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31 posts from January 2007

January 31, 2007

Superblog: Don't die this week, Fidel

     It's the Wednesday before, four days 'til gametime, and here's another dose...

Aaasb_2        1.Aaafidel_1 Thousands of journalists are here from across the country and hundreds more from abroad to cover the Super Bowl. There would not be more media here for a major political convention.

     So this would not be a good week for Fidel Castro to die. I suspect the reaction to his demise across much of Miami -- outright celebration -- would be portrayed by the gathered press as an embarrassment to South Florida.

     Already we are ripe for criticism for that city-organized event at the Orange Bowl upon Castro's death. There were plans for music and T-shirts, plans to make it nothing less than a party, until an outcry forced the city to retreat. Loved the line on CNN: "When Castro dies, Miami will party like it's 1959."

     Let the people who despise Cuba's dictator dance in the streets upon his death if they wish. It's a free country. But how unseemly for Miami's city and county officials to have a hand in the carnival.

     [The preceding political rant has nothing to do with the Super Bowl at all, of course, a tangient that may be indicative of the writer's increasing boredom with Super Bowl Week].Aaaradio

     2. You'd click onto the following to find today's latest edition of Super Bowl With a Smirk.

January 30, 2007

Superblog: What's wrong with Super Bowl Week?

     It's the Tuesday before, five days 'til gametime, and here's another daily dose...

Aaaxli_1        Aaahate_11. Why do you hate Super Bowl Week? I am using this blog as a gauge. Most other posts here elicit dozens of comments, some several hundred. But these Superblog posts garner a trickle.

     I suspect that even the majority who will be interested in the game itself find the buildup predictable and rather numbing. Which makes me wonder if our daily special Super Bowl sections are being deployed directly as birdcage liners.

     Inviting your thoughts on Super Bowl Week -- the buildup to the game -- and what about it interests or bores you.

Aaaedwin      2. I was pleased to be at a dinner given Monday night in honor of Miami Herald legend (and my mentor) Edwin Pope, who recently marked his 50th anniversary with our newspaper and who is one of only four writers to have covered all 41 Super Bowls.

     My love of writing and the seed for what I would do for a living grew from reading Edwin. With him, words always are perfectly chosen, and the language is never in better care. Congratulations on both your 50th and 41st, Edwin. Many more.

Aaamd      3. Click on the following for today's edition of our Super Bowl With a Smirk notes column.

January 29, 2007

On Shaq, Federer, Tiger, ING, Barbaro etc.

     [Updated: Monday afternoon, 1-29: Kentucky Derby-winner Barbaro has been put to sleep. Which makes the final item below even more tasteless than it otherwise might have been. Oops.]

     A little Monday smorgasbord of the non-Super Bowl variety...Aaashaq

     Heat star and reserve police officer Shaquille O'Neal, who has missed almost the entire NBA season and whose knee evidently still isn't right, helped police apprehend a driver who'd sideswiped his car and then fled. One small request. Dear Shaq: Less arresting. More playing. 

     Roger Federer's Australian Open win was his 10th major and the first major in men's tennis since 1980 won in straight sets. Same weekend, buddy Tiger Woods wins his 7th PGA Tour event in a row. My question: Is their dominance good for their sports? I say yes; people love a dynasty. But I know plenty of folks who find their seemingly unchallenged supremacy sort of boring.

Aaaparis      That ING Marathon & Half-Marathon in Miami started so early in the morning that South Beach partyers were just leaving clubs as runners swarmed past. That explains the weird mixup: the women's marathon accidentally being won by Paris Hilton, pictured here nearing the finish line.

     Reminder that college football's national signing day is Feb. 7. Only nine days left to spend hours on the Internet trying to fathom the destination of Al Pimpleneck, the nation's 74th-ranked long snapper.

Aaatest      The NHL All-Star Game drew a 0.7 national Nielsen rating. It would have been 0.8, but at the last minute I switched to the channel that has that continuous piercing beep and a test-pattern.

Aaaelton      Beloved racehorse Barbaro has undergone risky surgery and had two steel pins put in his right hind leg. Trying to stay optimistic, but the news doesn't look good. They've put Elton John on call to rewrite "Candle in the Wind" again.

Superblog: Schmaltz, but no stilts

     It's the Monday before, six days 'til gametime, and here's your daily shot of Super Bowl With a Smirk. There is no antidote, although penicillin couldn't hurt...Aaaxli

     "A Salute to South Florida's Super Tradition,'' an extravagant, star-studded event marking the ceremonial start of Super Bowl Week, happens tonight at the Hard Rock arena in Hollywood. Some tables of 10 were priced as high as $7,500 because, again, the NFL is all about keeping everything low-key.

