By Steve Czaban Special to Published Feb 02, 2005 at 5:11 AM

{image1} Welcome to Jacksonville, everybody. The city of thin skin. Write one bad thing, and the place goes into defensive hyper-drive. Columnist Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post was first out of the gate with a column that called Jacksonville an unworthy Super City.

A Podunk cow town. An odoriferous backwater.

Naturally, Jacksonville did what all mid-major cities do. It over-reacted with unintentionally hilarious hysterics.

Kornheiser was the LEAD story on the 6 p.m. news one day! A yuk yuk columnist in another city, who has never been (and will never go) to Jacksonville, pushed all other important news down a rung. Are you kidding me?

Look, Jacksonville is just fine. They have roads, convention centers, cabs (a few), restaurants and a football stadium. You, the average football fan, will never know the difference when the game comes flickering on the television Sunday afternoon.

The weather sucks, but it'll look like Maui by this time next year when we are all in Detroit. I saw the grass field on Tuesday. It is beyond immaculate, as it always is for the Super Bowl. George Toma is called the "Sod God" for a reason. Next to the Lord himself, nobody makes real blades of grass sit up and smile quite like George.

So everything will be fine. Trust me.

But there's one thing Jacksonville should remember. If you invite some guys over to your house to watch the game, don't be shocked if you can only roll out a 19-inch TV with a bag of stale chips, that there could be some grumbling.

You got the game. It was a reach, but you got it. Be happy, be proud, and shut up already about us out-of-towners. We don't live here, so it doesn't matter what we think.

That said, let me unload some random thoughts.

I got to listen to Terrell Owens on Media Day at the stadium for about 15 minutes. He's a star's star of a player. Confident? Of course. Cocky? Sure. But I didn't see the runaway narcissism in T.O. that I have seen in some of the other media darlings during this event.

I listened to Deion Sanders at his first Super Bowl in Miami. I listened to Tony Siragusa at his first in Tampa. I listened to Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson in San Diego. All were virtually insufferable. All of them preened on the podium like peacocks. Owens just tried to stay warm. His answers to questions were often matter-of-fact and to the point. Not dripping in self-aggrandizement. Funny at times. Tongue in cheek, at others. I am more of a fan of his, than ever. Too bad he's not healthy. Too bad. If he plays Sunday and makes an impact, it's a hell of a story. If he plays and makes an impact and the Eagles win, it's one of the best stories in the NFL in the last 10 years or more. I'd like to see it, but I am betting against it.

Andy Reid is huge. I mean, he's really, really fat. I already knew this, but it didn't hit me until I saw him in a suit on stage to begin the week opposite Bill Belichick. Whoa. He must get his suits fitted by going to a textile plant, unrolling a spool of material on the floor, and lying down for a chalk outline. He's a really nice guy, and a hell of a coach. But win or lose on Sunday, I think Andy needs to dial it down 50 or so this off-season for his own good. Not that there's an official stat on this, but I think he's certainly the heaviest coach to have ever coached the Super Bowl. Getting him up on somebody's shoulders if the Eagles win, might take four or five guys.

Radio Row at the Super Bowl is turning into a real life parody of the movie "Groundhog Day." It's fun at first. Players, coaches, media celebs and quasi-celebs all mingle freely. You get to talk to them. Schmooze. The food is free (at least chips and soda) and you get paid to talk sports among your so-called "peers" in the industry. But I've done five of these now, and I feel like Bill Murray when he punched Ned Reyerson in the face. Bing! You get sick of seeing the same unkempt shlubs every year -- and I am one of them! (Although I do try to shower every day).

Looking over radio row every year, I have a clear understanding of why athletes often hate the media. Most of these media guys are regular good guys. They are just trying to do their jobs, cash a check, and not get fired. I'm in that club. But the whole deal is the same every single time, down to the very chips in the free media bowl. And I'm not so sure I really can bring anything "special" to my listeners on radio. It's just a football game, after all. The team that can "control the line of scrimmage," "cut down on turnovers" and "capitalize on the big play" should win. Yada yada. I could have given that to people from home. Oh well. If they send me, I'll come -- and keep the receipts. There are worse fates in life. I could be swinging a hot tar mop on a roof somewhere.

As much as athletes might hate the media while playing, it is now amazing how many come running to our business once their knees give out. The NFL Network has become a quasi-retirement benefit for ex-players who look good on TV and can diagram a screen pass. Radio row is crawling with guys who now want/need a steady check. I'll be doing a four-hour show with former NFLers Brian Cox and James Washington of Fox Sports Radio on Saturday. That should be fun. Cox is a guy who I regularly skewered as a me-first team cancer when he played for the Bears, Dolphins, Saints, Jets and Patriots. Hmm, how should I start the show? "Hey Brian, I never did like you as a player. Convince me I was wrong to think that."

Finally, there's a scary trend that has developed among my radio colleagues here in Jacksonville. At least a half dozen guys (producers, reporters, hosts, etc.) have come up to me and said, "Hey, I just wanted to tell you (and here, I swell up awaiting a compliment on my radio show) that I really love your WEB SITE, I go there every day!" Go figure. A nationally syndicated radio show, local show in Washington D.C., and a long running gig with Bob and Brian here in Milwaukee, and instead I am now becoming "that guy with the great Web site." Strange days in Jacksonville.

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Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.