KONA, Hawaii -- The National Football League proved one thing again yesterday that could be a good omen for expansion: what the commissioner wants, he usually gets.
The issues this time were the 1993 Super Bowl in Phoenix and instant replay, and commissioner Paul Tagliabue got his way on both issues.
The owners preliminarily agreed to give the city the 1996 game, a compromise he worked out with Arizona Gov. Fife Symington as they decided to pull the 1993 Super Bowl out of Phoenix, but "preliminarily" agreed to give it the 1996 game.
The owners then voted to award the 1993 game to Los Angeles over San Diego. The game will be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Tagliabue declined to say how Phoenix could get the 1996 game permanently, but apparently it depends on whether the state voters pass in 1992 a paid holiday for state workers in honor of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
They also kept instant replay alive by a 21-7 vote, the minimum needed for passage. It was instituted six years ago with the support of former commissioner Pete Rozelle and has been kept alive by the continuing support of Tagliabue.
Although they are completely different issues, the votes were a good sign that if Tagliabue continues to support expansion for 1993, it likely would become a reality, even though some owners want to delay it to at least 1994.
When the commissioner swings his support to an issue, teams are reluctant to give him a public defeat.
Owner William V. Bidwill of the Cardinals tried to keep the game in 1993, but Tagliabue insisted on moving it, and the commissioner had the votes.
Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., said from Washington: "I'm very disappointed in the NFL. Those who throw rocks in glass houses, had better look at yourself.
"Maybe they looked inside themselves [as a result of controversy]. They have no black owners, only one black coach and no black general managers," he said.
The compromise will put the spotlight on the 1992 vote, but Arizona politicians hope it'll pass this time because the state will combine Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays in one holiday while creating a new holiday for King. That means the holiday wouldn't cost the taxpayers more money.
Instant replay is a good example of the clout of the commissioner.
In another matter, the owners voted to keep the 47-man roster and a five-man practice squad, as long as that can be negotiated on the same terms used last year.
The league had a six-man squad with a $1,000-a-week salary in 1989, but negotiated a five-man squad with a $3,000-a-week salary last year with lawyer Chip Yablonski after he sued over the issue.
Despite the seemingly close vote, instant replay probably never was in danger of being tossed out.
Although 21 teams don't seem to favor it, no team has yet been willing to join the opponents as the eighth negative vote.
In explaining his switch, Phil Krueger, general manager of the Buccaneers, said it's become part of the game and, "the fans expect it now."
The voting over the past six years has been 23-4-1, 21-7, 23-5, 24-4, 21-7 and 21-7.
Jim Finks, general manager of the New Orleans Saints who heads the competition committee, was encouraged that replay was passed without compromises.
The last major compromise was made last year when a two-minute time limit was established for reviewing calls. The time limit will remain in effect, although there were times officials were creative in deciding when the time limit started.
The arguments for and against replay are now familiar. The proponents say it corrects mistakes. The opponents contend it slows down the game and causes more mistakes.
Among the strongest supporters of instant replay are the Washington Redskins, who were helped by replay when Earnest Byner's fumble in a playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles was overturned by the replay official.