So this ain't a football town after all. Over Super Bowl weekend, our cover was, well, blown.
Politics is clearly the sport of choice, as the White House's sordid soap opera plainly exposed. Burgundy and gold, never mind with Packer green and Bronco orange, are irrelevant. The primary colors around these parts right now are white, as in Whitewateryou remember, Freewheelin' Ken Starr's alleged area of influenceand blue, as in the shade of Monica's allegedly unwashed dress, the one sullied while she was under the commander in chief's, er, watch. (Look for Ms. Blewhimsky's friends to bounce her out of their garment-swapping clique now that she has bared her own oral history and a penchant for accessorizing with body fluids.)
Monica may yet turn out to be a special space case, but we're all Starr-struck. Just as Denver had to kick butt on foreign soil to earn its Super Bowl berth, Starr performed admirably on enemy turf, too, to get his expanded assignment. Somehow, he got the Justice Department to let him shelve that fruitless probe into dirtwater land dealings and oversee a sting operation whose sole goal was to prove something the entire country already knew: that the president's Achilles' heel is in his pants. Too bad the special prosecutor wasn't wearing one of his own wires when he threw that pitch. It probably went something like:
Starr: "Well...the stain on her dress is white...and, uhhh, well...it's wet...and, uhhh, well..."
Janet "Big Country" Reno: "OK, Mr. Whitewater, where do I sign?"
The Reno rollover set up a Drudge match of epic proportions: Starr-Clinton, winner-take-all, loser-leaves-town. That duel, not the Green Bay-Denver tussle, is what has this town buzzing. Just go near the Watergate and you'll see what a big deal this is: Paparazzi toting Tommy Lee-size zoom lenses stalk the grounds around the clock, all hunting down Deep Throat '98. Local TV is the worst, but no news organization has risen above the lewdicrously low level established at the story's onset. Even the Post is slinging sleaze like Jerry Springer during sweeps.
And we can't swallow enough of it. Who doesn't know that Ms. Tripp always looks as if she smells a fart and that Ms. Lewinsky in her 24 years has appeared in fewer photographs than most vampires? And that neither Tripp nor Lewinsky can get Clinton's naughty bits out of her head?
As much as we know about these people, we still want more. Super Bowl parties were thrown, but the game was secondary. Sure, there was small talk about scoring and spreads, but it didn't pertain to the Big Game. And there was betting, but our best pools dealt not with Broncos-Packers scoring but with whether Hillary and America will dump the president and, if so, who will go first.
Leave it to the rest of the country to ponder whether John Elway opts to stay on the job for one more season. Here, we wonder whether the nation's signal caller, now in the second year of a four-year pact, will play out what's left of his deal.
Defenses were discussed liberally, but nobody inside the Beltway cared whether Green Bay stuck with the two-deep zone or why Denver went man-up in the nickel. We'd rather guess at the excuses Monica and Bill will use to explain away the late night hi-jinks that got 'em on Starr's bad side. Like, maybe she thought she was a White House nocturn. And maybe he thought she was the White House internist.
Assuming those don't work, Clinton will need something with a little more desperation, so at our Super Bowl party our handicapping energies were used to pick the excuse that would best serve the president. He has already hinted that he'll take the Chuck Robb approach, which is a two-pronged, just-for-men tack that calls for the accused libertine both to make a cocky "I never broke the plane!" claim and to invoke the dazzlingly flaccid "Blowgies ain't cheating!" rationale. The Robb ploy seems far more effective in saving a job than a marriage, though the Virginia senator still has both.
Clinton, being a sports buff, might also opt for the "I just learned this morning that I'm a sex addict!" strategy made famous by Wade Boggs and Geraldo. But Boggs, it should be pointed out, is no longer married to his first wife nor accompanied by his former first-team mistress, and he remains a laughingstock throughout baseball precisely because of his sexual addiction. In other words, the Boggs is a Hail Mary of a strategy, best saved for when the evidence is weighty. As in, say, O.J. weighty. So Clinton might want to wait til Monica's blue dress comes back from the Cellmark lab to decide whether to go Robb or Boggs.
NBC helped feed the locals' frenzy all week, so network brass surely knew that crass was in session here in the nation's capital. But they took no obvious steps to make their Super Bowl telecast a better fit for us, given the impact recent goings-on have had on the local disposition.
Had they considered our needs, B.J. Thomas would have sung the national anthem, and Frank Gifford and Marv Albert would have been in the booth. And long after Denver got its final lead of the gameand didn't, you know, blow itthe producers would have stuck with the broadcast until the president phoned the winning coach. Nobody here was looking forward to hearing another traditional, person-to-person call to the locker room, either. Our Super Bowl Sunday should have ended with a soundbite of the president leaving a message on Mike Shanahan's answering machine. This isn't about football.Dave McKenna