Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Updated: May 31, 2:20 PM ET
The cold reality of Houston

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Editor's Note: The Sports Guy is writing a running blog from Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, and he will be updating it a couple of times each day.

  • Previous days: Monday

    Updated: Tuesday, 7:45 p.m. ET
    HOUSTON -- It's cold and windy here. Feels a little like Chicago. During Media Day on Tuesday morning, Reliant Stadium was colder than a high school hockey rink. Some Patriots players -- grown men, some of whom weighed more than Danny DeVito's entire family -- were shivering during interviews. I'm not kidding. Shivering.

    And I guess my point is this ...

    Does anyone know why the Super Bowl is in freakin' Houston? Why? Why? Why? For the love of God, why?

    Answer me! I'm not kidding!

    Answer me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    See, there is no answer. I asked around Tuesday. Nobody really knew why the Super Bowl was here. Even the locals seem mystified -- they all have the glazed look that families get when they're being handed a Publisher's Clearing House check. When I asked last night's cab driver Sdfgshsgsgahahsshdfgk Wdvvdbdbmbnnma "Why is the Super Bowl here?", he responded in broken English, "I do not know! I am as surprised as you!"

    So everyone's just happy to be here. And honestly, that's fine. This is a magnificent week for the city -- a celebration of everything good about Houston, if you will -- and I'm happy they seized the national spotlight for one week. Really, I'm excited for them. I lived in Charlestown, Mass., for eight years -- if we had ever gotten the Super Bowl, the mere thought of me hugging Joe the Alcoholic Counter Guy from Store 24 upon hearing the news ... I mean, it brings tears to my eyes. I can't even imagine.

    People are psyched here. On Monday night, they threw a huge celebration at the Reliant Center, capped off by Nolan Ryan symbolically passing a football to Roger Clemens, who was standing a few feet away. Sadly, Ryan can't throw 100 mph anymore. Alas. Clemens caught the ball, searched it to make sure there wasn't any cash stuffed inside, told the football that he would never throw it to anyone else because he wanted to retire with the football, then threw it to his buddy Andy Pettitte. And everyone went crazy. Apparently it was a great moment -- I couldn't see it that well with the blood pouring out of my eyes.

    Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens
    Yes, The Sports Guy has to share the same city with both Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
    Here's the point: If we're going to do it this way, then everyone should get a turn. I love Pittsburgh. Underrated city. Let's give them 2009. And let's give 2010 to Milwaukee, because that's another cool place. I've always wanted to go to Dallas -- let's give them 2011. And so on. Everyone gets a turn. Eventually, I hope the Super Bowl ends up in Wellesley, so my Dad can walk to the game and host the Maxim party at his house. And after what I've seen this week, it just might happen.

    So either do it that way, or go back to the Big Three (Miami, N'Awlins, San Diego). But you can't keep doing it the current way. You can't go from Houston to Jacksonville to Detroit ... and then bring the Big Three back just so everyone can say, "Cool, I get to go to one of the good Super Bowls this year!" You just can't. I don't care about rejuvenating a city's economy; I care about me.

    And I'm cold. I'm very cold. I can't feel my feet. I didn't wear a jacket Tuesday, and you know why? Because I'm at the Super Bowl!!!!!! You shouldn't have to wear a damn jacket at the Super Bowl! Really, I'm outraged. If we were in Miami right now, I'd be making Sonny Crockett jokes by the dozen, or sitting on the beach filling Lamar Odom's water pipe for him. Instead, I'm here. In Houston.

    And I'm freezing.

    As for Media Day, I didn't keep a running diary this year -- partly because I did the same thing two years ago, partly because I was too cold to write anything down. Here's what it would have looked like:

    9 a.m. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    9:02: I think I just lost feeling in my feet.

    9:03: It's so cold in here, Peyton Manning just showed up and threw two more interceptions.

    9:04: Tom Brady is surrounded by about 100 reporters. By the way, my lips are blue.

    9:05: If I clotheslined Michael Wilbon and stole his leather jacket right now, would any jury convict me?

    9:06: I can't see straight.

    9:07: Could somebody get Adam Vinatieri a blanket? I don't want him to get cold.

    9:08: Brrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    Well, you get the idea. God forbid the Texans turned the heat on. I ended up wandering around aimlessly, pretending I was working on a column about all the angles that people come up with on Media Day. At least that's what I told my boss, KJ. Fortunately, he couldn't understand me because my jaw was frozen shut.

