NFL's hype machine needs tuneup


January 22, 1995|By VITO STELLINO

Curt Gowdy opened the NBC telecast 26 years ago by remarking: "Joe Namath has come down here to Miami and he has said the Jets are going to win. He doesn't even predict it. He says, 'I guarantee a Jets victory.' "

That was about it for the Super Bowl III hype on Jan. 12, 1969. The pre-game show lasted 30 minutes. It didn't even include an interview with Namath. The telecast also included -- get this -- a cigarette commercial.

Watching the videotape of the Super Bowl III telecast, it's obvious the game has changed as much off the field as on it.

But the legend of the Jets' 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts is as alive today as it was a quarter of a century ago.

Even the NFL, which is doing everything it can to keep a team out of Baltimore, is willing to sell Colts history.

Since the San Francisco 49ers are 19-point favorites over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX next Sunday, the league is doing its best to remind everybody of the Jets' upset. It's about the only way it can hype what is likely to be another lopsided NFC victory.

The NFL even had Namath do a national conference call last week to talk about the game.

Not that Namath was much help. Although he said history can repeat itself, he added: "I don't see San Diego pulling it off."

What the NFL isn't telling anybody is that there's little basis for comparison between the two games.

After all, the Colts didn't beat the Jets, 38-15, six weeks before the game the way the 49ers beat the Chargers on Dec. 11. The Colts and Jets had never played before.

The Jets' victory was an upset only because of the anti-AFL prejudice of the day and the fact that the Green Bay Packers had easily won the first two Super Bowls. But the Packers had dominated the NFL teams, too.

What gets overlooked is that the Jets had Namath, a Hall of Famer, at quarterback; Don Maynard, a Hall of Famer, and George Sauer at wide receiver, and Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer at running back.

The Colts had Earl Morrall at quarterback, Jimmy Orr and Willie Richardson at wide receiver and Tom Matte and Jerry Hill at running back. The game should have been rated close going in.

Even if the 49ers lose, it would then just be a football upset. It wouldn't have the impact that Super Bowl III did. That game -- combined with the Kansas City Chiefs' 23-7 upset of the Minnesota Vikings the next year -- gave the AFL respectability and helped turn the Super Bowl into the spectacle it is today.

Game's an interruption

It could be argued that the matchup in the Super Bowl doesn't make much difference. The game is now more of a party than a football game.

A credit card company is offering "a complete experience beyond the typical Super Bowl party" for $2,975.

A soft drink company is putting a commemorative bottle and Super Bowl pin in 17,000 Miami-area hotel rooms.

The Snack Food Association says 15 million pounds of potato chips will be eaten at Super Bowl festivities. No word on how they keep count.

There's even supposed to be a casino cruise featuring 50 current and former NFL players, a pool filled with Jell-O and 200 showgirls.

The business manager for one of the former players advertised, Lawrence Taylor, announced he has pulled out. He said Taylor had only agreed to sign autographs.

The NFL quickly announced that players aren't allowed to promote gambling.

Glazer looks better

Now that Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer is no longer associated with Baltimore, his reputation has suddenly improved the NFL.

"We don't expect any approval problems with the Glazers," league spokesman Joe Browne said last week after the Glazer family bought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This was the same Joe Browne who called the Glazers "tire kickers" when they were trying to get an expansion team for Baltimore.

The Glazers figured out that they couldn't be associated with Baltimore if they wanted to get into the league with no problem, although Malcolm Glazer overdid it by saying he'd rather have a team in Tampa than Baltimore.

What Glazer really wants is a new stadium. If he doesn't get it in two years in Tampa, he's likely to be knocking on Baltimore's door again.

The question now is whether the Maryland legislature will keep the funding for the stadium. It's always a dangerous time for Baltimore football fans when the legislature is in session. The legislature's passing an eminent domain bill helped cost the city the Colts in 1984.

Never say die

Though the Los Angeles Rams have agreed to move to St. Louis -- pending the sale of 40,000 permanent seat licenses -- a group in Anaheim, Calif., will lobby the NFL owners to turn down the move.

They're kidding themselves. Team president John Shaw just negotiated the best deal in the history of sports. He got everything but the arch (St. Louis even covered the 1994 losses in Anaheim), and Shaw might get a standing ovation from the owners when they meet in Dallas on Feb. 16 to consider the deal.

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