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San Diego Union-Tribune

RONALD W. POWELL AND NORBERTO SANTANA JR

THE BUCS STOMP HERE | TAMPA BAY ROUTS RAIDERS AS SAN DIEGO BASKS IN GLOW

January 27, 2003

Abstract:

The weather, surroundings and apparent flawless execution of the game festivities prompted ABC television announcers John Madden and Al Michaels to challenge NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's statement Friday that the Super Bowl probably would not return to San Diego unless a new stadium replaces 36-year-old Qualcomm Stadium.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Jan 27, 2003

With a Ferris wheel, big tents and live concerts, the parking lot at sun-splashed Qualcomm Stadium looked like a carnival yesterday -- and Super Bowl XXXVII was a carnival of football, big bucks and good vibrations.

Fears of security problems, violence by overzealous Raiders fans and traffic gridlock did not materialize.

As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pummeled the Oakland Raiders 48-21 before a crowd of 67,603, a winter's afternoon took on the warmth of July.

Yesterday, it was 81 degrees at the stadium and 82 degrees at Lindbergh Field, a record for the date in San Diego. It was the second-warmest Super Bowl, trailing Super Bowl VII in Los Angeles, when it was 84 degrees.

The weather, surroundings and apparent flawless execution of the game festivities prompted ABC television announcers John Madden and Al Michaels to challenge NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's statement Friday that the Super Bowl probably would not return to San Diego unless a new stadium replaces 36-year-old Qualcomm Stadium.

Chargers owner Alex Spanos wants to build a $400 million stadium at the Qualcomm site, with city taxpayers paying half of the cost.

"The scariest thing all week was the (NFL) commissioner saying there may never be another game here if they don't build another stadium," Michaels said. "They should move it here permanently."

Added Madden: "What's he thinking?"

They were not alone in giving San Diego rave reviews as a Super Bowl venue.

With Raiders and Bucs logos swirling around the stadium, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson said he loved having Super Bowls in San Diego. "It's great. It's beautiful weather. It's got a lot for people to do."

Asked whether he agreed with the commissioner, Wilson said, "I would certainly like to come back to San Diego. I think it's one of the nicest places we have Super Bowls and I'm on the (owners') Super Bowl committee."

NFL owners decide where Super Bowls will be played. The next three will be in Houston, Jacksonville, Fla., and Detroit, cities with relatively new stadiums.

Fans also sang San Diego's praises.

Raiders fans Matthew Snell, 29, and Kelly Gourtey, 30, of New Jersey came to San Diego last Monday and spent the week visiting the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, the Gaslamp Quarter and NFL attractions. Snell said he and his fiancee spent about $12,000 during the visit.

"I'm trying to talk her into moving out here, to starting our family here," Snell said. "Back home, they're expecting snow tonight. It's been unbelievable here. A dream come true."

That was before the game, when the Raider Nation had dreams of claiming the Lombardi Trophy as kings of the NFL.

During the game, while most fans basked in the sunshine, some required medical attention.

By halftime, four dozen people were treated for heat exhaustion, said Dr. James Dunford, the city's emergency medical director. About a dozen others were treated for various conditions, including asthma, kidney stones, chest pains, vomiting and nausea, with some requiring hospitalization.

Law enforcement officials said they were well prepared to keep the game safe from terrorists and unruly fans. There were no major incidents at the game, and only 18 arrests were made at Qualcomm Stadium.

One of the 18 arrests was a felony, grand theft, and the others were mostly for public drunkenness.

Traffic in and out of the stadium was as flawless as the blue skies.

NFL senior transportation consultant Paul Ridgeway said trolleys and shuttle buses kept traffic running smoothly.

"Compared to even five years ago," he said, "this thing was like magic today."

Trolleys moved more than 23,000 people into Qualcomm; 13,500 other fans parked at a lot in Kearny Mesa and rode buses to the stadium.

Bill Wilson, the city's stadium manager, said he was worried that the extensive security measures would hold back crowds and slow entry into the stadium. It didn't happen.

"No one missed the kickoff," he said.

Two fans who didn't have any problems with security were Marcus Fehn and Jonathon Hammons, both 18, who drove from Highland, near San Bernardino, to crash the game.

