NFL now awaits results of TV ratings game


PASADENA, Calif. -- The important number for the NFL on Super Bowl Sunday isn't the final score.

It's the television rating that will come out today.

NFL officials were hoping that yesterday's game will top the 40.3 rating with a 61 share of last year's Super Bowl.

It was the second time in three years that the Super Bowl failed to get at least a 41 rating and failed to crack the top 50 TV programs of all time.

Ratings measure the percentage of all television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use.

The best rating of the past five years was the 43.5 for Super Bowl XXIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals. That was the 30th-highest rated TV show ever.

Of the 26 previous Super Bowls, 18 had been rated among the top 50 TV shows, the highest being Super Bowl XVI, also between the 49ers and Bengals, which got a 49.1.

That's the fourth-highest rated TV show of all time, behind the final episode of "M*A*S*H" (60.2) in 1983, the "Who Shot J. R." episode of "Dallas" (53.3) in 1980 and the final episode of the "Roots" miniseries (51.1) in 1977.

It's more difficult for the networks to get those types of ratings now because cable TV has diluted the network audience.

But the NFL was hoping that the presence of the Dallas Cowboys -- one of the league's most popular teams -- would give the game a good rating.

This is also the first time that Baltimore will be included in the overnight ratings, which will be announced today. The city recently was added to the number of cities included in the overnight ratings.

In three of the past four years, the Super Bowl got a higher rating in Baltimore than it did around the country even though the city doesn't have a team.

Last year, the Super Bowl got a 45 rating in Baltimore compared with a 40.3 nationally. That Washington was in the game probably contributed to the rating -- the Redskins tend to get good ratings in the city.

By contrast, the Super Bowl two years ago between the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants got a 41.9 rating nationally and a 39 in Baltimore. Three years ago, the game between the 49ers and Denver Broncos got a 39.0 nationally, but a 43 in Baltimore.

Four years ago, the game between the 49ers and Bengals got a 43.5 nationally and a 50 in Baltimore.

Three for Baltimore

The three ownership groups attempting to get an expansion team in Baltimore were represented at the Super Bowl. The NFL provided 12 tickets -- four for each group -- for Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, to give to the groups.

Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, chairman of Merry-Go-Round, and Malcolm Glazer, the Florida businessman, attended the game, but author Tom Clancy was unable to because he's nearing a deadline on his latest book.

Clancy's group was represented by movie producer Jim Robinson, the group's major investor, and Ted Venetoulis, the former Baltimore County Executive who's serving as a consultant to the group, though he's not investing in it.

Robinson is no stranger to Los Angeles. He works here about three days a week in the movie business, but usually flies home every Friday night to be back in Baltimore for weekends.

Belgrad, who'll be at the owners' March meetings in Palm Springs, Calif., didn't attend the game because he said there's not much of an opportunity to lobby the owners.

Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the stadium authority, attended because he was in Los Angeles earlier in the week to accept an award for the authority from the International Sports Summit for the construction of Camden Yards.

Super excesses?

Pasadena was awarded the Super Bowl after Phoenix voters turned down a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday two years ago. Phoenix will get the 1996 Super Bowl because the voters approved the holiday in November.

The Pasadena package for the league was so lucrative -- it even included the offer of a helicopter ride for each owner to the game -- that it raised some controversy.

Though David Simon, president of the Los Angeles Sports Council, said that no public money was spent on the bid, its excesses have been criticized.

Rev. Cecil Murray, pastor of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times: "It bothers me when large numbers of American children go to bed hungry each night and people are hopping across the Concorde across the Atlantic. In an artificial environment, people may act artificially, but when the ball ends -- and it has with this economy -- do you act as if you're still at the ball, or are you grappling with reality?"

To show how the game has changed, it's necessary to note that Rose Bowl officials wouldn't let the first Super Bowl in 1967 be played at the stadium, so it was played at the Los Angeles Coliseum and didn't sell out.

Disturbing trend

That the Super Bowl has become an American holiday was highlighted by a grim assertion: women's groups contend domestic violence increases on Super Bowl Sunday the same way it does on holidays.

NBC even ran a public service announcement during the pre-game show on domestic violence after much lobbying by women's groups.

Lenore Walker, a Denver psychologist, said that that she has done studies that reveal calls to shelters and hot lines increase on Super Bowl Sunday.

She said the increased use of alcohol on Super Bowl Sunday contributes to the problem.

"If a man knows he has the tendencies to be become violent, he needs to make sure he doesn't get intoxicated and controls his drinking," she said.

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