Supe du jour Mouthwatering morsels and tasty tidbits from the ultimate (until next year) football feast

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Homeboys hang tough

He sat between the governor of Texas and the governor of New York, 1watching the Super Bowl on the White House big screen and watching his tongue.

"With them on either side of me, you think I'm going to answer that question?" Clinton said when asked about his allegiance. "I've got enough tough decisions to make."

But after the Cowboys beat the Bills, 52-17, Clinton was effusive in his praise for Dallas in a congratulatory telephone call to owner Jerry Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson, who both played college football at the University of Arkansas.

"This is a lot bigger deal at home than me being elected president," Clinton told Jones.

"I tell you right now, you were an inspiration to us," Jones replied. "I saw how to get down on a knee and come back up swinging."

To Johnson, Clinton said: "You've come a long way in a short time. . . . I watched the team all year long, basically wearing people down by hanging in there."

"You know a little about perseverance yourself," Johnson replied.

Memories don't light in the corners of his mind

Johnson lives in the here and now, and today his first Super Bowl victory is probably just so much history.

And so, when he was asked to reflect on winning both a national collegiate football championships -- only five years ago at Miami -- and a professional championship, he was at a loss.

"That was so long ago," he said. "That was a great accomplishment, and so is this. They stand on their own."

Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, a player who was with him for both, said both accomplishments share one thing -- Johnson and the aggressive edge he gives his players.

"When I'm 50 and he's 89 or 90 or whatever," Irvin said, "we'll be able to look back and joke about it. We can say, 'We did it on both levels.' Man, ain't that something?"

Hurtin'

In Buffalo, Bills fans were feeling the pain of a third straight Super Bowl loss. And they weren't above spreading a little of the hurt around.

"Another year, another loss," said Jeff Barrett, who was one of 3,500 who packed the Buffalo Convention Center for a party. "What can you do about it? It hurts."

"Destiny stinks," said Todd Eacher, a physician's assistant. "Every year, the party ends at 11 o'clock. I'd just rather have them not be there."

The headline in Monday's edition of The Buffalo News read: "Bills lose a Super blowout."

"Elway, Tarkenton, Kelly -- put them all together," said one fan, referring to the three quarterbacks to lose three Super Bowls.

"I wouldn't have cared if they lost every game until I died as long as [they won this one,]" said Mark Kopenski, who traveled about 50 miles from Jamestown, N.Y. to go to the party. "They didn't do it. I can't stand to watch anymore."

The world according to Garth

For only the second time in the 27-year history of the Super Bowl, a country singer -- Garth Brooks -- sang the national anthem. Charlie Pride did it in 1974.

Brooks -- we thought he was supposed to do it a cappella -- had an orchestral soundtrack behind him. It could only have been more impressive if some of his high-profile friends -- the ones that appeared in his expansive "We Shall Be Free" video -- had joined him.

Garth, baby. You can't solve the world's problems with four minutes on MTV.

At your neighborhood video store

The Super Bowl highlight film, including highlights from the Cowboys' regular season, will be on sale Feb. 23. It will debut in Dallas on Feb. 22.

Then he did Johnson's hair

Saturday night -- kickoff eve -- the weather in Pasadena grew tenuous. All week, there had been Santa Ana winds, 80-degree temperatures and postcard sunsets. But out of the blue skies came thunder clouds, and there was rain and lightning late Saturday.

The NFL's lawn specialist, George Toma, broke out a tarp over the Rose Bowl field.

But yesterday morning, the sun shone and Toma exuberantly ordered the tarp back into storage.

He then had helicopters fly low to blow dry the field.

All the world's a stage

It was the largest halftime in Super Bowl history -- they say that every year -- and it was performed on a 10-ton stage that was cut into 22 pieces and put in place by 250 off-duty police officers and firefighters. It took them only 3 1/2 minutes to set it up.

Equipped with all-terrain tires, the stage did not damage the playing surface so delicately tended by Toma. The tires, similar to those on airplanes, distributed the stage weight to 1 to 2 pounds per square inch.

Feel the spirit

At the Cliff Temple Baptist Church in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, about 100 church members traded their Sunday best for jeans and Cowboys sweat shirts, gathering in a recreation hall to watch the game on a 9-by-12-foot screen. The sports party replaced the church's normal 6 p.m. service.

"We just wanted to have a good time with it, and that's spiritual enough," said pastor Dean Dickens. "There's no sense in people feeling guilty about watching the game while church is going on."

Dickens said members did not call on a higher power to help the home team.

"I'm sure that God doesn't care who wins as much as Dallas does," he said.

