America's fondness for sport and spectacle reaches its annual pinnacle today with the 21st playing of the Super Bowl--year after year the most watched athletic event the nation has to offer.
The New York Giants and Denver Broncos will meet at 3 p.m. in the Rose Bowl to decide the National Football League championship. It will be the fourth Super Bowl played at the Rose Bowl and the sixth in Los Angeles.
An estimated 130 million people will watch the game on television--a broadcast that will be seen live or on videotape in more than 35 countries, including Singapore, Saudi Arabia and the People's Republic of China.
If that many people do watch, Super Bowl XXI will become the No. 1 rated program in American television history.
Eight of television's 10 most viewed programs have been Super Bowls.
A crowd in excess of 104,000 is expected to fill the Rose Bowl--most of them having paid the face value of $75 for a ticket. Many, however, will have dealt out $500 to $1,000 for a seat.
For their money, they will see entertainer Neil Diamond sing the national anthem after leading a cast of 700 in a pregame songfest. They will see a half-time show produced by the Walt Disney Co. and saluting the 100th anniversary of a village down the freeway called Hollywood.
And they will also see a football game, which after a long week of hype sometimes becomes almost an afterthought. Recent games have become afterthoughts by half-time, with the last three Super Bowls being decided by 29, 32 and a record 36 points.
Odds-makers favor another rout. New York is a 10-point favorite, a one-sided spread that has inspired as much as $75 million worth of legal bets and countless millions more in illegal wagering.
The financial interest in the game also stems from the fact that the Giants, a 62-year-old franchise in a 66-year-old league, are making their first trip to the Super Bowl. The Broncos are appearing for the second time.
Each member of the winning team will receive $36,000; the losers will get $18,000 per player.