Here's where the Baltimore Ravens are missing the bus: They've got Deion Sanders and they've scheduled his news conference for early this afternoon.
No, no, a thousand times no!
You hold that news conference at 9 o'clock at night. And why?
Because that's Prime Time, baby.
Curmudgeons are already insisting there's only downside to My Man Deion coming back to the NFL at age 37, having spent the last three years flapping his yap on TV. Listen Up: (Hey, doesn't that sound like a great name for a sitcom?) There is no downside for Deion. No downside for the Ravens. No downside for the NFL. No downside for the Republican convention. No downside for the fur and fashion industries. There's no downside for anybody -- except maybe The Danny, who got snookered by Deion a few years back to the tune of eight million smackeroos, and now has to see him on a potential Super Bowl team virtually in his own backyard. The unkindest cut of all is that Deion's in Bawlamer, hon. What a marketing coup for the Ravens. (Maybe they can quickly put in 5,000 new partially obstructed-view seats where you can't see anything but Deion!) What a night Sunday, Oct. 10 will be, when Deion and the Ravens come to FedEx Field to play the Redskins. For that one, The Danny might build 3,000 new completely-obstructed seats.
Look, I think My Man can still play. I'm sure he's lost a step. But Deion had a few more steps than everybody else to begin with. They're only asking him to be the nickel back, and come in on passing situations. The guy was the greatest cover cornerback of all time -- for years quarterbacks feared him so, they threw away from his side of the field. Deion can play nickel back on muscle memory. Plus, he'll be out there with his pal Ray Lewis, the most intimidating defensive player in the game. On passing downs Lewis scares quarterbacks the way Barry Bonds scares pitchers. Quarterbacks will cough up air balls in Deion's direction. The situation is tailor-made for Deion. (Speaking of tailor-made, won't Deion look spiffy in Baltimore's royal purple? Like the Duke of Earl, right? I'm betting Deion has the Ravens make him special velour pants for sitting on the sideline, waiting for third and 10. Maybe Serena Williams can design them, and throw in a pair of her U.S. Open boots. I mean, seriously, what is she going to come out in next, a cocktail dress and a riding crop? How'd you like to dream her dreams?)
Even if Deion stinks the joint out, so what? He'll get a ton of publicity, which is what he loves, and which will only help him get on TV again -- where he was very good, by the way. The irony in all this is that if CBS had ponied up the kind of money Deion demanded to stay there, he'd never be making this comeback. Ray Lewis could have begged and pleaded, and all he would have heard was: "You have reached Deion Sanders of CBS's 'The NFL Today,' and I'm here for the long haul, hoss."
The only real question is how is My Man Deion going to get along with that preening schmo coach, Brian Billick? Talk about two guys who'll suck the air out of a room in a New York minute! That locker room can't possibly be big enough for both of them. I'm not sure the Inner Harbor is big enough for both Deion and Billick. Each guy's ego is so big, when he stays at a hotel, he books two rooms.
I mean it's one thing to refer to yourself in the third person as "Prime." Even Alan Greenspan doesn't do that. But Deion's ego is so completely out of control that a few years back he wanted the word "cornerback" stricken from the football dictionary -- and replaced by "Deion." As in, "What position do you play? I play Deion!" And Billick hasn't entered a room yet where he hasn't thought he's the smartest guy in it. But he sure is saying the right things about My Man so far. Yesterday, Billick said of Deion: "What a resource. I can't imagine our younger players, or our guys that have not had a lot of playing time, aren't going to hang on every word this guy has to offer." (Not to mention hanging onto his coattails, in case two or three mink pelts shake loose. Deion is one of those rare men in professional sports whose clothing is so complicatedly patterned and so luxuriously mixed and matched that they can be worn as an outfit one day, and used as a throw rug the next. You know Deion still owes me that three-piece burgundy suit with the big gold buttons he wore on his first day as a Redskin. He promised he'd have one made for me just like it. But I guess it's been hard to find another burgundy-colored llama.) Billick also said, "This is about a man who has a passion for a game, has a relationship with players who have a part of this, and we're a byproduct of this." Granted, I have no idea what Billick was talking about, and neither did anybody else. But it sounds great.
For his part, Deion has already proclaimed: "I'm fast and I'm quick. I'm going to kill 'em. It's going to be unbelievable." Deion said a lot more than that, of course. But how much more do you really need? Deion is not what we call an introspective man. Or let me put that another way: Did Sigmund Freud call himself "Prime"?
Personally, I'm miffed that Deion didn't come back to the Redskins, and work off some of that swag he left with. But I'm thrilled Deion is in Baltimore. It puts him closer to "PTI," where he's always been a great guest. One time he was on from the barber shop; in the chair, while he was getting a haircut -- which isn't something Wilbon or I have needed for quite some time. I plan on asking him to wear a "Prime-Cam" during practices and games, and do remotes for us. The only issue now is what number Deion will wear for the Ravens. His old number, 21, is being worn by Chris McAlister. Deion could evoke Baltimore history by asking for 19. Or he could go Jordan on us and ask for 23 or 45. (If he goes for 23, LaSooz could make a killing here, ripping "Jordan" off all those unsold Bullets barber-pole jerseys and slapping on "Sanders.") Deion is promising a surprise. I'm thinking he'll wear something like 3, 5 or 11, seeing as how they're prime numbers.