A heavenly halftime show

Meanwhile, in churches elsewhere, former Dallas coach Tom Landry was speaking to thousands via a 12-minute video.

The video was marketed by Sports Outreach America, a consortium of Christian religious groups with an emphasis on sports.

"Make the Super Bowl work for you rather than against you," Landry advised church leaders in promoting the video. "Ask your congregation to invite their friends and family members over to your home for a Super Bowl party and to hear a special video presentation of some NFL players and myself.

"Serve up some hot dogs with all the fixins and at halftime play the video, hand out some literature, and talk about our Lord."

Puttin' it on the line

Offensive linemen don't get much attention or much credit. But in Dallas, they get lots of presents.

Running back Emmitt Smith gave each of them a Rolex watch; wide receiver Irvin gave them leather jackets; quarterback Troy Aikman gave them gold watches; tight end Jay Novacek, who raises cattle, gave them slabs of beef; and Smith and Aikman combined to purchase each one of those round-trip airline tickets good for anywhere in the continent.

L Now, can you name any of these guys? Do you think they care?

Head game

Trust the NFL to find a way to cash in on even its must ignominious moments.

The league offered a new league-licensed product: "the helmet-holder."

It is a miniature football helmet that holds beer and soda cans, keeps them cold and is easily grasped by the face mask. Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and Cowboys wide receiver Irvin were given complimentary samples and then refused to part with them.

There was a rumor circulating that the league gave one to Buffalo's Thurman Thomas, too, but he put it down and then couldn't find it again.

Head games

America's "Do" survived its first onslaught in fine condition. Jimmy Johnson's celebrated coiffure remained in place -- even after he was doused with the ceremonial ice water on the sidelines late in the game.

Then came the second wave, in the person of Irvin. Irvin ruffled his coach's hair with his hands, changing Johnson's spikey style to look more like something out of "The Night of the Living Dead."

Moments later, a comb mysteriously appeared and, by the time the game was over, Johnson once more was having a good hair day.

"They got me pretty good," Johnson said of the sneak attack. "I wasn't anticipating this one and it messed my hair up good."

Soul of a poet

When the Bills flew home two years ago after losing Super Bowl XXV by one point, they knew who had tacked a poignantly relevant poem to their locker room bulletin board, a poem reputedly turned out in the 14th Century by an anonymous European writer.

"Fight on, my men," Sir Andrew said,

"A little I'm hurt, but not yet slain;

"I'll just lie down and bleed awhile,

"And then I'll rise and fight again."

Marv Levy, the Buffalo coach, couldn't have said it better. That is why he put it up.

Super news

Jets defensive end Dennis Byrd, partly paralyzed after breaking his neck during a game Nov. 29, says he is going to try to walk by himself, without the aid of a walker, crutches or a therapist, in the next 10 days.

Appearing with his wife, Angela, on NBC's Super Bowl pre-game show, Byrd said that his chances for walking again are very good.

"My prognosis is very good," Byrd said. "My chances of walking again are very good. I've been using the parallel bars, trying to walk again. I've gotten the use of my hands back."

Byrd, who is undergoing rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, said he will progressively start on his goal ,, to walk by himself in 10 days.

"I'll go with a walker a couple of days, then be on crutches," he said. "Then take the step I've been looking forward to and that's to walk again by myself."

Sky cap!

Dallas' Irvin will spend a day handling luggage for Southwest Airlines. In return, Southwest will fly disadvantaged kids to Austin, Texas, for a day at the Cowboys' training camp next August.

And the airplane will have an enormous picture of Irvin painted on it.

You could be a star

Cowboys defensive tackle Tony Casillas has aspirations to come back to L.A. to try a career as an actor. But from what he saw during the last week, he wasn't sure he will fit into the Hollywood scene.

"The only thing about L.A. is that I've found out that you meet all these people, and I'm not saying anything against L.A. or anything like that, but I mean, it's kind of artificial," Casillas said. "You see these actors, you see these people . . . it's not reality.

"If I'm an actor, I'll definitely set a kind of precedent for entertainment people. Because you are a person and that's what you are. I've noticed some of these people are all caught up in themselves, and that's just not what it's about."

In Moscow, it was Super Bowl Monday

California businessman Cary Languirand had been waiting for days for his chance to slug a few cups of coffee to ward off sleep, munch on pretzels and settle down with friends to watch the Dallas Cowboys take on the Buffalo Bills.

It was 2:18 a.m. local time. It was Moscow. And it was Super Bowl Monday.

Almost 600 packed Moscow's Radisson Hotel to watch the Super Bowl, beamed live on a special closed-circuit telecast. It was the first time the Super Bowl was shown live in the former Soviet Union.

