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Gridiron Gyrations 

Cobras and Hooters and Bucs, oh my!

Ah, January. Snow is on the ground, and it's time for the beginning of the pro football season. What's that? You say that January signals the end of the pro football season? Why, then you have yet to check out the Carolina Cobras, Charlotte's newest pro sports franchise. Saturday, the Arena Football Cobras held their inaugural fan festival at the Charlotte Coliseum. If the day's events are any indication, this might well be one of the most enjoyable, consumer- and wallet-friendly shows in town. Unlike similar events held by our other pro sports franchise, fans were invited down to the Astroturf-covered floor of the Coliseum to mingle with players, cheerleaders (the Snake Charmers!), the girls from Hooters, and the team's mascot, "King Cobra." I ask you, is it even possible to not have fun watching a team whose mascot is named after a brand of malt liquor? Think of the marketing tie-ins -- when other teams wave rally towels or other such paraphernalia, we can hoist 40s to the sky to sport our boys on! After breaking in front of some 8-year-old to test my passing accuracy (not very), I decided to check out Sir Purr's newest rival. The "King"'s outfit consisted mainly of normal football gear, accented by a gargantuan snake-like head. After hearing some of the nearby cheerleaders speak, I think I learned something else: Our King Cobra, fierce as can be, just might be a Queen Cobra. After I heard an offhand remark suggesting the potential gender-switch, I noticed the mascot did indeed have a rather slim, shapely figure, accentuated by some sort of stuffing in the, um, end zone. Feeling a little weird about the whole thing, I passed by a throng of orange-clad Hooters girls, happily passing out stickers to the young folks. "I Love Hooters," the stickers said. One kid put his sticker on his mouth, while another proudly wore his two on his chest, in true Hooters fashion. Hooters, as you might have heard, just started an airline. Nothing screams air safety and reliability like Hooters, eh? No matter. If the airlines provide as much fun as our new football team, expect their initial public offering to be snapped up as fast as a plate of hot wings.

You know you're not at a typical rock concert when you overhear folks in the smoking area commenting that "certain societal ills are plainly indicative of the will of the people." Now, I don't purport to have any idea what the hell that means, but it's as good a way as any to lead into Saturday evening's big Coldplay concert at the Grady Cole Center. After a wonderful opening set by songwriter Ron Sexsmith, the band took the stage to a flash of lights and Beatles-esque cheering from the assembled fans. Despite the cold weather and residual ice covering the streets, most folks who had tickets to the sold-out show evidently deemed the event important enough to defy the constant cease-and-desist warnings spouted by our pals Eric Thomas and Terri Bennett. The band ran through most of the material on their first two records -- Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head -- in short order, only stopping to comment on how much they liked their first visit to North Carolina. At one point, singer Chris Martin told the crowd that the venue reminded him of a high school gym at a pep rally and told everyone to "watch out, the principal's coming!" As it turns out, the boys had to jet out of town directly after the gig, as they were slated to appear on the first episode of Jimmy Kimmel's new show, which, like a gift from the storytelling muse, was to premiere right after...The Super Bowl! You know, the Big Enchilada of football games, America's Unofficial Holiday, and the marketer's wet dream. As we all saw, the game wasn't altogether exciting (unless you had wisely bet on the Buccaneers and gave 20 points or so). In fact, a survey of uptown bars seemed to suggest that most folks really could care less about the game. Viewers generally snored through the halftime show, though a group of girls sitting near me did break down, TV announcer-style, the outfit of pop/country star Shania Twain. Meanwhile, my friends and I busied ourselves with bets on whether or not Twain was lip-synching (I won in short order when the singer handed the mic to a fan but never missed a note). I'll only say this about Ms. Twain's performance, which was so sanitized you could clean your windows with it: As much as it pains me to admit, I've never been so glad to see Sting in my life.

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