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Football and America

Today is a holiday for millions of people across the country – Super Bowl Sunday.

Monday, February 04, 2002

Today is a holiday for millions of people across the country – Super Bowl Sunday.

Just like every year, the hype is there, the sales at all of the grocery stores are up, and some people have spent days – perhaps weeks – sprucing up their homes for their Super Bowl bash guests.

The match-up is an intriguing one – the St. Louis Rams, arguably the best team in the NFL and the underdog New England Patriots.

There are several things, however, which make this year’s game unlike any before it. The big game and January usually go hand-in-hand, but this year it’s being played in February. Of course, an event in September dictated that.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, the NFL cancelled all of the games scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 16 and Monday, Sept. 17. This left the league with three choices – lose a week of regular season play; cut out two teams in each of the conference’s playoffs and have one fewer weeks of post-season play; or push the Super Bowl back one week.

The latter was the obvious choice, but a conflict in scheduling at the New Orleans Super Dome could have eliminated that option. An agreement between the NFL and the National Automobile Dealers Association, however, made it possible.

The NADA annual convention was originally scheduled for Feb. 2-5 in New Orleans and the Super Bowl was slated for Sunday, Jan. 27. The NFL paid the NADA $7.5 million to trade weekends.

On a personal note, this year is kind of strange because it’s the first year since I’ve been married that Super Bowl Sunday and my anniversary did not fall on the same week. Having been married on Jan. 30, my wife and I usually hold a Super Bowl/anniversary party (we haven’t for a couple of years), but luckily we did not have plans for one this year.

Security at the game will change as well – thanks to the Sept. 11 attacks. After all, with nearly 80,000 fans expected to pack the stadium to watch the game and a halftime show featuring rock legends like Paul McCartney and U2, safety has to be a priority. There will certainly not be a lack of law enforcement as 40 agencies, lead by the Secret Service, will patrol the air, water, and land to thwart any possible terrorist actions.

This marks the first time the U.S Secret Service has ever done security at a sporting event. But after Sept. 11, it’s literally a whole new ball game. With this many people gathered at a venue, you have to protect them from any possible terrorist threats.

On a final note, how fitting is it that the Patriots made the Super Bowl this year (even though they beat my Raiders and Tribune advertising manager Dave Boden’s Steelers to get there)? The term patriotism has been used with great pride since September and it seems only fitting that the team representing the American Football Conference is one that’s name refers to somebody who loves their country.

As good as the Rams are and as fun as it is to watch their high-powered offense in action, it’s going to be hard not to root for New England – an underdog team representing America.