SUPER BOWL WEEK BOTTOMS OUT ON DAY 1

TAMPA, Fla. — Normally it takes a few hours before something really idiotic happens at the Super Bowl, but this being a short week and all, it took only five minutes. Here we were Tuesday morning, the sports media, just me and 3,700 of my closest friends, being herded into Tampa Stadium for our opening interviews with the New York Giants. And the first thing I saw when we walked on the field, dancing among the players in a tight black dress, black hat, black fishnet stockings and black leather boots, was “Downtown” Julie Brown from MTV. Doing interviews. Or trying.

Now, I’m used to competition. I have been trampled by Spanish reporters who must have thought they were in Pamplona, chasing bulls, and I have been poked by Japanese photographers whose camera lenses were like anteaters’ snouts. I have jockeyed for space with Leroy Neiman, O.J. Simpson, Hunter Thompson and a host of others who like to call themselves journalists, I guess because they couldn’t think of any other job description.

And you know what? I never minded. I’ll tell you why: 1) You have to be a moron to cover the Super Bowl anyhow, so what did I expect? 2) Deep down, I figured we all had at least one tiny thing in common: We knew what football was.

Which brings us to Julie Brown.

And her “interview” with Jeff Hostetler.

“He’s the quarterback,” whispered Brown’s producer as they climbed the steps.

“Quarterback,” Brown repeated, in her British accent. “Right. Got it.”

“He led his team to the Super Bowl.”

“Super Bowl. Got it.”

“His name is Jeff.”

“Jeff. Right.”

And she eased her way into the pack, which wasn’t hard, because most of the male reporters, upon seeing her outfit, dropped their jaws, then dropped their notepads, and when they leaned over to retrieve them — the notepads, not their jaws — she wiggled past.

And suddenly, she was next to Hostetler.

I should mention here that Hostetler is a good ol’ quarterback from the mining towns of western Pennsylvania, who was thrust into the spotlight after last month’s injury to Phil Simms. I should also mention that Julie Brown, when asked what her favorite part of football was, said: “Their buns.”

So putting these two together was pretty weird, which means typical Super Bowl. They say it’s really tough to get a press credential for this event. At least as tough as getting a library card. How else do you explain Brown, a tarty-looking woman famous, this week, for hosting a dance show? She is here, she said, for “Inside Edition,” another fine journalistic program, which would like to report that Elvis was an alien, and is working on that story as we speak.

Brown said she does a segment called “What’s In, What’s Out.” When asked what was “in” about the Super Bowl, she said: “Their buns.”

Hmm. I sense an angle here.

(By the way, Brown, the journalist, would later be seen in the arms of Buffalo tight end Butch Rolle, blowing him a kiss as a teammate took a picture; also, she would make a “date” with Cornelius Bennett, ask Bruce Smith about fashion, and tell a film crew “the players just want me to lift my

skirt a little higher.” Which she did.)

Funny. That never works for me.

Anyhow, on with the “interview.”

JULIE: “Jeff, the other guys on the team like to shake their booty when they score a touchdown. Do you have any new moves when you score?”

HOSTETLER: “Uh, I don’t think so.”

JULIE: “Your team has been doing some serious kicking of booty. What do you say to get them up?”

HOSTETLER: “I don’t really say any–“

PRODUCER: “Julie, we’re out of tape.”

JULIE: “Thank you, Jeff.”

And off she went, to ask Giants kicker Matt Bahr why basketball players like to tug on their shorts while football players prefer to tuck their hands into their pants. Bahr’s answer? “Because we’re cold.”

I am not making this up.

Then again, how could I? Year after year, the Super Bowl exceeds my imagination. I am sure, when this game began in 1967, reporters had better questions. Then again, they probably didn’t know that “buns” were “in.”

But times have changed, as Hostetler can tell you. So I would like to pass along this message to my boss: I am confident I can send home as much news from this Super Bowl as the next journalist. I really am. Within reason.

After all, how far can I get without stockings?

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