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© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2002
Before visiting the new guy in town, I drove past my country's headquarters, the Capitol, as well as monuments to Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington and Vietnam heroes, then the MCI Center where Michael Jordan commands, the damaged Pentagon, plus the White House with President Bush inside nursing his football-watching, pretzel-inhaling boo boo.
Eventually, my tour reached Redskins Park, just beyond the northern end of Dulles Airport runaways in suburban Virginia, checking out Steve Spurrier, the hot new name in Washington, a unique precinct overloaded with political, athletic, educational and media celebrities.
Bush, Tom Daschle, Bob Graham, Larry King, Tim Russert, Tony Kornheiser and MJ are still around, but for now no one seems bigger than the accomplished, controversial, visor-topped old Heisman Trophy quarterback and championship coach from the University of Florida.
Radio talk shows were spewing optimism and excitement about the coming of the Spurrier Air Force. Detractors not evident. Already, capital broadcasters were imitating the ball coach's southern twang and homespun football terminology.
Sound bites from 'Skins veterans Bruce Smith, Darrell Green and Stephen Davis sizzled with optimism. Marty Schottenheimer seemed to have been brushed aside quicker than New Year's Eve confetti.
Spurrier is an 0-0 darling.
"Game days will be in a big ballpark, with loud and passionate fans filling the place, and it's still an 11-on-11 game," he said. "Differences between college football and the NFL can sometimes be exaggerated.
"I understand I've got a lot to learn. I understand this is not the SEC and our stadium is no longer the Swamp, but a lot of things are alike. Anywhere you play, it comes down to talented people being motivated and doing their jobs at a high level."
Honeymoon is on.
SNEAKS: Some bully suggests, re John McEnroe's new TV gig, "If you are going to pick somebody from sports to host a quiz show called The Chair shouldn't it be Bob Knight?" ... When a Raiders offensive tackle is introduced, with alma mater mention, there's a bit of a Mount Rushmore sound: "Lincoln Kennedy, Washington." ... In next season's Vikings media guide, will George O'Leary's bio, with a characteristic fudge, list him as "former Notre Dame coach"? ... Hold up a thumb if you'd like to see fewer TV cutaway shots of Warren Sapp. ... I'd like to invent the world's only painless, flawless tattoo remover and offer my services for a non-negotiable $25,000 per limb. ... Wonder if defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, upon impending retirement from the Ravens, losing his prime source of exercise, might get fat; or will the 340-pound body remain as taut as a milk shake?
READER'S SHOUT: E-mail from Ken Vance of Gainesville says, "My wife and I wondered, astonished that Spurrier will get $5-million a year from the Redskins, has there ever been a coach who has made more?"
HUBERT'S REPLY: Easy one, Ken. For one season with the Washington Snyders, Schottenheimer is grossing $10-million.
BLITZES: He is Denny Green's football mentor, but former 49ers coach Bill Walsh says of Vikings goings on, "I'm really disappointed things unraveled (but) it can occur in today's environment. A coach can lose his team. I'd look in the (Minnesota) locker room to see what happened; all the money, all the independence and need for personal identity and selfishness on the part of athletes." ... Are you listening, Randy Moss? Of course not. ... Some of us are well-aged enough to recall when America, instead of Afghanistan and Pakistan, could be more concerned with MusialStan. ... Dallas sports-writing icon Blackie Sherrod thinks it doubtful Spurrier will be as immediately well-prepared as Jimmy Johnson for a collegiate-to-NFL coaching leap because "JJ and certain staff members spent his last season at the University of Miami studying the pro game, its trends and techniques, as well as potential draft picks. ... It was a news bulletin when the president fainted after choking on pretzels while watching an NFL playoff game; what went unreported was an estimated 400,000 gaggings among Floridians watching their Bucs in another Philly flop.
Whatever happened to Richie Petitbon?
-- To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.