An easy-listening All-Pro
By Jim Armstrong
Special to Page 2

Rob Dibble, relaxed, retired and living the good life in front of an ESPN camera, calls himself a Nasty Boy. Please. You want nasty? I've got your nasty. His name is Bill Romanowski. But you can call him Romo, which, next thing you know, will be what backpedaling publicity hound Jeremy Shockey claims he called Bill Parcells.

Bill Romanowski
Bill Romanowski is an animal on the field. One would think he listens to heavy metal.
At 37, Romo remains the Nastiest Boy of 'em all. He's almost as old as Dibs and still knocks the ephedra out of NFL running backs. But here's what sets him apart, aside from the foam running down his mouth: With Romo, it really isn't about the money. It's more about the rush than the cash. It's about Sundays, not the first and the 15th.

"I've made a lot of money," said Romo. "It's all about winning the Super Bowl."

Good thing. Romo doesn't have time to go to the bank, anyway. There are pills to pop, chiropractors to visit, massage therapists to see, hyperbolic chambers to sleep in. For Romo, it's all in a day's work.

It stopped being about the money a long time ago. Romo has more money than he has accupuncturists, which is saying something. It's casualties he's after now. And controversy, always controversy. Everywhere he goes, controversy follows.

Cheap shots, too. Everybody needs a hobby, and Romo's is cheap shots. At least, other people call them cheap shots. Romo calls them football as it was meant to be, before quarterbacks wore bulletproof vests and slid more often than base stealers. Assault and battery, with referees rather than cops. Yeah, that's what Romo's all about.

Or not.

Want to hear a good one? Romo, by virtue of his senior citizenship, often gets to choose the music the Raiders play in their weight room. Most NFL players listen to rap or heavy metal while they pump iron. Not the Raiduhs. Not when Romo is the DJ. He plays Bread.

That's Bread, as in David Gates -- not that you'd know the name unless you happen to catch it on one of those late-night, order-by-phone, greatest-hits commercials. Stay up late enough and you can order Box Car Willie one minute and Bread the next. Is this a great country or what?

Baby I'mA Want You Lyrics
Baby I'mA Want You

Baby, I'm-a want you
Baby, I'm-a need you
You the only one I care enough to hurt about
Maybe I'm-a crazy
But I just can't live without...

Your lovin' and affection
Givin' me direction
Like a guiding light to help me through my darkest hour
Lately I'm a-prayin'
That you'll always be a-stayin' beside me

Used to be my life was just emotions passing by
Feeling all the while and never really knowing why...

Lately I'm a-prayin'
That you'll always be a-stayin' beside me.

Used to be my life was just emotions passing by
Then you came along and made me laugh
And made me cry...
You taught me why...

Baby, I'm-a want you
Baby, I'm-a need you

Oh, it took so long to find you, baby

Baby, I'm-a want you
Baby, I'm-a need you

We're talking Bread, as in "Baby I'mA Want You." It's a love song, a date song, a chick song. It may not be Brian's song, but it's Romo's song. I've known him for the better part of a decade, so I felt comfortable asking him about it - OK, carefully and good-naturedly dissing him about it - without the benefit of an armed guard or a Louisville Slugger.

Come on, Romo. Bread? This is the 21st century, dude. Most of those kids pumping iron next to you have never heard of Bread. How about a little rap or some Guns 'n' Roses or some AC/DC? Or maybe a little hip-hop for the fellas. "Baby I'mA Want You?" What's up with that?

"I like listening to Bread," Romo said. "That's a great song."

Among Romo's other favorites are Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and, of course, Neil Diamond. What, you think today's generation of NFL players hasn't heard of Dylan?

"One of the classics for the team is Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone'," said Romo. "There's 'Beast of Burden' by the Stones, lots of good ones. We haven't listened to much Neil Diamond this year, but last year we did. We listen to a lot of his stuff. 'I Am I Said' . . . there's a bunch of them."

OK, so we'll give him Neil Diamond. But David Gates? No offense, Romo. I mean, Bread was all right back in the day and all, especially if your girlfriend happened to be in the car with you. But come on. David Gates? Neil Diamond makes him sound like Axl Rose.

Romo, the Conrad Dobler of his generation, has a soft side. Romo, who once broke Kerry Collins' jawbone, is a romantic at heart. Romo, who once spit in J.J. Stokes' face, listens to Bread. Have you ever?

Romo, who denied an ex-teammate's accusation that he used the 'N' word and who got his wife in trouble for procuring him prescription diet pills, grooves to 'Baby I'mA Want You' in the weight room. Right. What's next, Norman Schwarzkopf wears pink slippers around the house? Tie Domi is afraid of his neighbor's Chihuahua?

Romo, the workout warrior who owns more Super Bowl rings than any other active player, disdains Eminem more than he does M&Ms. Romo, who once broke Shannon Sharpe's collarbone, prefers easy listening during his workouts. Romo, a monument to durability who hasn't missed a game in 15 years - 240 straight, you could look it up - likes Bread, digs 'Baby I'mA Want You', says it's a great tune.

Hey, don't ask me. Maybe we've had him pegged wrong all these years. Maybe Romo isn't so nasty after all. Maybe he's one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. Or maybe he just wants us to think so. Maybe he's got something up his sleeve besides those bulging biceps.

Who knows? Maybe he's going to run for governor of California.

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



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