GOTTA GO BACK TO WORK

a return to reality after the decadence and delirium of Atlanta

"That's true of all sports; it's not just these two teams. It's not just this sport. It's everything," said Schaap, author of 32 books, including Instant Replay, the top-selling sports book of all time. "My rule is "the higher the stakes, the less the fun.' And a lot of the fun has gone out of it.

"All of sports is less fun than it used to be. This Super Bowl is not as much fun as Super Bowl I, when Max McGee could sneak out after curfew and spend the night out, come back and catch seven passes and win the game. Or Super Bowl III, where reporters could go interview Joe Namath, sitting next to a swimming pool, and he'd sit there with a drink in his hand and entertain the press. It doesn't happen anymore. They're all too concerned about the stakes; the stakes are so high, nobody wants to laugh."

The big game as bad sex

Georgia Frontiere obviously wanted to bury the hatchet, right in Tagliabue's head, over the league's opposing her move and sticking her with a $29 million relocation fee they didn't put on NFL public enemy No. 1, Raiders owner Al Davis.
D.J. Wilson
Georgia Frontiere obviously wanted to bury the hatchet, right in Tagliabue's head, over the league's opposing her move and sticking her with a $29 million relocation fee they didn't put on NFL public enemy No. 1, Raiders owner Al Davis.
Marshall Faulk
D.J. Wilson
Marshall Faulk

Atlanta's downtown Hyatt Regency, when it opened in 1967, used to be described as having a "Jesus Christ lobby" in that people would walk in, look up into the 22-story atrium and take the Lord's name in vain. Now these lobbies are as common as downtown light-rail systems, so the buzz is less. But the hotel was picked to be the media mission control, with the lower level of the lobby filled with row after row of tables for the working press, complete with computer jacks, phone lines, printouts of press releases and statistics, and transcripts of press conferences. Of course, free coffee and snacks were available full-time, along with, in the evening, complimentary beverages from a Super Bowl sponsor, Philip Morris-owned Miller Lite beer.

Free newspapers from St. Louis, Nashville, Atlanta and elsewhere were stacked on counters. The attention span of the sports scribes was obvious: Most grabbed just the sports sections from the papers and left all that messy stuff about the State of the Union address and trouble in Sri Lanka in the rack. A few sports magazines were offered gratis, including ESPN The Magazine, which took the cake that week for a truly awful cover photo featuring two women in hotpants and knee-high boots with platform soles. They were attired (scantily) like the Rams and the Titans. The Super Bowl is a marketing orgy, so it's not surprising a little titillation is used to pimp the product. And when it comes to marketing, 'nuff said that ESPN is owned by Disney, which also owns ABC, which is broadcasting the game. This is even too obvious for Oliver Stone. With things laid out this bare, no conspiracy is necessary. Maybe next time Noam Chomsky can write "Manufacturing Hype" as a sequel ("How 'Bout Them Rams, Noam?," RFT, Jan. 19).

In the ESPN cover photo, the Rams redhead, with exaggerated cleavage, snarls, holding a football. Beneath the shot of the two women, who appear to embody some type of bad sexist flashback to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in the '70s, is this headline: "The Biggest, Hottest, Longest Party of the Century -- SUPA!" There's the rub, for Super Bowl week or weekend.

In downtown 'Lanta, the Super Bowl soiree came off as a bad New Year's Eve party where everyone's trying really, really hard to have a good time against an undercurrent whispering that it's all a bit too desperate, that it's not working. And what it's built around, the game itself, has for years turned out like long-awaited sex: anticipated for far too long, over much too quickly and generally leaving only one side satisfied. At least the competitive nature of this year's game turned out to be somewhat satisfying for both participants.

But if New Year's Eve is for amateurs, then Super Bowl week is for pros: pros who labor, or hustle, for the sports/entertainment industrial complex, people who somehow turn a nickel into a dime around spectator-spectacle sports. It's all for the sponsors, the players, the staffs, the companies who snap up the tickets while the vast majority of fans stay home.

Around the game are the invitation-only "hot" parties, hosted by large corporations ranging from Nike to Anheuser-Busch. This year, Miller Lite, owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris, was the official Super Bowl beer. On Friday night, A-B sponsored an exclusive party in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, but the company's plans for an outdoor street party were ruined by freezing rain and plunging temperatures. Beyond the business socializing were the luxury suites in the Georgia Dome, where corporations link up with customers or prospects, and, of course, there was the media herd that at once promotes and reports on the bacchanal.

Pampered menials

By Friday, to get into the lobby of the Hyatt Regency downtown, you had to show your room-key card or your "working" press ID. The lobby had gotten way too packed and celebrities were being hassled by commoners and tickets were being scalped and who knows what-all, but something had to be done. What is startling about the Super Bowl mix is that people such as former Oilers coach and current HBO blowhard Jerry Glanville walk around the Hyatt and elsewhere with entourages. One-trick pony Chris "back-back-back" Berman, an ESPN burnout, walked around with a cluster of people following him. Surely the end was near. But not everybody there was a suck-up or a bozo; there were true celebrity encounters. On Friday night, the Washington Post's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were about to go off to do a TV show when they bumped into Alvin Reid, editor of the St. Louis American. Kornheiser, a Post columnist and author of Pumping Irony, knew Reid from back in the day, when Reid worked at Emerge magazine. As Kornheiser departed, his last question to Reid was "You got any white people working for you?"

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