"We're going to win this game. I guarantee it."
Joe Namath, January 1969
"I'm deciding right here and now that I'm not talking to reporters -- even the ones I like -- for the rest of my career."
Keyshawn Johnson, January 2003
There's nothing like an outlandish, off-the-wall, out-of-left-field prediction to drum up viewing interest in a Super Bowl. But, really, how often can one expect to witness the impossible in a single lifetime?
The New England Patriots did upset the St. Louis Rams 33 years later.
In between, Trent Dilfer did become a "World Champion Quarterback."
Now, we're supposed to believe Keyshawn "Just Give Me the Damn Microphone" Johnson is going to boycott the media, shut it down, just like that, beginning with today's somewhat meaningful football game with 800 million potential Keyshawn Johnson replica jersey buyers watching worldwide?
"I'm pulling a Sterling
Sharpe, a Steve Carlton, a Duane Thomas. I'm done," Johnson said in his ESPN.com Super Bowl diary Friday.
That's the funniest thing to come out of Super Bowl Week, including the guy at Media Day with the Don King hair and the guy in the silk sweatsuit with the Ed Grimley hair.
(That was Al Davis? Sorry. Been a while since we've seen him around here.)
Today's Super Bowl coin toss will be conducted by members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Why 1972? Well, Johnson was born in 1972. It is believed to be the first and last year Johnson did not have anything to say to the media.
This week, Johnson evidently became peeved at what he perceives to be a double standard among the media -- i.e., they want him to talk and then they turn around and rip him for talking so much.
(I say evidently because that was the one-word response Dallas Cowboy running back Thomas gave when CBS' Tom Brookshier told him on-camera after Super Bowl VI, "You have a lot of speed for a big man." This was not a question, mind you. This was simply the early template for the countless TV interviewers who followed Brookshier into locker rooms without a question mark in their repertoire. Thomas, who rushed for 95 yards that day, came off as a surly if succinct media critic with his four-syllable dismissal. "Evidently." That, then, is the over/under for Keyshawn in Super Bowl XXXVII.)
If Johnson isn't talking today, he'll be the only one.
In fact, they were talking in your sleep, assuming you didn't wake before 7 a.m. to catch ESPN magazine's Sports Reporters talking about the Super Bowl, followed by "SportsCenter" talking about the Super Bowl at 7:30, followed by a special-edition, three-hour Super Bowl "Sunday NFL Countdown" at 8 a.m.
Included among these breathless three hours will be:
Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe, the NFL's pre-eminent talker, talking about his Super Bowl experiences ("This week I contributed to Keyshawn's media boycott when I said I was rooting for the Raiders because I don't want him to win a Super Bowl") and his future ("I can't get too excited about this rumored reunion with Elvis Grbac, let me tell you").
A feature on what really goes on among players in the tunnel just before team introductions. (Could it be they ... oh, I don't know
Sean Salisbury, who wrote the book on how to get ahead at ESPN and it's called "How to Succeed by Shouting Louder Than John Clayton," will be joined by Mike Golic and Mark Schlereth on the flight deck of the USS Stennis, where they will run through demonstration plays with members of the aircraft carrier's crew. And, if it is truly committed to protecting America's best interests, the Stennis will rev up while Salisbury is barking signals and chart a course to somewhere within shouting range of Tierra del Fuego.
Kenny Mayne will reveal his choice as the worst player to ever win a Super Bowl. So much negativity on this glorious day when either Davis or Malcolm Glazer will be proclaimed Mastermind of the Universe.
At 11, ESPN will hand off to ABC for four more hours of talk, before the Super Bowl kicks off shortly after 3, pitting the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a grimy, gritty, winner-take-all lead-in to a new talk show.
That's what the Super Bowl has become at 37 as it approaches middle age: the warmup act for Jimmy Kimmel's late-night talk show, which will debut in the Eastern and Central time zones immediately after the Super Bowl and at 9 p.m. in Southern California. In case you hadn't heard, ABC will devote two segments to Kimmel during its pregame show, even dragging in Raider linebacker Bill Romanowski for a double-barreled round of hype -- plugging the big game and the bigger talk-show debut in the kind of two-for-one "synergy" maneuver Disney simply cannot get enough of.
Without a piece of the NFL television pie, NBC can't compete with ABC on the football field. But on the late-night comedy stage? Bring it on, the peacock says, and the peacock will -- offering a 20-minute special-edition "Saturday Night Live" to compete with the Super Bowl halftime show.
The individual matchups are intriguing. Shania Twain or Tina Fey? No Doubt or Jimmy Fallon? As long as "SNL" stays with its bread and butter -- "Weekend Update" is pretty much the whole ballgame these days -- NBC might lure some viewers. To put it another way: Either NBC keeps "Brian Fellow's Safari Planet" on the bench or Shania is never going to sound better.
Then, after two more quarters of football filler, we shall see and hear if Broadway Keyshawn is a man of his final words to the media.
Just a thought: Suppose Johnson catches the winning touchdown pass in the final seconds. With the world watching and listening, is he really going to hold up his hands, shake his head, uh-uh, no way, no comment, I'm outta here?
"I'm done laughing at [the media] because I'm just done," Johnson wrote at the end of his diary entry. "Unless they change my mind for me. We'll see."
Is Keyshawn the kind of guy who'd break a promise less than 72 hours old just to get in the last word?