    Funny thing about those angles. Everyone had a game plan that was more transparent then a Bruce Coslet offense. There were about 100 people surrounding Brady; in a Super Bowl without any interesting storylines, everyone seems happy to push the "Wow, is Tom Brady becoming famous!" angle. Ty Warren was getting the "Rookie who can't believe he's here" traffic; Rodney Harrison the "Appreciative veteran who can't believe he's here" traffic; Antowain Smith the "Hey, you're from Houston!" traffic; Charlie Weis the "When are you gonna get the chance to coach your own team?" traffic. And so on.

    So you can go two ways -- either work on one of the predictable angles, get the job done, molest the free brunch, then head back to your hotel and pretend the whole thing never happened, or you can come up with a quirky angle. For instance, Kenny Mayne played off the more visible Patriots giving interviews in makeshift podiums; I can't tell you more because the piece hasn't run yet. Solid idea though. "It's gonna be a home run," Kenny said confidently. He was like Joe Namath.

    (Note: Not the Namath who tried to make out with Suzy Kolber -- I'm talking about the Namath from Super Bowl III.)

    We came up a funny angle for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (I can't describe the details until it runs Wednesday night), an elaborate prank with Cousin Sal that took place over the course of two days. Hey, I thought it was funny. What do I know? We even got yelled at and escorted off the premises. Regardless, it had to be better than the dweeb from the "Tonight Show," who was walking around asking players questions like, "What would you say is the key to me getting more girls?" Hysterical stuff.

    Some networks use ex-players, like the NFL Network's Jamal Anderson (more straightforward) and Warren Sapp (more goofy), or the Best Damn Sports Show's Anthony McFarland (who was asking some crazy questions and seemed to know everyone in the place). Nickelodeon had some kid in a superhero costume running around. One of the Boston affiliates turned the tables by using Pats tight end Christian Fauria as a correspondent. And there were the Token Hot Chicks on hand, including some blonde from Spike TV who was wearing a fur coat, a mini-skirt and Uggs.

    As far as the newspapers go, the "wackiest" angle involved one of the reporters asking people, "What's the craziest question you heard today?" Made me wish I was playing, if only because I would have answered that by saying something like "Have you ever been with another dude?" or "Have you ever traded bestiality tapes?"

    In general, the lack of originality at Media Day is simply startling. When I'm running ESPN6 some day and Media Day rolls around, here's what I plan on doing: Finding the hottest available chick in broadcasting -- someone who doesn't even have to be passable on camera, just crazy-attractive -- then having her prance around in the skimpiest outfit possible. Even better than a fur coat and Uggs.

    And while she pretends to interview players, I'm going to have my cameramen clandestinely filming all the sportswriters and broadcasters as they leer at her -- these poor guys who've been trapped in press boxes and locker rooms for the past 10 years, the guys who literally can't believe what they're seeing. You really have to see them in action. I was watching them intently today, thinking to myself, "Where have I seen that crazy-eyed, overwhelmed look before? Then I realized ... it's the same look that my dog Dooze gets when we bring her home leftover steak.

    To capture an array of those looks on tape ... now that's a good piece. And the best thing about it?

    It wouldn't even matter if it were cold.

    (Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.)

    Updated: Tuesday, 11 a.m. ET
    Reason No. 933 why the Super Bowl is different than anything else: The NFL Fan Experience.

    None of the other sports have anything like it. Picture a giant convention center filled with merchandise, interactive exhibits, events, video games, memorabilia and everything else. And it's all about the NFL. On paper, it sounds fantastic. If they ever built one for the NBA, my head would probably explode.

    As always, there's a catch. Or in this case, a multi-catch.

    1. (Too many people) X (Too cramped a space) = a recipe for disaster

    Much like the coach in "Teen Wolf," I live by a certain set of codes. Never play cards with anyone who has the same first name as a city. Never bet against a team with an owner whose last name ends in a vowel. Never answer the question when a woman asks you, "Do you think I look fat?" Never follow beer with liquor. Never bum a cigarette off another man unless you absolutely have to do it. Never trust a woman who tells you, "I don't normally do something like this." Never tell anyone how much you have wagered on a game.

    (Wait, there's more!)

