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Monday, January 27, 2003
Updated: January 28, 8:45 AM ET
Getting faced

By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

We gather 'round The Cooler today, trying to find the appropriate analogy for the Everest-sized face job Jon Gruden just gave Al Davis.

I mean, seriously. We've all had gigs or friendships or whatever where there was some sort of falling-out, some sort of bad vibe, and we've all laid awake at night, fantasizing of dropping an enormo-face job on the person who hacked us off.

Jon Gruden
Revenge is a dish best served with a world championship trophy.
I gotta say, Gruden has set the standard.

To pull off the greatest possible shaming of an old foe, to achieve the maximum embarrassment for an old compatriot who did you wrong, to take every spiteful vibe you've ever felt for somebody who wronged you, and made good on those spiteful vibes ... you have now "pulled a Gruden."

I'd say Jon Gruden pulled a serious Gruden on Al Davis Sunday night in San Diego.

We can even go so far as to say Gruden pulled a major Gruden Job on Al Davis. Just plain Gruden'ed him.

See, Weird Al never let Gruden feel comfortable in Oakland. Weird Al had issues with Gruden's star power in the Bay Area. The Great Sweatsuit wasn't going to extend Gruden's contract, and Gruden -- who is a pesky, feisty little Munchkin of a man -- was not pleased with the lay of the land.

So A.D. worked the trade. Gruden got out. Al got the cash and the picks. And everybody lived happily ever after.

That is, until Jan. 26, 2003 in a big ol' concrete bowl in the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego, where the sun beats down and fish tacos are served and Weird Al met Munchkin Gruden for the Super Bowl title.

Cue the final gun, cue the final score -- Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21 -- and cue Gruden doing a Leonardo DiCaprio, standing on top of the stadium screaming: "I'm the King of the World! ... and I just spray-painted 'JUST FACED' on Al's limo in the parking lot!"

Or, if a scene from "Titanic" is too sorry of an image, let's imagine Gruden as Mel Brooks in "History of the World, Part I." The final gun sounds, the scoreboard blares the final, and Our Man Gru turns to the camera with the Norman Fell -- "Three's Company" deadpan -- and says: "It's good to be the king."

The scouting report:
Chicks dig this guy Gruden. Chicks don't dig Al.

Al Davis
There's nothing to smile about Al. You've just been Grudened.
Gruden is young. Al is not.

Gruden has the Super Bowl trophy and a gigantic contract. Al has no Super Bowl trophy this year and salary-cap issues that require a tractor full of Advil.

Man. When I was in grammar school, and an akin scenario played out on our playground, somebody would take their hand, spread their fingers wide, and cover their own face with their own hand. The message?

Face, dude.

Face.

Monday morning, Jon Gruden will be required to show up at the Media Center down at the Marina Marriott in downtown San Diego for an 8:30 a.m. PST presser. He will assuredly be hung over, which is a good thing, and he will be posing for pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Let us dwellers propose, on the basis of this Super Bowl XXXVII victory, a new trophy to be made: A giant silver hand, covering a giant silver face.

The Jon Gruden Trophy. We have our inaugural winner.

On then, to the Super Bowl List of Five:

1. Barret Robbins: Where can you begin?
In All-Time Meltdowns, is Barret Robbins now the standard?

The salacious media Rumor Mill had some great theories on Robbins' mental blowout -- I'd list them here, but I think even the Internet is liable for libel, and let's just say the stories stopped just short of the Tijuana Donkey Show -- but there are some things that are clear.

1. He's a Pro Bowl player.
2. He would have helped the Raiders.
3. His AWOL job was not part of Bill Callahan's finely-scripted game plan.

Barrett Robbins
What exactly happened to Barrett Robbins?
Is this Jimmy Piersall stuff? Did the Raiders catch him trying to climb the fenced walls at the La Jolla Hyatt after he ran the football field backwards?

Is this Eugene Robinson stuff? No way. Robinson showed up to play, and his crime -- seeking, um, relief on the eve of a game for a mere $25 -- is not officially considered "conduct detrimental to the team," unless you get caught.

All I know is this: When the particulars of Barret Robbins' story come to full light ... man, that will be one hell of a story. Maybe the greatest Super Bowl side story of all-time. What will it be: Tecate? Tequila? Tijuana?

Or just a guy who had his own things going on?

The Super Bowl: a hell of a deal.

2. The Bucs' D: Wow

What if you had to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense anytime you wanted to do something in life?

You want to go to the kitchen for a bowl of Froot Loops -- but Simeon Rice and Greg Spires are coming off the edges in the living room and force you to take the sack in the dining room. No Froot Loops for you.

You want to head down to the corner market for a six-pack -- but John Lynch and Dexter Jackson have dropped down the street into a Cover 2 zone, and blocked your entrance to the market. No six-pack for you.

