Hi. My name is Cliff Traplanski.
You don't know me.
I find this incredible -- not to mention annoying -- since I'm a player on the San Francisco 49ers. Granted, coming from a small school like Massachusetts State and catching on as the fourth-string tight end isn't as glamorous as being Joe Montana from Notre Dame. But my teammates who'd been there before assured me that if we made it to the Super Bowl, even a potato-head like me would get so much free publicity that Joan Collins would get jealous and call for a date.
Yet even though the ratio of reporters to players is overwhelmingly in my favor -- 2,300 of them to 98 of us -- I'm being treated like I have lice. I haven't been quoted once in the Bay Area papers. I know. I've checked. Every day I pick up the papers, and all I see are Super Bowl diaries by my teammates. Randy Cross is in the San Francisco Chronicle; Dwight Hicks in the San Jose Mercury News; the Peninsula Times Tribune had a piece by John Ayers; the San Francisco Examiner had bylined stories from Montana, Ray Wersching, Dwaine Board, Guy McIntyre and John Frank. McIntyre and Frank! Give me a break. If they were planted any deeper on the depth chart they'd be mushrooms.
I'm not asking for much. Just for the same chance as all the other players to share a few personal thoughts with 200 million Americans. Like, what kind of tree I would be if I could be a tree. Or, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. I know I didn't have the kind of season Dan Marino had. Who did? But if you opened up his head, enough air would whiz out to fill 500 balloons. Tell the truth, wouldn't you rather have me expose the sex and drug habits of the 49ers than hear Marino list all 12 of the United States? That's why I'm so grateful to The Washington Post for making this space available to me for Cliff Traplanski's Super Bowl Diary.
Monday: I know I'm supposed to think of Miami as the enemy, but I don't. I find it impossible to work up genuine animosity towards a team named after a fish. Aquatically speaking, Marino is a good name for a Dolphins quarterback, but Turner Gill would be better . . . The Dolphins flew into town tonight. They're staying in Oakland. I thought it'd be fun to reprise the stunt Bill Walsh pulled a few years ago, so I dressed up as a bellhop and helped the Dolphins check in. Unfortunately, nobody recognized me, so the joke sort of fell flat. On the other hand, I made $40 in tips and I got Don Shula's autograph.
Tuesday: Picture Day. This is the first of three straight days when members of the press get a shot at us, and they want us wearing our uniforms for the photographers. I was standing on the field at Candlestick when the reporters arrived. There were literally thousands of them pouring onto the field; they looked like the mice in the Farmer Gray cartoons . . . Stars such as Montana, Dwight Clark, Fred Dean and Russ Francis drew the biggest crowds. Only two guys asked me anything. One wanted directions to the men's room. The other asked me what it was about Montana that impressed me most. I said, Joe's determination; he's 28 years old and he's about to get married for the third time. I'm sending him a wedding gift of towels inscribed: "His" and "To Whom It May Concern."
Wednesday: I thought I might attract some more press if I wore a cute T-shirt to the mass interview session. I put one on that says: Roses are Red/Violets are Blue/I'm Schizophrenic/And so am I. One of my teammates read it and told me to return it because it didn't rhyme . . . A bunch of reporters were standing around discussing: How do you stop Marino? And I said, "Hold up a wooden cross and a fistful of garlic." One of the reporters asked me my name. I said "Cliff Traplanski." He looked my name up in the press guide and asked, "You're a tight end?" I said I was. He said, "Never heard of you," and walked away . . . A reporter from Miami asked me if I thought Bill Walsh was a genius. I asked him if he meant a genius like Freud, like da Vinci, or like Shula? He said I could have my pick, so I said, "I'll take Freud and give six."
Thursday: Today was the last chance for the media to interview us. I wore a T-shirt that said: Life is hard/Then you die . . . I thought I'd help the writers out by doing what Hacksaw Reynolds does: handing out mimeographed sheets explaining how he got his nickname. I made up a pile detailing how in college they had called me "The Berserk Butcher From Beantown," but in the pros that had been shortened to "Sue-Ann." It might have worked, except Ronnie Lott told the press that for two years the Bay Area writers have been calling me "Cliff The Stiff."
Friday: I figured out why I didn't get more ink during the mass interview sessions. I should have had free food at my table; the press would have been all over me . . . Reading the papers, the big stories seem to be about whether Shula hates Walsh and whether O.J. Simpson hates Joe Theismann. I'm surprised ABC hasn't hired Rona Barrett and Liz Smith to do the pregame. Then again, maybe they hate each other . . . Pete Rozelle had his annual press conference today. There were 2,000 sportswriters there, and I'm told a San Francisco woman looked in and and almost fainted; she said, "I haven't seen so many straight men in my life."
Saturday: Well, it's almost time. I ought to be putting on my game face, but it's been so long since I wore it, I think it doesn't fit any more. A lot of guys tell you how much they want to play in a Super Bowl. I don't. It's rough out there. Who needs it? If Walsh told me I were actually going to play, I'd probably spend the night in the bathroom throwing up . . . Some of you might be wondering what we'll say in the big huddle on the sideline right before kickoff. First, we say a prayer that no one gets seriously maimed, then we do our cheer: Knock them senseless/Make them twitch/It isn't how you play the game/It's whether you get rich.