Max Lane was saying, “Well, I like Burt Reynolds.”
So you can reasonably figure out the question. You might then say, “What does Burt Reynolds being seldom-quoted Max Lane’s favorite movie star have to do with beating the Green Bay Packers?” And that would immediately stamp you as a Super Bowl neophyte.
At the Super Bowl, and on this day especially, there are no irrelevant questions (unless you’re Bill Parcells, and someone is asking you where you’ll be coaching next year). There is no subject that doesn’t matter. There is nobody who doesn’t matter. For this is the annual Super Bowl Media Day, when Max Lane’s thoughts on the movie industry and Brett Favre’s theories on the zone blitz carry equal weight.
Thus we learn from Packer safety LeRoy Butler the following tidbit: “When I started playing football in the eighth grade, I didn’t care as much about the competition as I did about the uniform. In fact, my mother says I came home that first day and slept in the uniform. I don’t really remember that, but she never lies.”
Media Day is the annual occasion when 3,000-odd people from all 50 states and various foreign countries whip out their notebooks, cameras and microphones and spend an hour dissecting the various participants in the forthcoming Super Bowl. It is also the day on which enterprising players turn their own cameras on the media and on each other, all in the name of a good “Super Bowl experience.” Even those who are notoriously media-shy - hello there, Ben Coates - are herded here under pain of mortal sin and NFL fine. No star is too big or too obscure.
This is the opportunity for Reggie White to preach his particular gospel (God spoke to him and sent him to Green Bay); for Andre Rison to demonstrate that he isn’t such a bad guy after all; for Pio Sagapolutele to pronounce his last name at least 75 times (“I just tell people to call me ‘Pio’ because they’ll just butcher my name”); for Mike Holmgren to expound on how grateful he is to have one Pro Bowl tight end (Keith Jackson) backing up another (Mark Chmura); for Chris Slade to tell how he felt when Bill Parcells pulled him from the starting lineup (“I took it personally”); for 325-pound nose tackle Gilbert Brown to fantasize about a Refrigerator Perry turn with the football (“If he calls on me, I’m runnin’ and I’m scorin”’) and for Parcells to identify the No. 1 off-the-field issue facing any young football player.
“I always say to them, ‘Did you pay your taxes?”’ said the Tuna. “Some of them really don’t know. I’ve seen more kids get into trouble with IRS problems than everything else put together.”
The players must wear football gear (no pads, natch), but all other accessories are optional. Patriots lineman Bruce Armstrong chose a gold-banded wrist watch only slightly smaller than the Maddencruiser, backed up by a gold charm bracelet. Several players wore black baseball caps with the Nike swoosh. Gold chains remain de rigueur. Green Bay’s Don Beebe wore a baseball hat with the familiar “John 3:16” inscription.
Beebe is a four-time Super Bowl veteran of the entire Buffalo Bills (losing) experience, and he offered an analysis of the week.
“I always use this analogy,” he said. “The first Super Bowl is like having your first child. You’re not sure what to do. It’s tough to adjust to. Then comes the second, the third, the fourth. They’re all new experiences which are great in themselves, but you know what to do. Right now, I’m treating this like just another game. It’s another great experience, but the difference is that I need a Super Bowl win.”
If you are a Patriot on this Media Day, you can be sure you’ll be asked about Parcells, and if you’re exGiant Bob Kratch, you can be sure that’s all you’ll be asked.
“Well, you’re right,” he said. “Nobody has asked me anything else. But I could be back in Minnesota with my buddy Brian Williams, freezing my tail off, rather than being here. I think I’d rather be back at the Super Bowl.”
And I think it’s comforting to know that there are certain things in life you can always rely on. Jim McMahon, born rude and self-centered, made interviewing him 10 times harder by being the only person on either team choosing to sit down for the entire allotted hour. McMahon is a backup quarterback whose only 1997 relevance is his history (he QB’d the ‘86 champion Bears in this very building). Once a jackass, always a jackass. So it goes at Media Day.