Who can beat these guys? They say speed kills, but the Tampa speed is guilty of multiple homicide.

I've heard recent theories that defense does not win championships, that it is only part of a championship.

Uh, sorry, chief.

Defense wins championships.

I believe in this theory as fervently as I believe in a purely poured pint of Guinness, or as intensely as I believe in the convictions of my buddy who attended the Maxim magazine party Saturday night of the Super Bowl, and reported on the particulars of Tara Reid's anatomy.

This is how fervent my belief in the Tampa Bay defense is.

3. Halftime at the Super Bowl
About four years ago, I had my Cooler Theory of Halftime Shows firmly in place, certain of my thought process. Halftime shows at the Super Bowl were pure Jump-the-Shark moments -- and when is the guy who invented that website going to start collecting his royalties, by the way?

Shania Twain
Was that Shania or Milli Vanilli?
Understand -- I'm old enough to remember when Up With People's "Birdland" qualified as legit halftime entertainment. After the NFL ditched half-baked traveling troupes, they tried to get hip. Sadly, they needed a hip replacement: The acts were fresh off of Hollywood's C-list, and it was tough stuff to take.

But everything changed last year, when U2 appeared at the Rams-Pats Super Bowl in New Orleans. U2, at a Super Bowl? What can The Cooler bag on, then? What can we mock? U2 is one of our all-time Hall of Fame bands, and they're doing Super Bowls?

The Cooler's cynical rifle was out of bullets.

And I have to say, Super Bowl XXXVII's halftime sorta held its own. This is getting disturbing, this acceptance of Super Bowl halftime entertainment.

All that said, I am not an enormo-fan of Shania Twain's music. I am, however, an enormo-fan of Shania Twain's being. Did you check out that outfit she had on? What was that: Canadian dominatrix meets Nashville casting couch? The thigh-high boots were a little much for the PG-13 audience, but rest assured -- from the Auxiliary Press Box in the north end zone, we had her covered via binocs.

After Shania, the rest was pure music, and I have to credit the NFL. Trust me, I'd love to rip the NFL, but No Doubt is a solid band, and they didn't even try to force some new stuff on us -- Gwen and the lads went with "Just a Girl" from the breakthrough album. Strong stuff.

And Sting -- man, who's got a beef with '"Message in a Bottle''? There I was, humping away for the mothership, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Sting and Gwen Stefani are dueting on "Message in a Bottle." I might as well be back in high school, pining for the cute girl in Spanish class, worrying about acne, and thinking about basketball practice after school.

Fond memories, all.

The NFL, producing quality tuneage -- I'm worried.

4. All That Said: Enough!
Yeah, so the Police are welcome at The Cooler anytime. That said, the fireworks and extraneous nonsense of NFL halftimes can stop now. So can the fake kids rushing to the stage to "cheer on" the musical acts.

I happened upon my boy M. Sax at the Super Bowl, and he was fresh off a two-month stint in Italy, where he attended a Champions League match in Rome -- AS Roma v. Arsenal. Quality, quality stuff.

In his telling, he reported on the purity of the event: No absurd P.A. system, no fireworks, no military flyovers. Just sports. That's all.

Gwen Stefani and Sting
The Cooler doesn't think Stings halftime act would be welcome back home.
During the Shania Twain dominatrix thigh-boots halftime show, I asked him: What was the halftime gig at AS Roma-Arsenal? He paused, then paused some more, and said: "I don't know, man. It was just halftime."

There's a certain beauty there, dwellers.

Just halftime.

5. Final thoughts on the San Diego Super Bowl
Raiders fans outnumbered Bucs fans, 9 to 1, on the streets of the Gaslamp District this week, which means The Cooler has had its fill of silver, black and any combination thereof for another 19 years, when the Raiders make it back to the Super Bowl. Mostly, I am shocked -- shocked! -- that the roiling emotions of 5th St. in San Diego did not produce a series of stabbings. Then again, who knows? They may not find the bodies for days.

. .

Is San Diego a Super Bowl town? It's got the weather and the babes. It does not have the Big City feel. Let's see ... Weather/Babes vs. Big City feel. We'll call it a tenuous draw, and say 'Diego can get another Super Bowl in the next 15 years ...

The NFL is finito for another year. What did we learn? We learned that Michael Vick is the Black Jesus. We learned that everything we ever thought about Terry Donahue and Steve Mariucci and potential power friction was right. We learned that the Pack can lose in Lambeau in January, that Steve McNair will always be the most underrated player of his generation, that Ricky Williams can find happiness outside of a wedding dress.

Those are good enough lessons. Especially when, in the background, Jon Gruden is giving Al Davis the "Face" sign.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.