Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Sapp is no one's fool, Cuz

SAN DIEGO - There is a difference between those who are self-absorbed and those who are eloquent about it. On Super Bowl Media Day, we seek out the latter and are grateful for them: Joe Theismann. Bill Parcells. Brian Billick. Ray Lewis. Deion Sanders. And now, America, Warren Sapp.

"America is so beautiful," Sapp decided Tuesday morning. "You can do anything. Eighteen-year-old kid, driving a Hummer," Sapp said, a reference to LeBron James. "I'm damned proud to be an American," Sapp said. "Any kid out there, dream."

Sapp is a 30-year-old, 303-pound Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle from little Apopka, Fla., who has spent his entire life preparing for this one-hour chat with the world.

"I'm in awe up here," Sapp allowed. He was crammed so tightly into a director's chair, his thighs exploded out the sides like bread rising. He bounced his left leg up and down, nervous energy making the podium wiggle. "This is bigger than me, bigger than all of you, bigger than everything," he allowed.

Off to Sapp's left, a genius hired by a TV network to do a Don King impression was telling Sapp how much money he could make for him. "I need to be your manager!" he screamed. To Sapp's right, a dull-normal working for a radio talk show blabbed, "Warren, Tony's son wears the QB Killa visor! Whaddaya say about that?"

Super Bowl Media Day is the day when everything awful you've ever believed about the press is irrefutably true. We are idiots.

"I've been in the spotlight six or seven years. ... I think I've handled it pretty well," Sapp said. "I'm handling this right now, Cuz."

Sapp calls everyone Cuz. It's short for cousin. Evidently.

Someone asked Sapp about Tampa's top-rated defense. In the hour Sapp sat at the podium, he fielded probably 50 questions. Four were about football.

"The greatest show on green grass," Sapp said. "Like an inferno. More heat than you can stand. Hahaha." Sapp laughed.

Sapp spoke of his first meeting with Bucs coach Jon Gruden. "Gruden gave me one of these," Sapp said, contorting his face like a Halloween mask.

"I said, `C'mon, Cuz. On my job it takes two people on me, and it still ain't no lock.'" Cuz wouldn't be intimidating Sapp.

Sapp recalled watching TV six years ago and hearing his team referred to nationally as the Yucks. He turned to teammate Derrick Brooks and said, "We gotta do something about this right now, Cuz."

Sapp went to management and requested some changes. "Big dawg, we gonna get us a new coach and a new stadium" was what Bucs general manager Rich McKay said to Sapp, though possibly not in those words.

"When Tony (Dungy) walked in the door and they went to building ol' Raymond James, I knew it was going to be a better day in Tampa Bay," Sapp said.

And so it was.

(Sapp even had some advice for the Bengals, who were to the 1990s what the Yucks were to most of the 70s and 80s: "Hold tight, baby. Hold tight.")

Now, Warren Sapp is one win from the biggest prize of his life. Unless you count Media Day, which he won hands down. Compared to the media, Sapp was Winston Churchill, Cuz. Hahaha.

"Ain't no talkin' win this game," Sapp said.

Yeah, but that won't stop us from listening.


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