    Never leave less than 20 percent on a dinner check (unless the service is absymal). Never use anything other than the cheapest gas possible in a rental car. Never be friends with anyone who doesn't like "Field of Dreams." Never enter the X-rated section of a video store if someone else is in there. Never remain friends with someone who continually chooses their wife or girlfriend over spending time with the guys. Never bet on a crappy QB on the road. Never give your credit card to anyone in a strip joint. Never forget to call your Mom. And never trust anyone who roots for more than one team in the same sport.

    NFL Experience
    The circus-like atmosphere of the NFL Experience didn't stop the Sports Guy from checking out the scene.
    I'm sure there's more; that's all I can remember right now. But here's why I'm telling you this: Another one of those rules is, "Never have high expectations for anything that has long lines."

    I hate long lines. It's the same reason I can't stand amusement parks. There isn't a rollercoaster on the planet worth waiting in line for over an hour, especially when you're standing between a 400-pound woman with B.O. and a 13 year-old kid with a third arm sprouting out of his back. It sucks the life out of you. It's the same feeling you get when you watch "Cops," multiplied by 100. Maybe I just don't like other people.

    And just the process of standing and moving incrementally -- two feet at a time -- I mean, is there anything worse than this? Anything? You get oodles of this at the NFL Experience, assuming you want to wait in line for an hour so your kid can kick a field goal for 5 seconds.

    Speaking of kids ...

    2. Any time the number of kids outnumbers the number of adults, and you don't have any kids yourself, there's a very good chance you're about to have a miserable time.

    Did you ever want to have kids? Well, don't attend the NFL Experience. At about the 45-minute mark -- after the 20th time somebody rolls their baby stroller into the side of your leg (and doesn't even think to apologize), or a little boy sprints directly into your crotch at full speed -- you feel the soul start to leak from your body.

    Here's the deal with kids: When you get married, your other friends who have kids tell you, "It's great, you have to do it, it's the best experience you'll ever have."

    And then they spend the next 15 minutes telling you how they don't sleep, they get up three times a night, their kids keep getting them sick, they haven't left the house in three months, they stink like diapers, they can't find a good babysitter, they never have sex, and they don't have time to watch TV, follow sports, play sports, go to the movies or basically do anything at all. Really, it sounds fantastic.

    I have a theory on this: I think 90 percent of parents can't believe how miserable they are, so they make a secret pact and try to get everyone else to have kids, just so everyone else is in the same boat and they don't have to hear stories about four-course dinners, Vegas trips, romantic getaway weekends and everything else. They're like Jim Jones in Guyana -- "Drink the Kool-Aid, seriously, it's phenomenal! You have to try this!"

    The NFL Experience reminded me of all this stuff -- just hordes and hordes of parents running after their out-of-control kids, or grabbing them violently by the arm because they're beating the hell out of one another while waiting on one of those endless lines. In four hours, I think I witnessed 256 cases of bad parenting -- including a little kid who took a Frazier-like left handed smack across the face.

    Carson Kressley
    Carson Kressley waits patiently to enter the NFL Experience.
    3. You have to wear a pink wristband to get in and walk around.

    Apparently the chairman of the NFL Experience this year was Carson Kressley.

    4. When you're attending any kind of event and browsing potential purchases, and the mere sight of some prices actually makes you emit an audible noise, well, they probably went a little overboard.

    Yeah, I know it's a Super Bowl. It's a once-a-year event. It's probably going to be a little overpriced. But $650 for an autographed Bledsoe Pro Bowl jersey? Or $140 for an autographed Mark Rypien football? What about $500 for those cheesy black leather jackets with the Super Bowl XXXVIII logo on the back, the kind of coat you see a manager wearing at a strip club. Even the minor stuff seemed high -- like $22 for a flimsy T-shirt, $55 for an ugly sweatshirt, $85 for a Super Bowl fleece, even $10 for beads.

    Some of the stuff isn't bad. I liked the official Super Bowl boot -- $20 for a souped up, mini-cowboy boot in honor of Houston. The various pins are always enjoyable to peruse. I didn't like any of the t-shirts that much -- really, is it that difficult to make a cool-looking Super Bowl shirt, with not a ton of crap on it, and a thick material? -- but they had some Spanish Super Bowl shirts that were funny, like "El Gran Juego" and "La Gran Batalla."

