The 26th annual Super Bowl game featuring the Washington Redskins vs. the Buffalo Bills will be played today under the neutral skies of the Metrodome amid all kinds of guesses as to what might happen in the first Super Bowl using an ice palace for a logo.
Normally, to get some kind of fix on how the game might go, it's a Super Bowl tradition to walk through the past week and see if the actions of either of the teams smack of game day omens.The week's highlights include: Monday - Highs in the mid 30s, clear skies. Teams arrive from Buffalo and Washington. It's so warm most players carry their full-length mink coats as they get off the plane.
Tuesday - During picture day at the Metrodome, Buffalo end Bruce Smith, the team's best defensive player, says that during the season he was the recipient of racist-oriented hate mail with Buffalo postmarks and would consider asking to be traded from such a place. In an unrelated but equally curious development, Roberta Baskin, a crusading reporter who has made it her goal in life to be to the NFL what Ralph Nader once was to the auto industry, reports on the TV show "Geraldo" that Don Smith, a former Bills running back, tested positive for steroids before last year's playoffs and the NFL took no action.
Wednesday - Weather still balmy for Minnesota. Bills say they wouldn't trade Smith, who is under contract for at least one more season, under any circumstances; not for Spider Man and a Super Hero to be named later, not for 30 minutes alone with Geraldo, not for anything. Meanwhile, at the media interview session at the Bills' St. Paul hotel, star running back Thurman Thomas, the NFL's Player of the Year, doesn't show even though attendance is a league rule. Thomas, finally reached upstairs in his room, says he didn't come down because he's tired of not being recognized (although about a thousand reporters recognized that he wasn't there for interviews), and could they send up room service with the individual-sized pizza.
(At this juncture, it should be noted that Buffalo clearly has assumed the early lead in Super Bowl hype, controversy and otherwise strange happenings; but the week is still young).
Thursday - Temperatures dip toward zero and a 25 mile-an-hour northwest wind visits the Twin Cities as all worries are dashed that the $1.1 million ice palace at the St. Paul Winter Carnival will melt. Thomas shows up for the Bills' mandatory interview session and Smith does, too, saying he believes 99 percent of the people who live in Buffalo probably aren't racist. At the Redskins' interview session, wide receiver Gary Clark, hurting with a sore back, lies down for his media reception, the first noticeable chink in Washington's stoical and imperturbable behavior, which up till now has been positively Republican.
Friday - A snowstorm termed a "blizzard" by those from Washington, a "squall" by those from Buffalo, and "a snowstorm" by native Minnesotans, hits downtown Minneapolis about the same time as a band of protestors from the National Coalition on Racism In Sports & The Media. Their target isn't Bruce Smith, it's the Washington franchise and its use of "Redskins" as a nickname and mascot. The protesters picket outside the Hyatt Hotel in Minneapolis where the NFL Player of the Year banquet, featuring Thurman Thomas, is being held, oblivious that NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's intimate party for 7,000 is taking place two blocks away at the Convention Center.
Saturday - The weather is a bit on the cold side as both teams go underground by checking into "safe house" hotels to watch Schwarzenegger movies and wait for Sunday's kickoff. So does anyone else smart enough to know that if man was meant to go outside in January in Minneapolis after a 3.6-inch snowfall then skyways would never have been invented. The anti-Redskins protesters stalk Tagliabue but can't find him, and the commissioner releases a statement that many Indian tribes are in favor of nicknames that identify them with Super Bowl champions.
That leaves only today, Sunday, the traditional day when all the corporate jets land at the airport and Dan Quayle telephones around noon wondering if he can get a ticket, and they get around to answering The Big Question by playing the game.
By all accounts, the Bills have had the most tiresome week, dealing with a lot more controversy than their counterparts, the Redskins, who, if it hadn't been for Clark lying down for reporters on Thursday, would have qualified for a group Eagle Scout award.
Since the Redskins are favored by seven points to start with, that would not appear to bode well for Buffalo.
But then again, acting weird and controversial in the days leading up to the big game has never meant you're going to have a bad game. On the contrary. Consider Jim McMahon and the Bears. Consider Joe Namath and the Jets. Consider Joe Montana and the 49ers two years ago when the aforementioned Ms. Baskin broke the story about "white quarterbacks taking drugs." Consider every Raider team that's ever won it all.
If nothing else, this year's Bills are in bad company. They'll win by a touchdown. Trust them.