AaaolysAaaolys4       The league launched this official kickoff show a few years ago. It's the equivalent of an Olympics' Opening Ceremonies, except without the flock of doves, the flaming torch or the creepy guys on stilts.

     The dinner and show will be emceed by CBS' Lesley Visser and is to include entertainment (Hootie & the Blowfish, impressionist Frank Caliendo); both head coaches ( Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith); new commissioner Roger Goodell; past and present Dolphins (including Don Shula, Larry Csonka and Jason Taylor); and prominent players from the eight previous Super Bowls held in Miami.

     Taking a wild guess, we will presume the latter category will not include Stanley Wilson, the Bengal who missed the 1989 SB here when he turned up in a hotel bathtub on crack; or Eugene Robinson, the Falcon who missed the 1999 game here after his arrest for offering an undercover cop $40 for sex.

     Turned out Robinson, who had won the Bart Starr Award for ''high moral character,'' was a hypocrite. Even worse, he was cheap!

     (*) The favored Colts are to arrive at the Fort Lauderdale airport this evening. Reebok reports that both starting QBs, Peyton Manning and Rex Grossman, will be shod in that brand. However, apparently they wear different styles of Reeboks. Manning wears the kind that allows you to complete lots of passes and be really good. (Note: Smirk expects nothing in exchange for passing this important Reebok information along. However, in the event we would be surprised by a token gratuity, size 11, please).

     (*) Table 8, a restaurant in The Regent South Beach hotel, is partly owned by a Chicagoan, Josh Woodward, but one of his business partners is Colts defensive star Dwight Freeney. This means the hotel is sure to be a popular hangout for Colts players and fans. (Note: Smirk expects nothing in return for passing this along. However, in case we might be pleasantly surprised, porterhouse, please. Medium).

     (*) About those rumors that Super Bowl capacity at Dolphin Stadium will be greatly reduced: Smirk has heard but has not yet confirmed that entire sections of prime seats have been paved over so that celebrities may watch the game from their limousine in a reserved parking lot situated between the 40s.

     (*) A kickoff party for the Jim Brown Celebrity Golf Classic will be held tonight at Doral. Partyer/golfers are expected to include former star running backs Eric Dickerson, Marcus Allen and Gale Sayers, and dance contest-winner Emmitt Smith. The who's-who of great runners will include just about everyone except O.J. Simpson, who lives in South Florida but who -- in a recent poll of Things Least Welcome at the Super Bowl -- finished second, narrowly trailing a chemical bomb attack.

     (*) ESPN and the NFL Network alone will be broadcasting some 190 hours of Super Bowl coverage leading up to the game. It's an excellent reason to grab one of the many handguns available here in South Florida and murder your TV.

     (*) Former running back Terrell Davis, Rams tight end Roland Williams and two Dolphin cheerleaders are to visit American soldiers back from Iraq at Miami's VA Medical Center today. It is believed the soldiers will enjoy the visit, despite the superfluous appearance of Davis and Williams.

     (*) Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami's ''Blitz Build 2007'' kicks off today. The NFL involves itself in this every year in an attempt to counterbalance the ostentatious excess of Super Bowl week. It will be a great opportunity for visiting sportswriters who are deep-thinking and sociologically minded, or who have a tee time and are looking for an easy tear-jerk column.

     (*) Bodog.com tells us more than 500 proposition bets are offered for Sunday's game, including the duration of the national anthem by Billy Joel. The over/under is 1 minute, 44 seconds. I have the under. So if Billy holds that last note forever to end at 1:46, that will explain the booing from the press box.

January 28, 2007

Superblog: Ready, set, hype!

     It's the Sunday before, seven days from gametime, and we set the stage for Super Bowl Week as the Bears, Colts and battalions of journalists start to arrive. Here are the major themes Your Friend the Media have commenced beating into an unrecognizable pulp:

     1. African-American head coaches in Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, the first two ever in a Super Bowl. Exhorting my media brethren to take this obvious story a step further, though. When will the NFL finally have a Japanese head coach!? A Muslim!? A woman!? Or, ideally, a black woman with a Japanese dad whose pep talks quote liberally from the Koran.

     2. Will Peyton Manning finally win a Super Bowl ring? Will any story about this succeed in not referencing Dan Marino? Rare Super Bowl here. Media far less interested in the star quarterback's injured thumb than in his naked finger.

     3. The putridity of Rex Grossman. Will he be the worst quarterback ever to start in a Super Bowl? Answer: Almost. Saving my media colleagues the research with two words: Vince Ferragamo.

     4. Old Dolphins angle. A natural. You have Marino in the CBS booth. That epic 1985 Bears-Dolphins game. The 1972 Perfectos lurking, eager to be interviewed. You even have a Colts player named Jake Scott.

