Hey relax, it doesn't matter
Gary Shelton, The St.Petersburg Times, published 6 January 2002

The way to figure it is this: If the Eagles lose their entire offensive line in a snowstorm, if three-fourths of their secondary gets lost on the way to the stadium, if coach Andy Reid suspends his starting backfield, if Hugh Douglas gives up football midweek, if the NFL rules the Eagles receivers all lied on their resumes, if Donovan McNabb hurts himself after two handoffs and if the Bucs hang onto their kickoff returns, then we have discovered this much. In that case, man, are the Eagles in trouble.

This was among the many amazing discoveries we all made during Sunday night's Prime Time Scrimmage in which the Guys Who Don't Play for the Eagles rallied valiantly to beat the Guys Who Don't Play for the Bucs 17-13. It was the Backup Bowl, and it just didn't matter. Ah, don't you love a game for none of the marbles? A half-dozen plays in, and a search team couldn't have found a regular for either team. Add a few fireworks, throw in a couple of strippers and give Jesse Ventura a microphone, and this was the XFL. Not to say it was bad football but I think Charles McRae was in there at the end.

Everywhere you looked, you saw Pips and Vandellas and the Hermits. Nowhere did you see Gladys Knight or Martha Reeves or Herman. This was one of the silliest exercises in the history of the NFL. It was this team, wrapping its stars in bubble wrap, and that team, wrapping its stars in Styrofoam. It was the Don't Hurt Me Bowl, a game in which you could throw the incentive clauses right out.

It was practice. It was a scrimmage. It was a dress rehearsal in which some of the key actors, such as Key, didn't even dress. It was guys playing under assumed offenses. If you had had Alice Cooper and Kevin Costner here, it could have been a pro-am. Except Costner probably would have sat out, too, although judging from his recent work, who knows why?

Some teams back in the playoffs. The Bucs and Eagles back-upped their way there. They both managed not to get anyone hurt. Yippee. Don't fool yourself into thinking this means anything. Momentum? No, it won't mean much Saturday, when the teams play again. Intimidation? No. Revenge? No. It was the How-Much-Did-You-Pay-for-That-Ticket Classic. That's it.

Oh, there were a few observations you could make along the way, if you bothered to pay attention. First, where in the world have the Bucs been keeping Milton Wynn. And why? Hey, I think Aaron Stecker is going to make this team. Who, exactly, did Simeon Rice tick off to stay in the game so long? If this is the jayvee game, do the players get hot dogs afterward?

Look, Warren Sapp is starting. How many sacks does he need to catch Mark Gastineau? Hey, Malcolm in the Middle is on. Does that mean Glazer is in between Bill Parcells and Steve Spurrier? Where, exactly, does Dennis Green mail his resume? Shaun King is upset at the media? Hey, we didn't give Brad Johnson $28-million. Preseason game? Hey, at least in the preseason there are jobs on the line. Usually not the head coach's, however.

Milton Wynn is going to be an urban legend. Is the average temperature in Philadelphia in January minus-1,000, or colder?

Do you know how bad the Bucs' offensive line starters have been? That's the reason there haven't been lineup changes. By comparison, the Sprite victory over Coke never has been more exciting. Pardon me, Mr. Reid, but is this going to be on next week's final? And is that still worth 100 percent of the grade? The DeMarcus Curry for Pro Bowl movement begins now.

Can someone please break that Hey, Hey We're the Buccaneers record? It sounds like what you hear as you board the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. If the Houston Texans were watching, they're going to need a little more time to get ready. Is this the Weedeater Bowl? Koy Detmer is still alive?

What's a nice guy like Donnie Abraham doing in the final moments of a game like this? If this was the real NFL, David Gibson would be Ronnie Lott. Hey, who knew the seats at the RayJay were red? How many of these plays will make the Bucs' highlight film?

Dream staff: Dungy coaches the defense, Spurrier coaches the offense and Parcells coaches the special teams. It coulda been worse. There coulda been overtime. Memo to Clyde: Concerning next week's game plan, send Milton long! On the way home, should I take the back streets?

And so it went. If you like football, if you enjoy the passion and the athleticism and the tension, you were definitely better off renting Remember the Titans. This was more curiosity than competition. It was a cat-and-mouse game played by a bee and a butterfly, who promptly were replaced by a gnat and a flea in the second half. Some day, the guys in this game will crank up the VCR and show the tape to their grandchildren, just to prove that they really, really did play in the NFL.