A Day for the Pirates

Times Staff Writer

Shiver me timbers, is this the Super Bowl or an E-ticket ride at Disneyland?

Today's game definitely has a "Pirates of the Caribbean" feel, considering the team logo for the Oakland Raiders features a football-helmeted fellow sporting an eye patch, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' logo is a red pirate flag with skull and crossed swords.

Tampa Bay's first mascot, "Bucco Bruce," was a winking pirate who wore a plumed hat with a dagger gripped in his teeth. But the team keelhauled Bucco after the 1996 season, as well as its orange-and-white color scheme, in an effort to bury its sorry past.

When the Buccaneers promoted a retro uniform day this season, the players politely deferred, and the orange-and-white ones stayed in storage. So do the newer uniforms in red, pewter and black really make a difference?

"I've got to be careful here," safety John Lynch said. "There are some traditionalists back in Tampa. The old colors weren't so bad."

Then again....

"The pirate winking at you was not very intimidating, though," he said.

Intimidation, of course, is what the Raiders are all about. The team's fans combine elements of medieval warriors, science-fiction characters and retired Raider players for their look, which includes carrying replicas of battle axes and broadswords.

Though it's probably a coincidence, a pirate-themed Internet posting at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., seemed to foretell the arrival of the Raider Nation in San Diego:

"The fact is pirates are everywhere nowadays. It seems like everywhere you turn you can't help but notice a pirate hassling the poor old lady on the corner."


Chain Reaction

Security personnel will be looking to confiscate anything resembling a weapon, which could prove problematic for some Raider fans.

Marc Shadinger, a truck driver from Sacramento known as "Spike," has been going to Raider games since 1995 wearing silver chains, soft foam skulls and black leather.

He said he was allowed into a game at San Diego earlier this season with his brother, Eric, who dresses like Raider Hall of Fame lineman Howie Long, now a TV sports commentator.

Known as "Little Howie," Eric said he is willing to part with his shoulder pads, No. 75 jersey and helmet in order to sit in his seat. "My costume isn't the most important thing; getting in there is," he said. "You could throw me in there naked."


Casino King

Yao Ming, the 7-foot-5 rookie center for the Houston Rockets, is the subject of some of the most interesting wagers on the Super Bowl.

Several Las Vegas oddsmakers have included Yao in proposition lines, bets that encompass just about everything except the outcome of the Super Bowl.

At Caesars Palace, bettors compare the number of blocked shots Yao will have today against the Chicago Bulls with the number of rushing touchdowns scored by Oakland.

At the Imperial Palace, bettors can choose between Yao's combined points and rebounds and the number of points scored by the Raiders.

Imperial Palace sports book manager Jay Kornegay said he's offering 190 different "prop" lines, one involving an English soccer team.

"We have to keep our reputation up," Kornegay said. "We're known for props."


Foreign Legion

The NFL issued a record 400 foreign media credentials to reporters from 220 countries and territories outside the U.S. -- more than the total number for all journalists at the first Super Bowl in 1967.


Demolition Derby

Automobile crashes climb more than 40% in the hours after the Super Bowl, with accidents more prevalent in the losing team's area, perhaps because heartbroken fans are not concentrating on their driving, researchers at the University of Toronto said.

Not surprisingly, researchers found that alcohol consumption contributed to the increase in accidents, which cause an average of seven additional deaths and 600 extra injuries every year in the United States.


Times wire services contributed to this report.

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