Security may be hot Super topic Giants vs. Bills could take back seat


TAMPA, Fla. -- When the first Super Bowl was played in January 1967, it wasn't even called the Super Bowl, and there were no problems with ticket scalping.

The first AFL-NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs didn't even attract a sellout crowd at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

By contrast, when the silver anniversary game is played at Tampa Stadium on Sunday between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills, it'll be such a heralded event that there will be much concern about security at Tampa Stadium.

Since the Persian Gulf war broke out last week, law enforcement officials are worried the game could be the target of a terrorist attack, which was the plot of a book and a movie called "Black Sunday" more than a decade ago.

The concern about terrorism may be overblown, because the Super Bowl isn't quite the worldwide event that the Olympics or World Cup is, despite all of its importance in the United States.

It's not surprising that much of the talk about the Super Bowl this week will be about security. It's typical that football isn't the main topic of conversation at the Super Bowl. It's part of the game's tradition.

Two years ago, riots in Miami the week before the game overshadowed the Super Bowl. Last year, there was the attention paid a report by a Washington television station about problems with the league's drug-testing program.

Another subject this year will be the league's policy of distributing tickets for the game to the season-ticket holders of each competing club.

The league was concerned about price gouging last year in New Orleans by hotels, so the NFL put together its own travel plan.

However, the league took 4,000 of the 9,000 tickets allotted to each competing team and attached them to a four-day hotel package -- ranging from $669 to $1,189 per person. That doesn't include transportation to the game or the $150 price of the ticket.

It has turned out that 8,000 season ticket holders -- 4,000 from each team -- weren't interested in these packages (the Giants sold only a few hundred), so the league's travel agency is now selling them to anybody willing to come up with the money.

If it can't sell the packages, it's uncertain how the remaining tickets will be sold.

There'll also be the debate about the effect of playing the game one week after the conference championship games.

The usual, two-week wait was wiped out when the NFL regular season was increased to 17 weeks by the addition of open dates. It's the first time the Super Bowl has been played one week after the conference championship games since the 1982 strike season, when the Washington Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins, 27-17.

The lack of a two-week buildup probably is good news for the Bills, who are making their first appearance in the game and won't have as much time to get caught up in the spectacle.

The Giants flew directly to Tampa from San Francisco on Sunday night. The Bills stayed home overnight before leaving today.

Talking about getting ready for the game quickly, Giants defensive lineman Leonard Marshall said: "I think the players have to regroup real soon and take care of all the injuries they have and get ready to play next week."

Oh, yes, the game.

The game usually is a disappointment.

Six of the past seven have been blowouts. The only close one in that span was won by the San Francisco 49ers two years on Joe Montana's fourth-quarter drive against the Cincinnati Bengals.

This year, the American Football Conference representative, the Bills, is favored, even though the National Football Conference has won six straight.

Just four teams -- the Chicago Bears, Giants, Redskins and 49ers -- have won the past six games.

But the Bills are favored because of their 51-3 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders in the NFC title game and because they beat the Giants last month, 17-13.

That's probably misleading. At the time, the Giants had clinched their division title, while the Bills still were battling the Miami Dolphins for the AFC East title.

Still, beating the 49ers on the road -- even just 15-13 -- is more of an accomplishment than beating the Raiders at home.

The Giants also are likely to use their underdog status as a rallying cry.

Talking about how the Giants were underdogs against the 49ers Sunday, Marshall said: "They were already in the Super bowl. All they had to do was come here and play for 60 minutes and they were in the Super Bowl. We had everything to win and nothing to lose. Everybody counted us out. We got a backup quarterback [Jeff Hostetler] leading us."

Although the Giants blew out the Denver Broncos (who make a habit of being routed in Super Bowls), the game does figure to be close, because the Giants rarely win big and their defense is too good for them to lose big.

Coach Bill Parcells favors a conservative offense -- although the Giants use more rollouts now that Hostetler has replaced ailing Phil Simms -- and Parcells usually sits on the lead when he gets ahead.

"We've been running the same kind of game plan all year. We're going to the Super Bowl with it. I just hopes it works for us for another week," Hostetler said.

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