Better living through chemistry
By Jim Armstrong
Special to Page 2

If the Super Bowl comes down to which team has better drugs, the Bucs are in big trouble.

The Raiders have Romo on their side.

It's true. Send lawyers, guns and money, Tampa. Romo is back in the Big Game.

Bill Romanowski
That's 25 pills a day for every ring.
Bill Romanowski is the Jimi Hendrix of NFL linebackers, except Romo is older. He admits to popping more than 100 pills a day. 'Xcuse him while he kisses the sky and hacks a loogie on the nearest wideout. Good thing they wear helmets in football or he'd go Tyson on somebody.

More than 100 pills presumably means less than a thousand, but you never know. This is Romo we're talking about. His trusty traveling tackle box contains a cure for everything from lower back pain to the economy.

''Never leave home without it," says Romo.

We can't be sure what's in there, only that it works. Or did you think it was just a coincidence that, of the 333 players selected in the 1988 draft, only a handful, including Tim Brown and Romo, still are playing? Or that Romo never has missed a game in his 15-year career? Or that he's attempting to become the first player ever to win five Super Bowl rings in three decades?

He kept one of the first four and gave the others to his wife and two kids. If he wins another on Sunday, he ought to give it to his pharmacist. Or maybe his personal trainer. Or perhaps one of the other members of Team Romo -- his massage therapist or his nutritionist or his chiropractor.

And hey, at the risk of giving you more information than you need, let's not forget the poor sap who regularly tests Romo's stool to make sure he's getting, you know, the proper nutrition. No really, we're not making this up. With Romo, Transylvania Tech Class of '88, no story is too bizarre to be true.

His Raiders teammates, not exactly teetotalers themselves when it comes to enhancing their bodies, had never seen the likes of Romo. All they knew was that he had a knack for cheap shots, phony prescriptions and winning championships.

"I tell him every day, 'I'm gaining on you,' " says defensive tackle John Parrella. "I tell him I'm lifting more than he is or taking some supplement he's not taking. I'm not really, but I tell him just to see the look on his face."

Ah, yes, the look on Romo's face. He doesn't just walk the walk and talk the talk. Romo looks the look. Dude could make a lioness abandon her cubs with one glance. His game face is a cross between Charles Manson and Bela Lugosi just before he sinks his teeth into some hottie's jugular.

For years, Romo has had a love-hate relationship with other NFL players. As in, if he's on your team, you love him. If not, you hate his ever-loving guts. What, you think he doesn't get into opposing players' heads? Shannon Sharpe, the victim of one of the nastiest hits of Romo's career, keeps a picture of him in his locker. Titans tackle Fred Miller was flagged for a personal foul early in the AFC Championship Game for taking a whack at Romo after he laid a love tap on Steve McNair.

Bill Romanowski
Romo should be fully embalmed by 2005.
Can you imagine the story lines if the Giants were playing the Raiders on Sunday? Kerry Collins drank his lunch for a month a few years ago after having his jaw broken by Romo. Just to prove what a nice guy he is, Romo didn't spit in Collins' face as he walked away. J.J. Stokes should have been so lucky.

So now, here he is, back at the Super Bowl, answering stupid questions on Media Day. Which reminds me. Romo wouldn't be a tree even if he could be. He'd rather be a thorn bush. As the fateful hour draws near, there's something you need to know about the NFL's baddest boy: He fully expected to be playing in San Diego this weekend.

Moments after being released by the Broncos last summer, he put in a call to Al Davis. "This is Bill Romanowski," he told Davis' secretary. "Tell Mr. Davis that I'd like to help him win another Super Bowl." That's all he said. She called back and left a message. She said, "Mr. Davis thinks you'd look good in silver and black."

One of these days, we might get to see what Romo looks like in bronze. Say what? Romo, a Hall of Famer? Well, now that you mentioned it, yeah. Stuff happens to linebackers who win five Super Bowls and never miss a game in a decade and a half. But don't take my word for it. Take Mike Shanahan's.

"He's got four rings, he's got 200-something games and 15 years without missing a game," Shanahan says. "I'd be surprised if he didn't get in."

The Hall of Fame will have to wait. At the moment, Romo has more important matters on his mind. He's never lost a Super Bowl and doesn't plan to start Sunday. But on the off chance you don't believe fate is on the Raiders' side, consider the case of their quarterback, Rich Gannon.

When Super Bowl XXXVII kicks off, Gannon will be 37 years and 37 days old. Let me guess. The Raiders are going to score 37 points. And with Romo around, they might have 37 penalties.

Jim Armstrong, a sports columnist for the Denver Post, will be a regular contributor to Page 2.



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