by | Jan 27, 1999 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

MIAMI– OK, Atlanta Falcons, listen up. There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. And as a veteran of this Super Bowl process, I am sorry to report that many of you, who are new to winning, let alone Super Bowls, are already making some beginners’ mistakes.

You’re saying wrong things. You’re doing wrong things. You’re even wearing wrong things, like dog collars (more on that in a second). As newcomers, you are at a disadvantage to your opponents, the Denver Broncos, who made it last year. And so, because I am that kind of guy, I am going to offer this one-time-only seminar in the dos and don’ts of Super Bowl hype week, directed at you, the Dirty Birds.

Beginning with how you get off a plane.

That’s right. This relatively simple task — open the door, walk down the steps, wave — was botched when you landed in Miami and the coaching staff decided to deplane in order of accomplishment.

“Pro Bowlers and 10-year veterans get off first,” they announced over the intercom.

No, no, Bird Men! Big mistake! First of all, you’re asking players to count to 10. That leaves some guys behind right there.

Secondly, one of the your most decorated veterans is your kicker, Morten Andersen. He’s from Denmark, for pete’s sake! And yet, under your distinction, he got to get off the plane ahead of the linemen, and those linemen could eat Morten on a croissant.

Falcons, you should know better. Never let a Danish kicker do anything ahead of a lineman, except maybe translate.

Little wonder many Atlanta players, including star receiver Terance Mathis, were mad. “We got here as a team,” he griped, “let’s keep it as a team.”

Terance is right. You want to fight over something on the plane, fight over the peanuts.

The coach and the collar

And while we’re on the subject of entrances, Dan Reeves, step forward. Coach, I’m surprised at you. All the Super Bowls you’ve been to, and you stir up the pot by rehashing a six-year-old feud with Mike Shanahan and John Elway? What was that all about? You rambled on during a press conference last week, accusing your ex-assistant and your ex-quarterback of colluding, back-stabbing, everything short of selling nuclear secrets to the Russians.

And then, on Sunday, you arrive here and …apologize?

No, no, no, no, no! You don’t enter a Super Bowl apologizing! How is that going to strike fear into the heart of your opponent? Maybe that surgery has you spun around, Coach. But from here on in, just give ’em the standard “we’re gonna take what the defense gives us” stuff.

Got it?

Let’s talk about the dog collar.

That’s right. The black leather and silver-spiked noose that cornerback Ray Buchanan wore around his neck on Media Day Tuesday. He looked like a model at an S&M convention. A dog collar, Ray? What was that about? Did you have to go for a walk?

Never mind that it was large enough to lasso an elephant. (Fashion tip, Ray: If you’re going to wear a dog collar, get one in the right size.) But here was your explanation: “We’re seven-point underdogs. I’m wearing this dog collar
’cause I’m having a joke with y’all. Dogs. Underdogs.”

Ray. Did you see anyone laughing? Maybe that one guy snapping your picture and thinking, “Thank you, Lord. I now have a photo to go with my ‘Decline of Western Civilization’ story.”

But Ray, you don’t play up the underdog thing. And you don’t go around
“guaranteeing” a victory, as you did a few days ago. Yes, I know Joe Namath guaranteed a victory. That was 30 years ago. There were like, eight people covering the Super Bowl back then.

Also, he was a quarterback. He could affect the outcome on every offensive play.

Guaranteeing victory when you are a defensive back only makes the other team mad. And your teammates don’t want that, Ray. Keep this up, and tomorrow, instead of a collar, you may be wearing a muzzle.

Now, where’s Jamal Anderson?

The not-so-sweet science

Jamal. Listen. You’re a tremendous talent. You’re a good-looking kid. You have stardom written all over you. So maybe you want to lay off on those stories about hanging around with Mike Tyson.

On Tuesday, you actually said, “I learned a lot about how to deal with the media by the boxing world I grew up in. Guys like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson. They pretty much had a great relationship with the media.”

Uh, Jamal. Tyson almost broke a reporter in half two weeks ago. He bites people. We don’t call that great. Lose the Tyson references. Pick somebody like Holyfield, OK?

Now, let’s not dwell on the negative. There have been several positives so far. Chris Chandler, you’re doing a nice job. On Tuesday, a reporter suggested you were a better quarterback than Elway and you chuckled and said, “Uh …I find that funny.”

Good answer. Downplay! Downplay! Or, when in doubt, choose the safe answer. Such as when Morten Andersen was asked, “How do you say touchdown in Danish?”

“Touchdown,” he said.

“How do you say field goal in Danish?”

“Field goal.”

These are good responses. Boring, perhaps, but good, safe, risk-free. And they don’t require any purchases from pet stores.

The Super Bowl is a grind, men. And you have five more days of hype to slog through. If you really want to win this game, you have to shape up. Be more careful. From now on, when it comes to planes, you board and unload as you please. Nobody brings up old feuds. Nobody refers to social miscreants as role models.

And Ray, no more Milk Bones for you.

To leave a message for Mitch Albom, call 1-313-223-4581 or E-mail albom@freepress.com


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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