Originally created 01/27/99

Anything goes on Media Day



MIAMI -- The television reporter desperately needed something fresh. Esera Tuaolo, a Falcons backup defensive lineman who contributed eight solo tackles in this dream season and is a blip figure any other day during Super Bowl week, obliged the request.

The TV reporter discovered that among Tuaolo's talents, along with pass rush and run stopping, is his ability to croon.

"Please, Esera, how 'bout a few bars," the TV guy begs for. "Any song you want. We'll definitely get you on tonight."

The magic words: Air time.

Tuaolo, a no-name this year, is one to hold up signs "Will Sing For Interview." The burly Samoan has sung duets with Brian McKnight and the Wu-Tang Clan, and he's got his own compact disc of island music recorded. For the Falcons' first preseason game, Tuaolo wowed his teammates with a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

So with microphone in hand, and more importantly the cameras rolling, Tuaolo the balladeer belted out a few versus from the old Manhattan's song "Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodbye," even reaching the high notes without pulling his groin.

Anything for some pub.

Anything for air time.

Anything on Media Day.

"Some guys are hams, some guys aren't," Tuaolo explains. "When you don't get much chance to talk, you've got to do your best to keep them coming back."

So Tuaolo sings. Denver's Derek Loville interviews teammates. Calvin Collins videotapes the whole proceedings.

Jamal Anderson, never one to shy away from the chance to talk about himself, pulls out his 35 millimeter camera and asks the media contingent to pose for pictures.

"Now you guys just act normal like you normally do," Anderson tells us. "But watch the drool."

There's Super Sunday, a day that every football player dreams of reaching. Then there's Super Tuesday, a day every member of the media, including yours truly, absolutely dreads. This is the day when we get every player from the Falcons, and every player from the Broncos, and we try to cull anything that we think you the people will enjoy reading about.

So we get Tuaolo to sing for us. We get center Robbie Toebeck to pose with a Welsh flag wrapped around his back, a photo opportunity for the Falcons' sister city in Wales. We get Denver teammates Harry Swayne and Tony Jones competing in a game of Operation. No word yet on who secured the funny bone.

All good fun. Something to ease the mounting tension of Super Bowl week.

"I'm really savoring the moment," injured lineman Dave Widell said. "I think the crush of the media is a positive for us. A lot of these guys haven't gotten a lot of attention being on a very mediocre team in the past. When I walk around and see the looks on my teammates' faces, I see they're enjoying this moment. You hear a lot of guys talk about media day, and they don't want to go because they're going to get 1,000 questions and it's not going to be a good thing. But I think for the Atlanta Falcons, today is a great day."

A great day for the absurd. On one side of Pro Player Stadium are Comedy Central correspondents asking about strip clubs and butt-patting and celibacy.

On the other side are the coaches, trying to add some serious stuffiness to the light-hearted mood by actually talking about football. They needed to take a lesson from Shannon Sharpe, who should have charged a cover fee to those who stood around to listen his hour-long witticisms.

Among other things, the league's sharpest tongue went from the Tour de France to the Tour de Miami.

"We ran the Dolphins out of their own house," Sharpe jabbed. "We're the new kings in town."

Thankfully, media day is nothing about football.

Sports columnist Rick Dorsey can be reached at (706) 823-3219 or rdorsey@augustachronicle.com.