     5. Host city. This is lazy-journalist heaven and -- Holy Don Johnson! -- Miami is a ripe target with the easy drug-and-gun references. The thing is, with the past two Super Bowls having been in stinky Jacksonville and God-forsaken Detroit, we can't help but look like paradise.

     6. The Serious Sociological Story. Here, an enterprising writer forays into underprivileged part of town -- foraying is much easier in a pair of $300 Bruno Maglis -- to chronicle the sad juxtaposition of Super Bowl excess and glitz with real-life Miami. Journalist quickly discovers, however, that enterprising writers far outnumber underprivileged Miamians, and soon the discouraged writers repair to Bayside and, over cocktails, bemoan the absence of 1989-style rioting.

     Speaking of the underprivileged, that reminds me. I was driving to The Herald building in downtown Miami today and a bum in a ratty gray sweat shirt approached my car at an intersection. I asked if he needed a lift, but Bill Belichick told me no thanks.

     (*) Some local fans are upset that no barbecuing, alcohol or any form of tailgating will be allowed within a mile of the stadium. It's an NFL rule. Security reasons. And it makes sense. Government intelligence indicates 78 percent of terrorists got their start grilling chicken and brats outside an American football stadium.

     (*) Evidently those upset by the no-tailgating rule have not yet been made aware that Super Bowls are now corporate events having little to do with actual football fans. However, the league is trying to keep some of the spirit of tailgating and real fans. For example, inside one of the mammoth corporate tents, among the linen-covered tables and sumptuous catered food, there will be an elaborate, life-sized ice sculpture depicting a man with a painted face squatting over a Hibachi.

     (*) Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown is selling his Toyota Sequoia and two Super Bowl tickets on eBay in a package that had fetched a high bid of $35,100 when last checked. This is where, if I were mean, I'd mention that one of the features of Brown's Toyota is its low yardage.

     (*) The Chicago Bears arrive today, beating the Indianapolis Colts by a day. Based on the point spread reflecting the nearly unavoidable participation in the game of Grossman, it may be the last time we see the Bears beating the Colts at anything. Expected to greet the team at Miami International Airport: Host Committee members; local politicians and dignitaries; and Michael Vick, handing out souvenir fake water bottles with secret hidden compartments.

     (*) Chicago's travel party was to include nose tackle Tank Johnson, cleared by a judge to join the team after being arrested Dec. 14 on six counts of possessing an unlicensed gun while on probation for an earlier weapons charge. Welcome, Tank. You are at home here. You are one of us. In Miami, the gun shops have drive-through windows. Around here, when kids bust open piñatas at birthday parties, weapons fall out.

     (*) The Bears are Miami-Dade's team in this Super Bowl, arriving in Miami, staying at the Miami Airport Hilton and practicing at UM's facility. And the Colts are Broward's team, arriving at the Fort Lauderdale airport, staying at the city's Marriott Harbor Beach and practicing at Dolphins HQ in Davie. Cannot confirm a rumor that, in keeping with the Bears' Dade-ization, Grossman will be calling plays in Spanish and Lovie Smith will begin his first local news conference with an anti-Castro screed.

     (*) This officially is the ''South Florida Super Bowl,'' by the way, not the ''Miami Super Bowl.'' Other host cities don't regionalize; it isn't the Southeast Louisiana Super Bowl. We're weird, though. Think of us as a dysfunctional family. Broward is the mentally unstable jealous little brother who we thought might become enraged and do something rash if we called it the ``Miami Super Bowl.''

     (*) The Super Bowl is all about kids. There are youth football clinics this weekend at the Orange Bowl and Lockhart Stadium, and, today, there will be cheerleading and dance-team events on the Dolphin Stadium grounds. It is estimated that, of the 4,000 or so kids involved in these activities, as many as half a dozen may someday, as grownups, be able to afford Super Bowl tickets.

     (*) Finally, the NFL Experience, an 850,000-square-foot interactive theme park, is now open for business at Dolphin Stadium. There are more than 50 games and attractions including many designed to let fans feel what it's really like to be a player. For example, at a special Cincinnati Bengals-themed exhibit, fans get to experience what it's like to be arrested.

January 26, 2007

Superblog: Dissin' the Dolphins

     1. ESPN.com ambitiously ranks all 80 teams from the first 40 Supes -- find the list by clicking here -- and it does nothing but feed the feeling of Don Shula and many of his 1972-73 Dolphins that those teams have been disrespected historically.

     The '72 Perfect Season Dolphins are ranked only No. 7, and the '73 champs don't even rate the top 20, checking in 21st. Realistically, where would you place the 17-0 Perfectos from '72 on a list such as this?

