Sponsors at the Super Bowl eclipse big game with glitz


It's Super Bowl day, and you can just feel the suspense building, right? All over the world, viewers will tune in to ABC to see whether an incredible feat can be pulled off by one individual, facing overwhelming odds.

San Diego quarterback Stan Humphries against awesome San Francisco?

No, Indiana Jones against the nasty guardians of the Temple of the Forbidden.

The character of Jones, the star of the Disney-produced "Doritos Halftime Show," will sky-dive onto a replica of the temple, which -- surprise! -- is a new attraction at Disneyland. Jones' pressure-packed assignment, in the words of a spokesman, will be "to retrieve the stolen Super Bowl trophy from the temple thugs without looking into the eye of the temple god, Mara."

But, of course, there's more to the Super Bowl than the "Doritos Halftime Show."

There's also the "Pizza Hut Pregame Report," not to mention the "Ford Explorer Countdown to Kickoff" and the "Doritos Kickoff." The kick in the "Doritos Kickoff" must be one of those extremely high, end-over-end boots, because it starts at 2:30 p.m., 48 minutes before the ball is expected to land in the arms of the kick returner.

These preliminaries will be anchored by Brent Musburger, and ++ you can depend on him to delve into every fascinating angle of the game during the two-hour, 18-minute warm-up. For instance, who can forget the dramatic highlight of the 1987 pregame show, when Mr. Musburger mulled during a lull: "And if you're wondering about the length of the grass here today . . ."

The pregame show culminates, of course, in the Doritos national anthem, which will be warbled by Kathie Lee Gifford. She got the nod despite reports that some novice named Barbra Streisand also wanted the assignment. Oh, did we forget to tell you that the Gifford-Philbin show is on ABC and that she is the wife of ABC football broadcaster Frank Gifford?

Historically, Super Bowl games themselves have often proved forgettable because of lopsided scores. But the games' pageants -- being live and therefore unpredictable -- have gained the spotlight in surprising fashion.

Herewith our pre-pregame extravaganza of Super Bowl superlatives. We couldn't find a sponsor to attach its name to it:

* Worst end zone seats: Two rockets, fired from outside Tampa Stadium during Super Bowl XVIII's halftime show, veered off course and landed in the stands, slightly injuring one spectator (1984).

* Most shameless propagandizing: Before Super Bowl IV, held during the height of the Vietnam War, the New Christy Minstrels were introduced as "young Americans who demonstrate -- with guitars" (1970).

* The tune that viewers never heard: Before Super Bowl I, Kansas City cornerback Fred Williamson bragged that he would club Green Bay into submission with his secret weapon, a forearm chop he called "the hammer." When the Packers knocked him cold in the fourth quarter, en route to a 35-10 win, Green Bay guard Fuzzy Thurston stood over Mr. Williamson and softly hummed the tune "If I Had a Hammer" (1967).

* Worst pregame imagery: NBC's Bob Trumpy said that if Buffalo used a man-to-man defense against Dallas in XXVIII, "It's Dr. Kevorkian for Buffalo" (1994).

* Most unusual coin toss: Astronaut Roberta Bondar, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, held the coin as she flipped herself in cartwheels during the pregame show for XXVI. She released the coin, which floated away, never landing, heads or tails. The game went on anyway (1992).

* Most desperate buildup: San Francisco was considered such a heavy favorite over Denver in Super Bowl XXIV that CBS studded its pregame show with film clips of the Jets' upset in Super Bowl III, the U.S. hockey team's "miracle win" over the Soviet Olympic team in 1980 and movies (such as "Rocky") in which underdogs triumph (1990).

* No wonder San Francisco was considered a cinch: On the pregame show for XXIV, CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg found a New Orleans voodoo doctor named the Reverend Ken, who removed a hex on the 49ers and quarterback Joe Montana by performing several rituals, including the spitting of Bacardi rum on a football (1990).

* Best cosmic analysis: During Super Bowl XXV, which coincided with the Persian Gulf war, ABC cut away to Saudi Arabia, where newsman Judd Rose observed: "It's hard to take Giants and Bills too seriously when your life depends on Patriots and jets" (1991).

* Snappiest retort to a dumb question: Before VI, moody Dallas running back Duane Thomas was asked by a broadcaster if the Super Bowl was the "ultimate game." Mr. Thomas replied: "If it's the ultimate, how come they're playing it again next year?" (1972).

* A reason to go on living: "Bud Bowl VII," an empty-headed Super Bowl promotion involving long-necked bottles of beer playing football, will be cut from four commercials to one during Super Bowl XXIX (1995).

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