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San Diego Union-Tribune

NICK CANEPA

San Diego deserves Tagliabue apology

January 28, 2003

Abstract:
[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.

Full Text:
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 Super Bowls.

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 to read.

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 week."

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 good enough?

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 him.

"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; nick.canepa@uniontrib.com

 



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