     2. Fun little video with a five-question quiz to tell you if you should be a Colts fans or a Bears fan. Takes about a minute. Check it out here.

January 25, 2007

VOTE: Heat midseason poll

     The defending champion Heat completed the first half of the NBA regular season at 19-22, with Shaquille O'Neal out injured for all but the first four games.

How do you see the Heat finishing the season?
Rallying to win second straight title
Reaching Finals but losing to West
Not reaching Finals
Not making playoffs

What best reflects your feeling on Shaq's return?
Will make a huge difference; still NBA's best center
He's still good, but health and eroding dominance a concern

Who is biggest East threat to Miami reaching Finals?

Who is most likely Finals team from West?

NOT COUNTING DWYANE WADE, who has been the Heat's first-half MVP?
Udonis Haslem
Jason Kapono
Alonzo Mourning
Jason Williams

How much does the Heat miss convalescing Pat Riley?
A lot
Not much

January 23, 2007

Will Dolfans root against Manning?

     A little sporting smorgasbord for your Wednesday...

Aaamm      1. The postulate has been put to me in several e-mails and unbidden comments from friends and acquaintances the past couple of days: That Dolfans -- at least those who worship Dan Marino, which is most -- will root against Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl because they don't want him to have what Danny does not. A ring, of course. Wondering if this is the far fringe of opinion (I didn't say lunatic fringe!) or something darkly prevailing?

     2. Granted the Knicks aren't very good, but a Heat-record 27-point run in an easy win despite the absence of Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade? Just when you want to think no-way on a HeatPeat or even a return to the Finals, this team reels you back in.Aaabrown_car

     3. How much would you pay for Ronnie Brown's customized Toyota Sequoia (left) and two Super Bowl tickets? Find the eBay link by clicking here.

     4. Anybody believe Bill Parcells is really retired? Isn't this just to get away from Terrell Owens? I suspect that, after a season off, Tuna and Bill Cowher will be A-list free agent coaches weighing  offers a year from now.

Aaamarve      5. UM football has lost another quarterback recruit but seems close to landing Tampa's hotshot Robert Marve (pictured). The big question: Would any local newspaper be able to resist a headline play on "Marve-lous news"?

     6. NASCAR finally has noodled with its "Chase" format to place more emphasis on actually winning races. For a sport that moves 180 mph, this one took its time catching up to common sense.

     7. If an NHL All-Star game was held on TV and nobody saw it, would it still make a noise?

January 22, 2007

Super Bowl: COLTS-BEARS!

Aaasb_1       Aaasbind                Aaasbchi2            [Updated Monday afternoon, 1-22: First betting line I've seen has Colts favored by 7. Big. But the logic is simple. Hardly anyone in America, excepting those who worship Sundays at Soldier Field, can figure any way that Rex Grossman is going to keep pace with Peyton Manning.]

Aaabrian      NFC: I figured Saints' offensive firepower would best what I saw as a vulnerable Bears defense. Oops! Oooooops. Chicago is headed to Miami after a resounding 39-14 NFC rout of visiting New Orleans. It was the weather. It was Saints mistakes. It was Da Bears prevailing despite early awfulness by Rex Grossman. It was yours truly, underestimating Chicago. Another great pick by me, huh? I couldn't predict tomorrow's sunrise and get it right.

     Aaapm_1 AFC: As you'd see by my game column found here, this game was about as good as it gets. Don't see how the Super Bowl will top it. I liked Peyton and the Colts for the AFC title. Might even have envisioned such a shootout. But 38-34 decided in the last minute? Wow. A true thriller. The burden is lifting from Manning. One more win, though, before it's lifted.

     Comments welcome here on the Super Bowl matchup we have inherited. My initial take? You can't do much better than a Manning-Grossman duel of QBs: A bona fide all-time great against a guy happy to not explode right in the middle of the huddle.

January 21, 2007

Heat vs. Mavs: No Shaq, no win

     [Updated late Sunday afternoon, 1-21.]Heat vs. H

     Shaquille O'Neal tentatively was scheduled to return from his knee injury this afternoon at home vs. Dallas after being sidelined since early in the season, but there he was courtside. Not in uniform, but in a big blue suit, his comeback delayed yet again.

     This looked like the Heat's greatest test of this so-far erratic, disappointing season: The Mavericks, who owned the league's best record and were on a 19-1 tear, in a reprise of last summer's NBA Finals. Final: Dallas 99, Miami 93. Good effort, sans Shaq. Does "good try" count?

     I continue to think the Heat, at full strength, can return to the Finals. But the feeling on that isn't very strong. Nor is likelihood of a HeatPeat against the mighty West. Today might have helped shape opinions, but didn't, really.

     It's close to midseason. Do you know where's your Heat's prospects are?