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Story, as usual, is Sapp

Ah, just what the most absurd day in sports needed.

More Warren Sapp.

He moved, and the sea moved with him. He weaved through the crowd, and his entourage moved behind him, and a small group of reporters moved behind that, and the picture looked like a dragon zig-zagging through the masses on Chinese New Year's.

Sapp stopped, and the flow stopped. He approached Ty Law's podium, grinning like an imp. He extended his microphone, and his cameraman readied, and his producers braced, and his bodyguard poised

And nothing.

Sapp stood there, waiting. Law answered a question from over there, then one over here, and Sapp still waited. A few questions later, he shrugged and turned.

"Where's Russ Hochstein?" he asked.

And once more, the posse rode.

Sapp made it back to the Super Bowl on Tuesday. This time, he was on the wrong side of the microphone and this time, he didn't bring his team along. This time, he was Warren Sapp, cub reporter. Why not? The guy may be looking for work soon.

And so Sapp jumped in, mike first, to the insanity that is Super Bowl media day. He was here to work for the NFL Network, asking probing, insightful questions _ "Hey, you ready to roll?" _ of the Patriots and the Panthers. Hey, Dan Rather got his start somewhere, too.

For that matter, so did Downtown Julie Brown and Beth Littleford and Aries Spears and all the other C-level celebrities who have worn press badges and asked what-kind-of-tree-would-you-be questions during Super Bowl media day. It is an old silliness, one that shows more wear each year, but the varied networks will not give it up.

Take Tuesday, for instance. There was Pick Boy _ "as in pick your nose," his producer announced proudly _ from Nickelodeon. Pick Boy was dressed in Robin's hand-me-downs, a black mask, black tights and an orange-and-green cape. There was Laura Bush, the First Niece, from Entertainment Tonight. There was Samantha Hill, the 11-year-old from Weekly Reader (Can you imagine how wonderful the deadlines must be?).

Ah, yes. And there was Sapp, the forceful, familiar face of the Tampa Bay Bucs (at least, until free agency begins), who at times Tuesday drew so much attention you wondered if all the reporters were aware that Sapp, technically, isn't playing in this year's game.

Nevertheless, Sapp was a sight to see. As you know, Sapp is a large man, but next to his bodyguard, Sapp looked like a flanker. I'm not certain, but for lunch, I think the bodyguard ate Gilbert Brown.

(Here's an idle thought. Does another team want to sign a defensive tackle who needs a bodyguard?)

At any rate, there was a reason Sapp was seeking Hochstein, his former teammate with the Bucs. Last week, on Pardon the Interruption, Sapp jabbed Hochstein by suggesting he couldn't block either Tony Kornheiser or Michael Wilbon, the co-hosts, let alone the defensive line of the Panthers. Hochstein was not amused.

Sapp finally found Hochstein and asked if he was happy, thanks to Sapp, to be the center of the attention. Hochstein stared at Sapp for a minute and said three words.

"No more questions."

Now, if you've been around Sapp, you know that sort of curt dismissal of an interview is routine. Even Sapp laughed as he walked away.

Sapp went into the stands to talk to Patriots owner Robert Kraft _ no, he didn't bring a resume _ and before long, Kraft was showing Sapp the Patriots' ring for winning the Super Bowl two years ago. Kraft explained that, at the request of some of his defensive backs, it was made of white gold.

"What a concept!" Sapp said loudly. "An owner who listens to his players. That's a great ring! We (the Bucs) got an old-school ring!"

Not long afterward, Sapp found himself in front of Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

"Are you going to knock on our offensive line some more?" Bruschi said.

"I've been with Russ Hochstein a lot longer than you have," Sapp said. "I wouldn't go there with me."

A few minutes later, it was quarterback Tom Brady who was asking. "Why are you talking about our offensive line?"

Said Sapp: "I just came over to say hello, and I can't get close to you."

Brady: "That's the way I like it."

By the time the Panthers took the field, Sapp seemed to be more comfortable with his task. He greeted fellow Miami alumnus Dan Morgan. He bellowed that defensive back Ricky Manning Jr. deserved his own podium.

One person Sapp did not interview was kick returner Rod Smart. What a loss. Right there, right then, we could have had He Hate Me interviewed by He Hate Everybody.

Oh, I kid, of course. Sapp doesn't hate everyone. For one thing, he seems to love the national media. The bigger the ratings, the warmer the greeting.

At one point, perhaps his most inspired, Sapp began to talk to the Panthers' linemen about which had to play the role of Hochstein during the team's practices.

When Mike Houghton said, uh, no, he wasn't Hochstein, Sapp said, "So, you don't have to tie your shoelaces together during practice?"

Funny. Except that Houghton is a practice squad player. He would probably give up a finger to swap places with Hochstein, who gets to start Sunday.

And so it went. Sapp kept working the crowd, asking his questions. His producers seemed very happy. Downtown Julie would have been proud.

Then it happened. Sapp found himself face-to-face with 13-year-old Justin Hill, who says he's a gas-caster for Nickelodeon. Hill asked Sapp how much he weighs. Sapp told him to guess.

"Uh, 320?" Hill said.

"Nope," Sapp said, and spun and walked away.

For Hill, it was a great journalistic experience. Sometimes, all you get is one question.

Depending, of course, on your ratings.

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