Health Nut

August 31, 2003

How does a violence dispenser like Oakland Raiders linebacker
Bill Romanowski play 15 years in the NFL without ever missing a
game?

Something like this:

7 a.m.--Romo arrives at Raiders headquarters. He's well-rested,
maybe because he takes ZMA, GABA and/or melatonin--all legal
supplements--to help him sleep. Few athletes in the world are as
obsessed with reading about, thinking about and spending money on
their bodies as Romo.

Who else do you know who has physical trainers, chiropractors,
yoga instructors, acupuncturists, Pilates instructors, Reiki
therapists and other consultants, about 20 in all, on his
payroll? Or owns a hyperbaric chamber? Or has injected living
pancreas, brain and adrenal cells of pure-strain Scottish sheep
into his body?

Who else do you know who regularly sends out samples of his
blood, feces and urine to a North Carolina laboratory to check
for mineral deficiencies in his diet? (Hey, who's the lucky UPS
guy?)

"People who call me a wacko," says Romo, "can look at all those
games I've played in a row." That's 240 straight, the most ever
for a linebacker. Or a wacko.

7:32--Romo hooks up one of his two electrical microcurrent
stimulators to his body. The sessions last 20 to 30 minutes and
are repeated on various parts of his body several times a day.
"Each part of your body has a certain electrical frequency," says
Romo, "including emotions. I can put it on the JOY setting, and I
can't help but crack a smile."

Wait, there's Al Davis. Can we get him hooked up to it?

9:55--After team meetings Romo downs one of three power shakes
he'll drink today. They're crammed full of unpronounceable stuff
and count toward his colossal intake of 250 grams of protein a
day. He'll also gulp between 100 and 130 pills throughout the
day, depending on what his feces sample, his consultants and his
body are telling him.

He carries his pills in a plastic container the size of a welcome
mat--about 500 colorful vitamins and supplements divided into
dozens of tiny compartments. Inside it looks like Willy Wonka's
briefcase. One time, he dropped it. "It took me three hours to
pick the pills all up and sort them again," he says.

10:03--While the rest of the Raiders sit to stretch, Romo moves
up and down the field with his personal stretching consultant.
Some days the guy will stretch Romo for four hours, but today
it's got to be quick. As Romo's walking along he'll suddenly kick
his tree-trunk leg over his head like a very odd-looking
Rockette.

Noon--For lunch, Romo downs mass quantities of food, carefully
selected by his nutritionist, be it almond-butter-covered rice
cakes or the occasional shark cartilage. Romo may spit loogies in
your face--as he did to San Francisco 49ers receiver J.J. Stokes
six years ago--but at least you know they're organic.

Across the way 330-pound lineman Frank Middleton is asked if any
of Romo's ways have rubbed off on him. "Are you kiddin'?"
Middleton says. "Man, I'm fat. I got no muscle. I got nothin' to
pull, stretch, hurt or tear."

Meanwhile, a few Raiders are going to a fast-food joint. "I like
it when they go there," Romo says. "Maybe that's why I'm still
playing. I hope they keep going."

12:40 p.m.--Practice. Even at 37, nobody's engine revs higher
than Romo's. His bursts still come straight out of 1988, his
rookie year. He still sprints after Jerry Rice to the end zone
and back on every play. His eyes are still the size of hubcaps,
perhaps because of the CDP choline and pheryl he takes for
intensity.

3:30--Most of the other players head home, but Romotron is just
getting warmed up. He has another power shake--"phosphorous and
colostrum with a nice root beer flavor," he says, beaming. Yummy!
That's followed by 45 minutes of weightlifting and then a
45-minute soft-tissue massage.

If this were postgame, though, he'd start an IV of 50 grams of
vitamin C and five of glutathione to fight what he calls the
"massive amount of stress" he puts on his body. Romo has the pain
threshold of an anvil--he once played with a torn oblique muscle,
which is like playing with a wolf trap snapped onto your stomach.

Oh, he never missed a game in college, high school, middle school
or peewee, either. When's the last time he got sick? "Can't
remember," he says.

5:05--More stretching, followed by 40 minutes of hopping from a
40° cold tub to a 110° hot tub. In between Romo glugs water
purified by his own portable ionizer. He'll drink two gallons
today. "I had to drink bottled water the other day," he says.
"Awful."

8:08--More self-electrocution, followed by a full-body coating of
zinc and copper cream, then a TV interview, and it's finally time
for mad little linebackers to go home. Another easy 13-hour day.
As the last one at the complex, he turns out the lights.

10:03--At home Romo indulges his sweet tooth with a tiny sliver
of cheesecake.

Boy, some people have no sense of commitment.

If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to
reilly@siletters.com.

B/W PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER

Romanowski has another power shake--"phosphorous and colostrum
with a nice root beer flavor," he says, beaming.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)