cowboy, some call me the Gangster of Love, some people call me Maurice, cause I speak of the Pompadour of Love ... wake up, loyal Otto."

Charles Woodson, DB, Oakland Raiders -- "Bull%$#!"

Eddie George, RB, Tennessee Titans -- "Pass."

Jeff Fisher, coach, Tennessee Titans -- "Four no-trump."

Joe Nedney, K, Tennessee Titans -- "Five no hearts."

Tommy Maddox, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers -- "Six clubs, and boy do I got 'em! Hinesey, Randle El, Plexi, tra-la, la-la. I can't wait 'til next year. Kordell, can I help you pack?"

Terrell Owens, WR, San Francisco 49ers -- "Seven no-trump."

Steve Mariucci, coach, San Francisco 49ers -- "What kind of ridiculous-ass, stupid-ass bid ... oh, hello, T.O. How's my guy. Good? Get enough sleep. Get some rest. You sick? You need to take something for that? ... (T.O. leaves acting as if he's blowing his nose into a handkerchief) ... T.O., that strutz, he tried to have me set up. I don't want to see him again. Make that the first thing on your list, Mooch."

Warren Sapp, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- "Me? Front-runner? Not me. Watch us in Philly. Yeah, I'll guarantee. Whatever happens, guaranteed not to be my fault."

Jon "Chucky" Gruden, coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- "Quick reads, quick throws, gotta scheme to get the ball out of Brad's hand real fast. If he gets to the second read ... dead. They'll be all over him. No getting away for Brad. Wish I had big 5. Dream about it. No one must ever know."

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."