10-9-03, 9:20 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Nancy Brown, wife of Bengals President Mike Brown, is the founder of a group of ladies who are stout Marvin Lewis admirers that calls itself, "The Marvinettes." On Thursday night in Paul Brown Stadium's West Club Lounge, "The Marvinettes," expanded to a legion of about 150 taking part in Lewis' first annual "Football 101 For Women."
"We're ready to get started and I see we've got some people sitting down late. Just like some of our guys getting to meetings," Lewis greeted the group by ticking off some familiar names. "The big thing is, we're going to have some fun."
And they did. After Lewis broke them down into offense and defense, the group got on the field, took a tour of the locker room, and other stadium facilities, and met with Lewis and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to go over the basics of the game.
"Anything to get a chance to meet Marvin. We love football. We play it. We watch it. I play fantasy," said Amy Crissman of Mount Washington, who came with a friend. "And I got a chance to kick an extra point."
And she made it during the quick trip on the newly-sodded field, where not even Lewis' men go until a week from Friday. It was a day of extra points for Lewis even though his team is working on a bye week.
Earlier Thursday, he announced the launch of the Marvin Lewis Community Fund, as well as served as the keynote speaker at the Anthony Munoz Foundation for Youth Leadership Seminar attended by about 250 high school students.
Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn presented a $10,000 check to Lewis' fund that plans to support the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati, Boys Hope Girls Hope, the Marvin Lewis Scholar-Athlete Scholarship Fund, Minorities in Mathematics, Science & Engineering, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Youth, Inc.
Thursday night's event at PBS kicked off the foundation's work, with half the proceeds going to the community fund and the other half going to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. MS is a cause close to the heart for Peggy Lewis and her husband.
"My brother-in-law has MS and that's something Peg and I want to do," Lewis said. "We want to start a research grant in his name. And the other things are organizations that are great aids to young people. This is a way to focus and channel what we want to do for Greater Cincinnati."
Lewis had plenty of help staging "Football 101," including right from the ESPN studios. His college teammate and former Steeler running back Merril Hoge teams with former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski and host Suzy Kolber to form a very smart and very bright weekly show on ESPN and ESPN II that concentrates on Xs and Os. They taped about a 10-minute segment tailored specifically for Lewis' audience.
Jaworski broke down the blitz defensively and Hoge analyzed how offensive lines deal with the blitz in a couple plays from last month's Bengals-Steelers game. Then, seemingly with a wink and nod, Jaworski said, "Ask Marvin why this cornerback had such loose coverage on this blitz."
Also addressing the audience were strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton, trainer Paul Sparling, and equipment manager Rob Recker. Video director Travis Brammer showed some of the clips that Lewis plays for his team the week and night before a game.
Recker, clearly the star of the show when he danced with a woman after Lewis slipped right tackle Willie Anderson's size 18 cleat on her foot, put some of the equipment on the students.
"I had on a helmet and shoulder pads for an offensive lineman for about five minutes, and it's like the weather was 1,000 degrees," said Jackie Clark, who is from Anderson Township and now lives in Philadelphia.
"My boyfriend got me the ticket. He's obsessed with football," Clark said. "He knows where they've played their whole careers. I don't know all that stuff, but I know what's going on. I need the announcers. I don't think I could watch it with the sound off."
Kim Washington of Sharonville is a season ticket holder, and she just couldn't resist when she saw the event advertised.
"It's a nice chance to see what's inside because we only see what's outside (in the stadium)," she said. "I started to get a little lost when they started talking about 4-3, 3-4, 2-5. One question did go unanswered. How much do the pads weigh? How much extra weight is it?"
Of course, Recker would know. So here it is, Kim.
"Anywhere from eight to 15 pounds," Recker said. "A wide receiver like Peter Warrick would be about eight pounds, a lineman about 15 pounds."
And from the looks of the turnout of Lewis' Marvinettes, he got a 10 for his first 101.