For a Super Bowl, it's been a strange week. A different week. Strange and different enough that the Buffalo Bills should become the first no-huddle offense to win the Super Bowl, not to mention the first team from Buffalo.
For any other football game it hasn't been unusual.But you wouldn't know a Super Bowl is approaching.
Players on both teams, the New York Giants and the Bills, haven't done anything outrageous or close to outrageous.
There have been virtually no public parties.
Traffic has been lighter than usual.
The News of the World, with headquarters in Miami, did report that Elvis would sing the National Anthem to start today's game - leaving his job as a cook at a Burger King in a small town in Michigan, where he has been undercover. The same report said Elvis would leave game tickets for Jerry Glanville.
It's been so slow here in Tampa that the Elvis story got big play.
There has been no Joe Namath predicting a win. There has been no Jim McMahon secretly flying in his acupuncturist. There has been no drug controversy like there was last year. John Matuszak didn't get fined for missing curfew. John Riggins didn't refuse to talk to the media.
There has been a lot of talk about the war in the Persian Gulf, and the sentiment that the game should be played as soberly as possible out of respect and deference to that conflict.
Mostly, the estimated 90,000 Super Bowl visitors to West Florida have quietly dispersed themselves daily to either Busch Gardens or Cypress Gardens or Gatorland or Disney World or Pleasure Island or Cocoa Beach or the MGM Disney Studios or Discovery Island or Universal Studios or the Kennedy Space Center or Baseball Town or Sea World or Wet-N-Wild or the Epcot Center or the Big Daddy Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing.
And you wondered what people retire to down here.
The biggest Super Bowl stories of the week, besides Elvis, have been:
- The $1,500 steak dinner eaten at Bern's Steak House by the eight members of the New York Giants offensive line.
- A report that Jumbo Elliott, the Giants' left tackle, sold his personal Super Bowl tickets for $950 apiece to a New York travel agent - a story the travel agent denied.
- Buffalo Coach Marv Levy missing a Tuesday press conference because he was busy preparing his game plan and forgot. Levy sincerely apologized once they'd dragged him out of the film room.
It's been that kind of week. The most interviewed person in town has been Bob Smith, the director of public safety for the city of Tampa. Smith is overseeing security for today's game, and while there have reportedly been no direct threats by Iraqi terrorists, or any other terrorists, that the Super Bowl's spectators and participants are in danger, precautions are being taken just the same.
Basically, no one will be able to carry anything into the stadium.
Other than the Bills. They will be able to carry in their 25-year grudge.
For the first time in 25 years, the Buffalo Bills will be watching a Super Bowl in conditions other than a snowstorm. Every other year they've watched the big game on TV in their dens in Buffalo.
The Bills are an original American Football League franchise. They've been in business for 31 years. The Bills won AFL titles in 1964 and 1965, but since the AFL-NFL merger and the first Super Bowl in 1967, they haven't made it to the finals. Most years they haven't come close. Most years the Bills have been to football what the Patriots have been to football lately.
O.J. played for them and that was about it.
Even when O.J. played, the Bills had three winning seasons in his nine-year run.
Now here they are, in a Super Bowl that doesn't look like a Super Bowl.
If these are the Buffalo Bills, this can't be the Super Bowl.
The first thing the Bills learned when they qualified for the game was that the Sheraton Hotel in Tampa had just hired a new manager who reneged on a deal turning over his hotel to an NFL football team. The Sheraton had originally been planned for the AFC champion, while the Hyatt Regency was reserved for the NFC champion.
As the Giants settled comfortably into their rather exclusive Hyatt accommodations, the Bills had to find another hotel. They booked themselves into a Holiday Inn.
Some people made a big deal out of it but Levy said it was fine with him as long as they had electricity for his VCR.
All week, the Bills players have done nothing outrageous or improper. They have been accommodating for the media, they have talked chiefly about football, and they have practiced diligently.
So, for that matter, have the Giants.
A strange week. No question. Strange enough to launch a thousand celebrations in Buffalo once today's Super Bowl game has come and gone. If this week wasn't made for the Bills, there might not be one with their name on it. This is their year. If Elvis doesn't sing, they'll win.