Wednesday, July 26, 2006 | 7:32 a.m.
It was a few minutes before 10 a.m. Tuesday when I pulled into the parking lot of the Gold & Silver Pawn shop on Las Vegas Boulevard South - and immediately regretted not buying one of those anti-theft clubs for my steering wheel.
Turning to my right, it appeared that Showgirl Video, with its promise of "Live Nude Girls," was doing brisk business. Ditto for the tattoo parlor and the "We Buy Gold" exchange store just down the battered sidewalk that is slowly turning black, either from years of neglect or from used chewing gum and cigarettes being discarded there.
A woman wearing a tight lime-green halter top and tight lime-green shorts strolled by. I guessed her to be about 15 years too late and 15 pounds too heavy for that outfit. But that didn't stop the guy on the yellow scooter and his pal in the ball cap from noticing and talking like spies as she went on her way.
Other than Jim Kelly's finger, this might be the last place on Earth you'd expect to find a Super Bowl ring.
I walked inside where single moms were haggling over the worth of an "heirloom" that will help them pay this month's rent, when I immediately noticed it. There among the brooches and the bracelets and the old wristwatches that took a licking and kept on ticking was a diamond encrusted ring so large and ostentatious that I couldn't even imagine the late Liberace wanting to wear it.
It had the New England Patriots logo on top and the number and name of the player it belonged to on the side.
No. 28. Williams.
That would be Brock Williams, a seldom-used defensive back from Notre Dame who spent the 2001 and 2002 seasons with the Patriots. He never got into a game for the Pats, who beat the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Williams also played for the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders, appearing in 12 NFL regular-season games, making nine tackles.
It is not known if Williams lives in Southern Nevada or was passing through. Rick Harrison, who runs Gold & Silver Pawn with his father and son, didn't profess to know much about Williams' whereabouts, either.
"He came in and needed money," Harrison said, adding he would have loaned up to $25,000 on the ring, although Williams didn't need that much. The only reason Harrison said he was breaking the sacred trust between pawnshop lender and pawnshop customer is that Williams never showed to reclaim the ring and that his name is on the side of it for all to see.
"I've loaned money on Super Bowl rings before," Harrison said. "In fact, I've got a Padres pennant ring right now." But the other owners always claimed them.
Harrison said pawn items are kept in hock for 120 days, and he usually gives their owners an additional three-week grace period before taking ownership. Time ran out on Williams' ring last week.
It was immediately put in the jewelry case with a $100,000 price tag. Williams says he already has had a couple of $50,000 offers for the ring. He said he wouldn't sell at that price. Or maybe not at any price, because it's "such a cool thing to have."
No doubt, I agreed. I started to think out loud about something to compare it to when Harrison interrupted.
" like my Olympic medals?" he said, directing me toward another case where he had two Olympic bronze medals displayed, one from the Barcelona Games in '92 and one from Atlanta in '96.
Harrison said those once belonged to Joe Greene, who attended Ohio State and is one of only two men to win two bronze medals in the long jump, finishing behind Carl Lewis both times.
Harrison said he didn't know much about Greene's story, either.
"He said he had gotten injured and lost his sponsors and didn't want to give up his lifestyle," Harrison said.
"I guess it was all sort of falling down around him."
Harrison said that doesn't make Greene much different than the guy who comes in with a stereo receiver or a power tool or what Harrison claims to be an authentic Renoir (selling for $8,000) or a framed photograph of the not-so-authentic Elvira, Mistress of the Dark ($10).
But he said next to a collection of gold records hanging on the wall and an IBF championship belt that supposedly belonged to Leon Spinks, the rings and medals are among the most intriguing.
"I also had one of Diego Corrales' belts," Harrison said of the boxer who makes his home in Las Vegas, adding he knew Corrales wouldn't be coming back to reclaim it.
"When the 120 days were up, he was in prison."
Just then, a man with a mop of gray hair dressed in Johnny Cash all-black sidled up and introduced himself. It was Richard Harrison Sr., who had been eavesdropping on the conservation I was having with his son.
He extended his hand and told me I was welcome anytime. Sort of.
"Come back when you can buy something," he said.
He wasn't being mean or cracking wise. So I actually thought about plunking a $10 bill on the pockmarked jewelry case and taking that Elvira portrait off his hands.
Instead, I just opened the door and stepped back into the oppressive heat of the other Las Vegas. A Las Vegas where middle-aged women in lime-green outfits walk the streets and Super Bowl dreams don't last nearly as long as they should.