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Weirdness rules day as Super Bowl nears

TAMPA — Okay, so let me get this straight …

There are a lot of weird things that you see Super Bowl week, and that doesn't include the Internet photo Steelers kicker Jeff Reed took of (certain parts of) himself that we couldn't publish with Friday's column.

There are a lot of odd things you hear Super Bowl week, and that doesn't include the casino hotel clerk we heard wondering aloud if a certain celeb known for her, shall we say, full figure would need an extra room for the caboose.

There are a lot of random people you run into Super Bowl week, and that doesn't include Radio Row sightings of commentator Andy Rooney, musician Nils Lofgren, and an assortment of SI swimsuit models, Penthouse Pets and others.

Here are a few of the most unusual scenes we ran across:

The Steelers have plenty of star-quality players. But at Thursday's final media session, a 5-foot-4, 38-year-old Japanese woman attracted one of the largest crowds.

Ariko Iso is not only the only full-time female athletic trainer in the NFL, but is also the only Japanese native with a Super Bowl ring.

And now, in her seventh season as a Steelers assistant, she has a chance for another, which made her even more of a story as 20-some reporters, mostly all from Japanese outlets, huddled around her.

"I'm surprised to get a lot of attention," Iso said. "I never really expected to be in this position."

For NFL officials trying to maximize interest worldwide, her presence is a hit. "As you can tell from the media presence around one of the trainers, we see the opportunity beyond this," International VP Chris Parsons said. "If we could get a (Japanese) player in the league, how much of a media event it would be back home in Japan."

Ravens QB Joe Flacco usually doesn't say much, but there he was talking a little trash to Rays pitcher James Shields.

The two hard throwers were part of a Friday morning panel to introduce a new Reebok shoe with a "witty hour of banter." As the semi-staged debate veered toward taking a hit vs. hitting batters, ESPN's Mike Greenberg suggested the rookie QB could "strike out the side in the bottom of the ninth" for the Rays.

Said Flacco: "I might have been able to do the job against the Phillies."

That deserved a wow, and then Shields responded: "Hey, I beg to differ, I did get the only win."

The four live flamingoes had to be standing in a shallow pool in the middle of the Tampa Convention Center for a reason.

They were — to promote the Super Bowl that will be held in South Florida next year. Even though that game and the next one in north Texas have been awarded, the host committees stage elaborate displays in the media center to remind all what's coming.

The Texans, who have the 2011 Super Bowl, offered splashy photos, odd giveaways and free chocolate. The Floridians went more exotic, staging a portable waterfall and trucking in the birds from a Homestead farm for a one-day stand. "They're our signature," promoter Dan Vazquez said.

This afternoon's DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl is a Super Bowl rarity, a free event with an intriguing guest list. There are actors Christian Slater, Kevin Dillon and Blake Lively, plus NFL retirees Eddie George and Warren Moon; Eli Manning and Reggie Bush as coaches; and Kardashians Kim, Kourtney and Khloe as, well, Kardashians. But here's the part we don't get — rather than have it at Progress Energy Park in downtown St. Pete, why not actually have it on the beach?

We'd like to think commissioner Roger Goodell meant it when he said in his state of the game address that there is a legitimate concern if fans "can continue to afford to go to an NFL game." It's just hard among the grandeur, pomposity and self-importance of Super Bowl week to, uh, buy in.

eBay item of the day

The game is still a day away, but a Pennsylvania vendor is already selling T-shirts and sweatshirts celebrating the Steelers' victory — got 6? we do!, with a list of their Super Bowl championships — for just $14.99. The idea? Wear the Super Bowl winners' shirt to your Super Bowl party.

Weirdness rules day as Super Bowl nears 01/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 11:16pm]

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