© St. Petersburg Times, published January 4, 2002
There might be a better fullback in the NFC than Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott, but judging by Pro Bowl balloting released this week, fans don't know who that is.
Alstott not only was selected to his fifth Pro Bowl as a fullback, he was the NFL's fourth-highest vote-getter online, trailing only quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre and superback Marshall Faulk.
Alstott's popularity at his position -- well, the position at which he was listed -- was so dominant he totaled 470,147 online votes, nearly double that of the other NFC fullbacks combined.
No other Pro Bowl player was so overwhelming popular; Alstott's online total was more than fellow Bucs Pro Bowl players Warren Sapp (133,723), Ronde Barber (113,294), John Lynch (94,585) and Derrick Brooks (76,114) combined. Keyshawn Johnson (195,162) came closest among his Hawaii-bound teammates.
But if popular opinion was decidedly in Alstott's favor, the media have come down equally against Alstott's inclusion on the Pro Bowl roster.
ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli, writing about snubs, took a particular jab at Alstott, who was chosen instead of Pasquarelli's choice, 49ers fullback Fred Beasley:
"Maybe someday fans and players will finally acknowledge that Mike Alstott ... is one of the league's most overrated players and that he isn't even a fullback."
Don't bother comparing individual stats: Beasley has 172 total yards but has blocked well for a team with 4.5 a carry. Tampa Bay ranks 30th in the league at 3.4.
Sportsline.com's Pete Prisco selected Atlanta's Bob Christian as his NFC fullback, identifying Alstott as a "disappointment" who is "not a fullback but keeps going to the Pro Bowl anyway."
At CNNSI.com, NFL writer Don Banks offered "10 Players Who Always Make the Pro Bowl, But Shouldn't," and Alstott was listed second behind Vikings receiver Randy Moss.
"(Instead) I'll take a guy like Atlanta's Bob Christian, who has 585 total yards, four touchdowns, and can block his butt off," Banks wrote, including Tampa Bay teammates Sapp and Randall McDaniel (who wasn't picked this season) among his undeserving 10.
Pasquarelli also targeted Sapp, writing that his latest ticket to Honolulu is largely due to a "stellar reputation," arguing that Chicago's Ted Washington, who has 11/2 sacks but has kept blockers off linebacker Brian Urlacher, is more deserving.
For a real taste of disrespect, go back to the fan voting, where the Bucs' Brad Johnson drew fewer votes than eight NFC quarterbacks, including Panthers rookie Chris Weinke, who has led his team to 14 straight losses.
OUTBACK TRAFFIC DOWN: Traffic to outbackbowl.com, the New Year's Day game's official site, was down 19 percent from a year ago, with a later announcement and the return of last season's teams cited as factors.
"We lost a little bit, just not quite as much (traffic) as last year, when our traffic more than doubled from the year before," said Mike Schulze, the bowl's director of communications.
The site, produced by New Port Richey's Topher Bay Technologies, drew 701,810 page views during the 2001 calendar year, down from 869,828 in 2000, but the December traffic was down just 3 percent and accounted for nearly half the year's visitors.
"It's been very beneficial to the bowl game, because it's a very short turnaround between when teams are announced and when fans want to come to town," Schulze said. "It's as much a visitor's site as it is a football site. It's really taken a load off of us by not having to take so many calls with the same questions."
TID-BYTES: Bucs coach Tony Dungy and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen are honored as coaches at allprodad.com, a Tampa site that touts itself as "the ultimate game plan for fathers." Dungy, a father of four, and Christensen, who has three daughters, offer testimonials for the site, which offers a Play of the Day feature that can e-mail visitors a daily parenting tip. Former Bucs Trent Dilfer and Jackie Harris, each married with three children, are among 15 players on the All Pro Dad team. ... The most amusing link at outbackbowl.com is the obligatory "Where 2 Eat" feature, which of course is limited to 18 local Outback restaurants, as far away as Ocala. The page invites fans to check out four other Outback affiliated area restaurants, including Lee Roy Selmon's, but offers just logos for each. No phone number, no address, no link. What's Australian for ruthless?
-- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail Times staff writer Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org.