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Saturday Night Fever

Feb. 08, 1999
Feb. 08, 1999

Table of Contents
Feb. 8, 1999

Faces In The Crowd
Tennis
NBA Preview 1998-99

Saturday Night Fever

Play pinochle. Catch up on your thumb-twiddling. Guess the
number of cashews in the hotel room minibar. Knit. Scratch.
Levitate. Any of these are fine things to do the night before a
Super Bowl.

This is an article from the Feb. 8, 1999 issue Original Layout

An example of what's not a fine thing to do: Leave your wife,
two kids, father, uncles, aunts and teammates, jump in your
rental car, drive to the fishnet part of town and attempt to
purchase $40 worth of oral sex from a female cop posing as a
street-corner trollop.

Honey, I'm just going out for a quart of milk. Would you have
two twenties?

Atlanta Falcons free safety Eugene Robinson was charged by Miami
police with doing exactly that last Saturday night, thereby
putting the XXX in Super Bowl XXXIII. Not that it was a
distraction or anything. He just had to be bailed out at 11 p.m.
by Atlanta's general manager, try to explain the episode to his
wife and family (See, I've got this superstition), not sleep the
entire night, keep his teammates up stewing about the incident
and keep his sore-hearted coach up for hours fretting about it.

But a distraction? Nah. Robinson was able to go right out and
contribute all he could to the Denver Broncos' easy 34-19 win.
He missed more tackles than the extras in The Galloping Ghost,
twice was faked out of his shorts (O.K., bad example) by Terrell
Davis and got burned in the crushing play of the game, an
80-yard sting operation from John Elway to Rod Smith that gave
the Broncos a 17-3 lead. As one Denver fan's sign read: EUGENE
ROBINSON FOR PRESIDENT.

Why this guy wasn't benched, I'll never know. Because he was
innocent? In a bit of fluent Clintonese, Robinson said after the
game that he thought he was "innocent in this deal, not
righteous in this deal." Say what? Then he spent the next 15
minutes begging forgiveness from Jesus Christ, his wife, his
family, his teammates and his coaches. "I will have to make
amends with everyone that knows me," he said. Does that sound
like an innocent man to you?

Denver coach Mike Shanahan wouldn't have benched him. He'd have
killed him.

No, I take that back. Robinson wouldn't have been in jail on
Saturday night because he never would've gotten out of Broncos
lockup. Here was Denver's Saturday night: dinner at 7, meeting
at 8, meeting at 8:30, mandatory snack at 9, curfew at 11. "Mike
treats us like men," Elway said earlier in the week. Exactly. If
the fire marshal would let him, Shanahan would chain his players
in their rooms the night before a game. Now, here was Atlanta's
Saturday night: no team dinner, no team meetings, no
restrictions except a midnight curfew. The Falcons coaches might
as well have said, "Gentlemen, Miami is one of the most
dangerous, hypersexed, drug-riddled cities in all of North
America. Have fun out there!"

Robinson's idea of fun allegedly centered around the good-time
intersection of N.E. 22nd Street and Biscayne Boulevard, which
is about a hundred yards from the Miami Police Edgewater
Mini-Station. Some sneaky undercover work by Miami vice, no?
Makes you wonder what other warning signals Robinson might have
missed that night.

Hey, big boy, can I see your...license and registration?

On one corner is a vacant lot. Someday the NFL Historical
Society might put up a plaque: ON THIS SPOT EUGENE ROBINSON BLEW
THE SUPER BOWL. The hookers could point to it with pride.

Atlanta coach Dan Reeves probably would've rather had his
sutures ripped out with a fire ax than not have Robinson in this
game. Robinson was his team motivator, the player who has
intercepted more passes than anybody in the game today, the man
who's played about as many games against Elway as any other
defensive back. "Anybody but Eugene," Atlanta linebacker Henri
Crockett said Sunday before the game.

You'd think so. Robinson, 35, is model handsome and active in
charitable affairs. "It's my personality to reach out to the
community," he says. In fact, earlier in the day of his arrest
for reaching out to one too many members of the community,
Robinson's "high moral character" won him the Bart Starr Award
from Athletes in Action. Next week he's scheduled to accept the
James Worthy Award from Athletes Looking for Action.

The whole thing is sad, really. It's sad when a man arrives at
his big night, determined to fulfill his ultimate quest, only to
be denied.

Then, to lose a football game the next night, well....

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
Charged with soliciting an undercover cop, Eugene Robinson
put the XXX in Super Bowl XXXIII.