This week's (intercontinental) electronic conversation between Sports columnists Gary Shelton and John Romano:
GS: Okay, John. I'm here. Any minute now, I am sure England is going to get excited over the Bucs-Patriots. Right now, however, there isn't a word in the paper, a sound on the telly, and most people seem to be hiding their glee about the NFL.
JR: Maybe they're just really disappointed about the Gaines Adams trade.
GS: Yes. There is a postal strike about to begin. The carriers are refusing to deliver Gaines' fan mail.
JR: I suppose they could drop it off at Manchester United. You know, the Bucs' company headquarters. Speaking of which, do Man U fans seem to realize that their poorer relations are in the country?
GS: Well, they try not to talk about it, but they have to know. They probably look at them with a bit of amusement, a bit of embarrassment. You know, the way your relatives treat you.
JR: Shows what you know. My family seems perfectly happy since I agreed to the restraining order. Anyway, what are the odds the Bucs get out of Europe without an international incident? I mean, Aqib Talib has to take a cab at some point, doesn't he?
GS: That's a worry, all right, especially because the cabbies drive on the wrong side of the road over here. Say, do you suppose there is any way the Bucs could persuade Bill Belichick to dress his offense up like the characters on Taxi? You know, just to make things more interesting?
JR: Oh, I already think the game will be interesting. Belichick is not the compassionate type. Against the 0-6 Dolphins a couple of years ago, the Pats scored 49 points. Against the 0-5 Titans last week, they scored 59. Does 69 points sound doable to you?
GS: My first impression is no. My second impression is "Why not?" I'd love to argue the Bucs are better than you've seen, but unfortunately, I've seen them, too. I think it'll be closer, just because I think Belichick will have his starters flying back to Boston by halftime. Still, if you're offering the Bucs and 69, I'll wager any lunch that doesn't include cabbage.
JR: Nah, I think Roger Goodell makes a tackle himself before letting the score get out of hand. Here's the funny thing: A year ago, I thought the Bucs were slapping their fans by taking this home game away from them. Turns out, they did the local fans a favor.
GS: I still don't like the idea of fans losing a home game so foreigners can see, but if you were ever going to take away a game — and the price of buying a ticket — this is the year. I just wonder why Goodell won't try to expand his product to Tahiti.
JR: They tried once with the Dolphins but were afraid Ricky Williams would never come back.
GS: Small price to pay. He should have risked it.
JR: Do you really think these once-a-year games have an impact in Europe? Or is it like trying to sell cricket in Pittsburgh?
GS: Personally, I'm a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Sticky Wickets. I think the game is nice for fans who are here, but it's not likely to be more than a niche sport. I mean, the soccer fans seemed to manage just fine with the Chelsea game today.
JR: Ah, well, it's probably better that way. If there were too many Bucs fans in the UK, we'd have to explain the whole paper-bag-over-your-head tradition.
GS: I think that was the last sack a Bucs fan has seen.