"I can't believe I can watch the game here," Languirand, who recently moved to Moscow to expand his food-importing business, said. "I'm so sports starved it's scary."

Most of the crowd was grateful to spend $15 for admission, $5 for a turkey sandwich and $1.50 for each beer to have the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl live. Carlin Walters, a Marine stationed at the American Embassy in Moscow, even came dressed in western boots, 10-gallon hat and Cowboys sweat shirt.

"If I couldn't watch the game, I'd be calling my mom and dad every five minutes," the Vidor, Texas native said.

Longtime Moscow residents were particularly happy to have live football coverage. "I've been in Moscow for four years," Jeffrey Zeiger, owner of Moscow's Tren-Mos restaurant chain, said. "For several hundred Western people to sit and watch the Super Bowl in an American establishment is proof that this city has come a long way."

"It doesn't matter who wins the game," Zeiger added, squinting to see one of the room's five television screens. "Moscow won today."

These guys play hard ball

Only a handful of the more than 24,000 American troops serving in Somalia were able to see the game live because of the lack of communications links in that east African country. The rest had to settle for radio broadcasts or wait to watch the game on tape.

A military spokesman said there was a competition among the services to see who can get the tape of the game to Mogadishu first.

"The deputy commander promised that whoever gets it here first will get our thanks, but if they don't share it immediately, they'll also be the last to leave [Somalia]," he said. "They can sit here and watch it over and over again on their VCRs."

Counterprogramming in the year of the woman

If you didn't watch the Super Bowl, you must be a woman, and ABC and CBS -- the networks that didn't broadcast the Super Bowl -- went after you.

ABC's East Coast lineup was repeat episodes of the family drama, "Life Goes On," and "America's Funniest Videos," capped by the 1987 movie, "The Witches of Eastwick," starring Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer.

"Our programming is geared toward 'The Witches of Eastwick,' for female viewers who might not want to watch the Super Bowl," an ABC spokeswoman said.

"We're not putting on expensive, original shows against something that you know will get a 60 to 65 share. You try to get whatever audience you can."

CBS had the same feeling, sticking with a special edition of "60 Minutes" on three women in the news, a repeat of "Murder, She Wrote," the popular mystery series starring Angela Lansbury, and a repeat of "Shell Seekers," also featuring Lansbury.

"Female appeal. You got it," a spokesman said.

The right stuff

Expecting to lose up to $2 million on sham Super Bowl merchandise, the NFL obtained court permission to seize counterfeit goods from hundreds of swindlers and their helpers outside the Rose Bowl. The cheaters can get their stuff back -- on Feb. 16.

A Super Bowl, a super fork, a super spoon . . .

Fans were expected to consume 100,000 cups of beer and 55,000 cups of soda, 11,000 pounds of super dogs, 6,000 slices of pizza, 4,500 bags of popcorn and 3,500 orders of nachos, according to Service America concession operators.

Super Bowl facts to amaze your friends

* While the Super Bowl took more than six hours from pre-game to postgame, the actual game action amounted to about eight minutes. And there were 28 minutes of commercials.

* Frito-Lay paid $7 million to have its name on the halftime show.

* The Super Bowl program was the largest in the history of the game, 264 pages. It cost $10 and included football trading cards, a comic book and 22 pages of scouting reports on the Cowboys and Bills.

* There are more than 3,000 rosebushes planted around the Rose Bowl, and there are 100 different kinds.

They said it

* "I've put more resources and dollars on the line than anybody in the history of sports." Jones, Cowboys owner.

* "I'm going to be in your face if that's the conduct you choose to engage in and I'm going to see you in court." Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, warning men who commit violence against women and who might be provoked as a result of the Super Bowl.

* "I want our diamonds on that ring to be as big as headlights. I want to turn off my Mercedes' headlights and stick my hand out the window and still see where I'm going." Cowboys wide receiver Irvin.

* "He and Bob's Big Boy. One and the same." "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, on Johnson's hairdo.

* "We turned the ball over nine times. You can't beat a college team doing that." Bills quarterback Kelly.

* "What have I done to deserve this?" Kelly.

* "It's a very humbling experience. As happy as I felt after the Oiler comeback win, I feel that disappointed right now." Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich, who directed the greatest comeback in NFL history against Houston.

* "We're no Houston." Johnson to NBC sideline reporter Todd Christensen, at halftime.

* "I played for a national champion, I was head coach for a national champion, now I've coached a Super Bowl champion. The common thread is quality people committed to being the best." Johnson.

* "You don't want to hear any speeches from me." Buffalo coach Levy, to his players.

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