| San Diego Union-Tribune
San Diego deserves Tagliabue apology
January 28, 2003
[Paul Tagliabue] seemed much more concerned about securing a future Super
Bowl for frigid New York, an idea that, if uttered by an everyday Joe,
might get him free psychiatric care. This obviously is to be Tagliabue's
legacy, that he procured a Super Bowl for a great city that wraps itself
in a parka this time of year.
Tagliabue seems to have a George Bush attitude toward this state. Tagliabue
spends little time in places where he's needed, but he'll go to the Rose
Bowl on Jan. 1 and chat with Pasadena people about their aging structure
becoming an NFL site.
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Jan 28, 2003
And a good time was had by all . . . well, almost all. Certainly not by
the Raiders and their fans. Oh, and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who
dreams of one day placing a Super Bowl on a site near Mount Everest. Imagine,
Sherpas performing at halftime.
For Tagliabue's remarks -- and lack of them -- at his Friday State of
the NFL address and Q&A session, I figured he owed this city an apology.
Not so much for his comments about Qualcomm Stadium and the Chargers'
need for a new venue. He may be commissioner, but he is an employee, and
the Spanos family pays a 32nd of his salary. They want a new stadium,
so he wants a new stadium. But he took it too far and not far enough.
He dismissed this city.
And he basically, in one prepared sentence, kissed off the job done by
the thousands of volunteers and the Super Bowl Host Committee to make
his premier event perhaps the most beautiful and organized among all 37
Sunday afternoon, when I mentioned the word "apology" to one
of The League's publicists, I soon was joined by Greg Aiello, the NFL's
vice president of public relations. He handed me a transcript of Tagliabue's
opening remarks from Friday, which were words written for the commissioner
Which also meant no apology was forthcoming.
"On behalf of the league, I want to thank the San Diego community
and its leadership for all the of the great work that has gone into planning
and executing this Super Bowl," is what Tagliabue read.
Straight from the heart.
In his speech yesterday morning following the game, he once again failed
to give San Diego its due.
Tagliabue seemed much more concerned about securing a future Super Bowl
for frigid New York, an idea that, if uttered by an everyday Joe, might
get him free psychiatric care. This obviously is to be Tagliabue's legacy,
that he procured a Super Bowl for a great city that wraps itself in a
parka this time of year.
And Los Angeles, the town that has lost three franchises. He wants another
team back there. All but eliminating expansion, he doesn't seem to care
what other city has to sacrifice a club for it to happen. It's shameful.
Pete Rozelle, who thought enough of this area to live here in retirement,
must be looking down from PR heaven and wondering what the hell has happened
to his league.
Tagliabue has major problems in California. With a new stadium on the
way in Phoenix, the 49ers, Raiders and Chargers will be playing in the
three oldest venues in the NFL.
But Tagliabue seems to have a George Bush attitude toward this state.
Tagliabue spends little time in places where he's needed, but he'll go
to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 and chat with Pasadena people about their aging
structure becoming an NFL site.
In his Friday Q&A session, he made it painfully clear San Diego never
again would host a Super Bowl unless a new stadium is built, angering
local politicians -- and, even more important -- other people, when he
said: "From my own perspective, I'm surprised that we are here this
He said that without curling his French cuffs.
San Diego was awarded this Super Bowl in the spring of 1999, shortly after
Qualcomm Stadium was expanded, and a full year before Chargers owner Alex
Spanos made his now infamous "We need a new stadium" remark.
So where was the surprise? Was it not Tagliabue who fully supported a
stadium expansion necessary for future Super Bowls? Suddenly, it wasn't
Aiello added that Tagliabue went on national radio Sunday and said he
deliberately took a "low-key approach" on the San Diego issue
because that was not the time to get into it, and he wanted the focus
to be on Raiders-Bucs.
What better time for him to get into it? His pre-Super Bowl gathering
is the only time when the international media has a chance to question
"In a way, I wasn't surprised," says Ron Fowler, chairman of
the Super Bowl Host Committee. "They basically had told us in so
many words that this would be the last one in Qualcomm Stadium. But what
did surprise me was when he said he was surprised we were still having
the Super Bowl here.
"That was not something I'd heard before. I was shocked. There was
no need for him to say that."
Look, I'm the first to agree that Qualcomm, in its present state, can't
last forever as an every-Sunday NFL venue. But it's more than all right
now for Super Bowls. Did any among the 67,603 fans in attendance Sunday
care -- or even know -- that the plumbing is no good, the locker rooms
are too small and the press box is a joke? Did they not arrive, enjoy
the incredible weather, sit and eat and drink and cheer in comfort?
The place may need work -- and it's all the landlord's fault, not the
renter's -- but it looked like a diamond Sunday.
Are there logistical problems not present in the new stadiums?
"Absolutely, without a doubt," says Ky Snyder, president of
the Host Committee. "We knew how they felt about the stadium. I just
wish the commissioner would have said: `San Diego is the perfect setting
for a Super Bowl; everything they do is the best. We just can't do it
in this stadium any longer.' "
He could have said it. Didn't. The League also can make Qualcomm work.
Did, in fact.
As ABC's John Madden, echoing the thoughts of fellow broadcaster Al Michaels,
put it: "What was he thinking?"
Great question. He sure wasn't thinking about San Diego.
Commissioner, we're still waiting for an apology.
Nick Canepa: (619) 293-1397; firstname.lastname@example.org