Amateur behaviorial scientists were ready today to make the Oakland Raiders the favorites in Sunday's Super Bowl on the basis of being less bothered by the distractions here.
In fact, the Raiders created some of their own Monday night. About a dozen Raiders occupied the bar at the media hotel headquarters, among them Jim Plunkett and Cliff Branch, who were there at 2:15 a.m.
The smallish Branch looked, in his baseball hat, like a jockey perched on a bar stool. "I live in that hat," he said, as he was interviewed this morning lying on his back, a helmet for a pillow.
He had a good time then?
"Did I? It was a good welcome to New Orleans."
Would he be able to run a few 100-yard sprints?
"I will by Sunday," he said.
It was mentioned to Plunkett that he appeared tired and he said, roguishly, "It's the effect of the time change from Oakland."
Are the Raiders more relaxed than the Philadelphia Eagles?
"Well, we were on Bourbon street, but I didn't see any Eagles there."
As a television camera zoomed in on Ted Hendricks, coach-turned-sportcaster John Madden made a fuss about having the linebacker remove his warmup jacket.
"Well," Hendricks observed, pausing for effect, "You never undressed me before! You used to make the bed check and kiss me on the forehead, and always ask me to tell you a bedtime story, but never undress me. Even after the day I rode a horse to practice."
Al ("General," so called because of the scrambled eggs on his coaching cap) LoCassale, aide-de-camp to owner Al Davis, acknowledged that the Raiders had been officially let out of their cage, smiling conspiratorially as if it were a significant part of the club's overall strategy. "They will be allowed out until midnight tonight (Tuesday), then there will be an 11 p.m. curfew for the rest of the week."
Tony Franklin, the Eagles' barefoot kicker with a ton of cheek who tests Coach Dick Vermeil's patience to a fine point, noted that Bourbon Street was not that big a deal to him or the Eagles. "I had been there enough from playing in the Sugar Bowl when I was at Texas A&M," he said.
"We're not angels, but we didn't go out. What the Raiders do is their business. I'm sure they'll be ready to play us, no matter whether they went out or not. We work hard and try not to peak too early."
Linebacker Bill Bergey, 35, said, "So let the Raiders go out. I haven't had a beer since June 21."
Franklin is a thorn in the side of disciplinarian Vermeil because of his independence of spirit as well as his off-field diversions.
He was in the coach's doghouse this season because, in a game against Tampa Bay, when instructed to try an onside kick, he instead booted the ball far downfield -- and out of bounds, drawing a penalty. Then, when ordered to kick off deep, thought he saw a pocket in the Buccaneers' defense, and took it upon himself to try an outside kick that failed.
He was fined on a schedule that cost him $100 a game this year, to remind him of the error of his ways. "The fines ended with the beginning of the playoffs this season," he said.
Franklin was publicly criticized by Vermeil after a loss at Dallas in the final game of the regular season, with the warning he would have to shape up or be shipped out. "I improved after that," Franklin said.
Franklin denied that he talks to the ball while waiting to kick it. He was asked about having a reputation for not having his head screwed on straight and about placekickers being strange.
"I don't consider placekickers strange," he said. We have the same needs and desires as you-all," he went on. "I was getting a lot of bad press. I was in a slump. I was jumping at the ball. I corrected that. I'm three for five in the playoffs in field goals and would have been five for five if it hadn't been for breakdowns in protection that resulted in two kicks being blocked."
Franklin was reminded that straight-arrow Vermeil has said that he "felt funny the first time he met Franklin."
Franklin said, "You will have to ask Vermeil about that." And when the placekicker was asked if he regarded himself as a football player, he said, "Yes, I do. I've made five tackles in five attempts after kickoffs, and I was hurt doing it against Atlanta. Once in a while, I tear off a piece of my hide while kicking barefooted, but I put on a bandage, suck it up and go.
"I kick barefooted because I can kick the ball farther that way. When I was 15, I tried to kick with a shoe and the ball went 35 yards. I learned to placekick from watching Jan Stenerud on television; we didn't have a soccer team at our school."
Does anyone try to step on his bare foot?
"They can't," he said, "because I'm like an old hooty owl; I swing my head side to side so I can cover 360 degrees. I like birds. I had two blue-crowned Amazon parrots in my house until one died. The one left is named 'Blue Boy.' He talks like a fool. They're like babies, the way they imitate what you say. The one I have now sits on my shoulder and it would take an act of Congress to get him off. That's unusual.