    (Note to vendors: I would get the "Lo Mejor De Lo Mejor" shirt if it wasn't in blood-red. Since when was blood-red an acceptable color to wear in public, unless you're a member of the actual Bloods? Whatever.)

    Here's what I'm looking for all week: One of those sleeveless fleece jackets, preferably dark-blue, with the Super Bowl logo on it. Whether it exists remains to be seen. I wouldn't mind one of those T-shirts with the pre-faded logos on them, the ones that make it seem like you've had them for ten years. And if there's a sweatshirt with a giant picture of Bill Belichick's face on it, and the phrase "HAIL TO THE GENIUS" on the back, I'd probably step in.

    Honestly, the NFL Experience isn't that bad, despite everything you just read., You just leave with the nagging sense it should be better. Some of the things I enjoyed:

  • There were a handful of NFL players signing autographs, including Anquan Boldin (the greatest garbage time roto receiver of all-time) and Dominick Davis, the guy who my buddy Sal traded in a two-for-one deal for Charlie Garner in November. I wanted to stand in Davis's line just to get a "Sal, (bleep) you for trading me" autographed football, but no joke would have been worth standing in line for an hour.
  • NFL Films Theater -- a 15-minute presentation in a mini-theater. Very cool. Now if they could only clone John Facenda.
  • Food. I like food.
  • It's exciting to walk around looking at all the merchandise, even when you know you probably aren't buying anything. You can really waste time just walking around and checking things out. You may even rope yourself into a panic purchase. I had some Super Bowl beads in my hands for about 20 minutes; then I thought to myself, "Why the hell am I holding beads? I'm not even in New Orleans."
  • Watching (from a distance, not standing in line) interactive exhibits like "Field goal kick" and "Halfback option" and "QB Challenge" -- they even built mock mini-fields for this and everything. This is the kind of place where you want to be accidentally locked into the building after everyone leaves, so you can try all the games without waiting in those hideous lines. By the way, I also would have added a "Dump Gatorade on your Dad when he's not looking" exhibit, but that's just me.
  • The memorabilia section was fantastic -- tons of stuff, most of it overpriced, but still entertaining to look through. Tons of old Sports Illustrated, old S.B. tickets, football books, framed photos, cards and everything else. I especially loved the $125 autographed photo of Nolan Ryan getting Robin Ventura in a headlock, in mid-punch. Makes you wish you knew Ventura, just so you could buy it for him as a gag gift. Just for the record, I could have spent 5 hours just walking around there and looking at stuff.
  • Kelvin Harris
    When you have to wait an hour to get an autograph from Kelvin Harris, you know you're in for a long day.
    And that's that. If you're an adult in Houston this week, and the lines aren't ridiculous to get inside, definitely head down there - just to peruse the giant Champs merchandise section, as well as the memorabilia section. If there's time, sit through the NFL Films movie. And then leave treadmarks getting out of there before somebody rolls a stroller over your achilles heel.

    Also, if you're an adult with kids, please sedate them. For everyone's sake. And don't whack them because it makes everyone else uncomfortable. I'm not kidding.

    One last thing: One of the things that makes this week special -- despite everything you just read -- is that the NFL even has things like "The NFL Experience" in the first place. So here's my plan for the NBA, since I'm one of only 20 fans remaining on the planet, and they're even on the verge of losing me because the product has been so excruciatingly brutal this season:

    We change the Finals. Make it so the first three games are in a neutral city: New Orleans, Vegas, Miami or San Diego (the Big Four). Everyone goes. It would be just like the Super Bowl, only with better looking groupies. After that, the team with the worse record gets Games 4 and 5, the team with the better record gets Games 6 and 7.

    And if it happened, we could achieve my dream of an NBA Experience: Tons of merchandise and memorabilia; waves of baskets where you could shoot free throws and 3-pointers; video booths and presentations; an exhibit of David Stern's various mustaches from the 1980s; a "Holler Obscenities at Referee Steve Javie" booth; a "Ride in a limo and drink Courvoisier with Ricky Davis and his posse" silent auction; even a section where the Blazers could get high with their fans. It would truly be fantastic. So let's make it happen.

    Now those are some lines I wouldn't mind waiting on.

    Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, as well as one of the writers for "Jimmy Kimmel Live." He'll be updating his Super Blog two or three times per day from Houston.