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To the victors goes ...

Special to Page 2

Editor's Note: After Team Bush's heart-stopping victory over Team Gore finally went into the official record books, ESPN's Bob Ley was one of the few journalists allowed in the winning Republican locker room. This is his exclusive report for Page 2:

George W. Bush
George W. Bush benefitted from his own Montana-to-Rice connection.
Absolute exhaustion the word down here, but an exuberant fatigue pervades this Republican locker room. That's attorney Barry Richard over in the corner, having been carried in like Kellen Winslow between his teammates, receiving an IV to replenish his legal fluids.

You've never seen anything like these Republicans whooping it up down here. Well, actually you have, if you were watching that earlier game against the Dade County Canvassing Board. Tonight, these clean-cut capitalists are ready to boogie down with their Amex gold cards and private-reserve wines.

So much of Team Bush's success was the work of their fabled combination of Montana to Rice -- the offensive schemes of Montana Gov. Mark Racicot, and defensive genius flashed by Condoleeza Rice.

You can certainly understand why George W. was so outspoken in league meetings against the use of videotape replay to review official decisions. "Upon further review." Geez, who didn't use that phrase through these overtime periods? From county canvassers, to the Florida Supreme Court.

Speaking of that, we'll keep an eye open for Clarence "Big Man" Thomas and the Chief, Bill Rehnquist, to see if they stop by to offer their congratulations. Even from here, you can hear the shrieks from the Gore clubhouse about that last penalty flag.

Whew ... look at that champagne flying in front of the showers! That's Dubya's secret weapon. Linebacker Chad Cascadden, defensive tackle Chad Jennings, outfielder Chad Curtis, catcher Chad Kreuter and crafty left-hander Chad Ogea. George W. has often spoken of his love for these tough Chads, who punch holes wherever needed. No talk from these lovable lugs of pregnancy or dimples.

Speaking of tough guys, I gotta tell you, it was a struggle getting into this Bush locker room past the security. They took a singular joy in keeping the Hollywood crowd from barging in for a photo op. Alec Baldwin might need some time on the DL -- or in Canada -- to recover.

Let's see if we can get a word with assistant coach John McCain. "John! ... John!" ... Gee, that was a first, passing up a media interview. We've heard the talk of a rift between the winning coach and his veteran colleague. They were able to get on the same page of the playbook for this big game, but it appears McCain is anxious to call some of his own plays now.

But one of the key decisions for George W. was installing the Velvet Hammer offense, bringing quarterback Jimmy Baker off the bench in overtime, using the same deft hand that left Saddam Hussein gasping in the sand several seasons back. Of course, speculation will rage forever whether Dubya made that call or Daddy phoned it down from the owner's box.

Still, the word down here is that the man who somehow made political capital out of trading Sammy Sosa looked very much like the Gipper himself during those interminable overtime periods. Alone, pensive, a Reaganesque figure on the sidelines, clearing brush, riding the range, dressing in the right shade of ranch denim.

Let's get up to the podium for the trophy presentation to George W. He and "Big-Time" Dick Cheney will be handed that coveted silver Presidential trophy from the man most responsible for similar presentations to Bill Clinton. Now, let's toss it up to Alan Greenspan.

Bob Ley has worked for ESPN since the network's debut in 1979. He is currently the host of "Outside the Lines" and appears regularly on SportsCenter. After Charley Steiner hijacked Bob's generous lunch offer to the folks in the SportsCenter newsroom one day (expanding it, over the paging system, to include the entire building), Bob came to understand that Charley is truly a liberal Democrat -- exceedingly generous with someone else's hard-earned money.

here's to winners 

Steiner: The losers' lament

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