Neither had a Super Bowl ticket or credential but were walking around the upper concourses enjoying the game. The pair said they came in through the front gates. They went through the security checks, but no one asked for a ticket, they said.

"Toward the end of the game, everybody is standing up, so we just stand up with them," said Fehn, who said he did the same thing when the World Series was in Anaheim last year. "All it takes is intelligence and timing. Just walk in like you own the place," Fehn said.

The Tampa Bay win was sweet for Brian Dillion, a Tampa native who has supported the team since its inception 26 years ago. Dillion now lives in Phoenix, where he works as a sales manager for an insurance company. But he still travels to several Buccaneers games each season.

Despite finding himself in a sea of Raiders supporters, Dillion said he did not feel outnumbered.

"I was in Philadelphia last week (where the Buccaneers won the NFC championship) and I was one of about five fans in a stadium of 70,000," Dillion said. "I'll feel better here. I won't need a hand- warmer."

Commissioner's comments

San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy said San Diego did a stellar job hosting the NFL's championship game. The league boasts that the Super Bowl brings $250 million to the economy of host cities.

Murphy said he was not surprised by Tagliabue's comments that put San Diego's future as a host city in doubt, saying the Chargers and the NFL have been making the point privately for more than a year.

But what did catch the mayor off guard was Tagliabue's remark that he was surprised the Super Bowl was in San Diego this year.

"That made no sense to me," Murphy said. "San Diego is again putting on a virtually flawless Super Bowl."

Ron Fowler, chairman of the San Diego Super Bowl XXXVII Host Committee, said Tagliabue's comments did not offend him.

"I don't think it was a threat. We knew this since we bid on it," Fowler said. "The rules are that you need a new stadium to be able to host future Super Bowls. All the commissioner did was restate what everyone knew.

"With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight," he continued, "the worst thing we could have done was spend $78 million on renovations without touching the infrastructure, which is where the real problems are."

In 1995, the city agreed to renovate Qualcomm Stadium to satisfy the Chargers' concerns about its adequacy.

Yet as Gateway chief executive Ted Waitt entered his luxury box, such problems were far from his mind.

"I'm having a ball," he said. "It's a beautiful day."

When asked about the local stadium debate, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown said, "People are all pushing for more luxury boxes, but you have to have balance."

Brown said the solution is to put the team's proposal to a citywide vote.

Raiders player absent

Mystery engulfed the Raiders' camp early yesterday when team officials announced that its Pro Bowl center, Barret Robbins, would not play.

Team officials said he had missed team activities Saturday without an excuse. They did not elaborate on why he was disciplined.

The decision by Raiders coach Bill Callahan to hold Robbins out of the NFL championship game divided the Raider Nation, as Oakland's sometimes raucous fans are called.

Oakland season-ticket holder Jorge Medina said the punishment was far too harsh.

"I could see not letting him start, maybe holding him out for a few plays," said Medina, 24, an Oakland car salesman. "But this is a Pro Bowl player, and this is the Super Bowl."

Raiders backer Kevin Brunner, 25, supported the decision.

"You can't just have dudes running all over the rules," Brunner said. "You've got to be a part of the team."

East of the stadium, an unknown number of Super Bowl parties were ruined yesterday when power died in the College Area, causing SDG&E to call and apologize.

The power failure struck 392 homes near 54th Street and College Avenue after a power pole was somehow damaged and broke a transformer, said the utility's Anne Filva.

When the power cut out early in the game, groans were heard from football fans up and down the street, one resident said.

The utility spokeswoman said the power company was not only taking the unusual step of apologizing but also suggesting that residents either call a friend or head to a local sports bar to watch the game, because it looked like power might not be restored for several hours.

"We do care," Filva said. "We know today's a special day."

Yesterday's Super Bowl action began on the stadium's asphalt parking lot, not the finely groomed and painted stadium turf.

Bonnie Raitt and the Goo Goo Dolls headlined pregame concerts.

Before kickoff, Celine Dion sang "God Bless America," and the Dixie Chicks sang "The Star-Spangled Banner." The halftime show featured a mix of rock and country-rock with performances by Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting.

New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi took the stage after the game as jubilant Buccaneers fans celebrated and the dejected Raiders faithful began looking to next season.



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