As usual, NFL is puttin' on the glitz

On the NFL

January 28, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Happy holiday!

What holiday, you say?

The Super Bowl.

It's not a football game. It's a holiday.

That's the best way to describe what the Super Bowl has become.

It no longer even matters that the NFC has won 11 straight and is favored by two touchdowns to make it 12 in a row.

The game is not the thing.

The party is.

The Super Bowl has become a midwinter holiday, placed nicely between New Year's and Easter.

It's a chance for the beautiful people who arrive in their corporate jets to party in the corporate tents outside the stadium while the fans back home party in front of their television sets.

If the game mattered, the NFL might seed the teams to get better matchups, although Nebraska-Florida proved that system doesn't always work, either.

But then, the matchup doesn't matter.

NBC-TV announced this year that its pre-game show will be more on football and less on glitz this year. NBC doesn't get it.

If it were just about football, the ratings would be the same as the conference championship games.

"The Super Bowl became the winter version of the Fourth of July," former commissioner Pete Rozelle, who is ill and didn't attend this week, said five years ago.

But they don't charge $1 million for a 30-second commercial on the Fourth of July.

It all happened by accident, too. The NFL's refusal to expand -- which often causes it problems -- started the chain of events that created the Super Bowl.

If there had been more expansion in the early 1960s, there would have been no AFL, no merger and no world championship game, which is what the first couple of Super Bowls were called.

That means the title game wouldn't be at a neutral site.

That means the host city couldn't have planned years in advance for all the extravaganzas that make the event what it is. Jay Leno wouldn't be doing his show at the Super Bowl if it had been played in Dallas or Pittsburgh with two weeks' notice.

That's the genius of the NFL.

Even its mistakes turned out to be masterstrokes.

Aikman's complaint

Now we know why Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman was complaining in the second half of the season that he wasn't having much fun and making vague references to the "internal strife" on the team.

It's difficult to have much fun when you're being accused of being a racist.

The details still are sketchy, but apparently former defensive line coach John Blake decided that Aikman was being more critical of black players than white players.

All this was going on about the time of the infamous fourth-and-one incident in Philadelphia.

It's a credit to Aikman and the black players that they pulled together, weathered this storm and still made the Super Bowl.

The no-show

It's always difficult to figure out Terry Bradshaw.

He became even more puzzling last week when he skipped the Super Bowl even though the league invited the MVPs from past years.

The speculation is that it had something to do with his old team, Pittsburgh, being in the Super Bowl.

Bradshaw didn't leave the Steelers on good terms and had a strained relationship with coach Chuck Noll that was a replica of the one Aikman has with Barry Switzer.

The strange thing is that Bradshaw probably would have been more comfortable playing for the laid-back Switzer, and Aikman probably wouldn't have minded Noll's distant, disciplined style.

Noll, meanwhile, who never had a TV show and almost never did commercials while he was coaching, seems a new man in his retirement. He's doing reports for a Pittsburgh TV station called "Noll at the Bowl" and appeared on several talk radio shows this week.

When Noll was asked about his change in style, he jokingly said: "I need an angle. Do you have one?"

The third choice

Tony Dungy, who got the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coaching job after Jimmy Johnson and Steve Spurrier turned it down, may be the winner in the long run.

The Bucs' job may turn out to be better than the one Johnson has in Miami.

Johnson has to deal with the bloated payroll former coach Don Shula left behind.

By contrast, Tampa has four of the first 41 picks in this year's draft and has the makings of a good, young team.

The guest

Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell is skipping the Super Bowl for obvious reasons, so he's going to have an old friend sitting in his box at the game -- former Cowboys president Tex Schramm.

Schramm remains close friends with Modell, but he never has been close with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Schramm said they haven't spoken in a long time.

"I'm no longer in the Cowboys' loop," he said with a smile.

Representing the Browns at the game will be a member of their personnel staff, former tight end Ozzie Newsome, although he'll be sitting in the stands instead of the Browns' box.

That's another indication that Newsome will be brought to Baltimore when the team moves.

Modell said no decisions will be made until after the Feb. 8-9 vote, but the speculation is that neither coach Bill Belichick nor personnel director Mike Lombardi will be coming to Baltimore.

Belichick could collect paychecks for the final two years of his contract and have a vacation if he wanted to, but he apparently is too much of a workaholic to do that. There's speculation that he'll be Johnson's defensive coordinator in Miami.

Enjoying themselves

How relaxed are the Cowboys?

After listening to a litany of complaints by Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd, Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton cracked, "Didn't his momma give him enough loving when he was a kid?"

Vito Stellino's Super Bowl pick

Cowboys 31, Steelers 14: The best part of the game will come when commissioner Paul Tagliabue grits his teeth and presents the Lombardi Trophy to Dallas owner Jerry Jones. It will be the worst moment for Tagliabu since Baltimore got a team.

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