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A Circus Atmosphere : Sights and Sounds Make It Greatest Show on Earth, and in the Air


A long, black limousine is stopped outside Gate F of the Rose Bowl. It is stopped because several dozen people are in the way.

"Hey, there's a Laker cup on the dash," said a man standing in front of the car. "I bet it's Magic."

Well, no it isn't. Although we have it on good authority that Magic Johnson always carries Laker cups with him in whatever car he rides, at this moment Johnson is riding in an electric cart with four security guards in yellow jackets running interference and the driver honking the horn like mad.

It is 45 minutes before the Super Bowl and there is a terrible traffic jam, most of it a couple thousand feet above the rim of the Rose Bowl, proving once and for all that this event doesn't need players nearly as much as a few air traffic controllers.

Super Bowl Sunday, how do I love thee? Let me count the blimps. The Fuji Film blimp, the Goodyear blimp, the Family Channel, MetLife and Budweiser blimps. There are also four helicopters and eight airplanes circling. The last time airspace was so crowded at an event, it was Madonna's wedding.

Of course, the Super Bowl is sort of that perfect union between the most American of sports, football, and the most American of principals, commerce. The most sought-after item looks to be the elusive Super Bowl ticket, which entitles the bearer not only to watch the game from one of the 102,083 seats jammed into the Rose Bowl, but also to rest your chin on your knees without bending over.

Doug Green of South Lake Tahoe is one of thousands looking for tickets, so he does what anyone would do. Well, sort of. He advertises. Green has written 'Need 2 tickets' on balloons and tied them to the necks of his two dogs, Tacoma and Rambo, who are romping on the grass near Brookside.

Green said if he gets the tickets, Tacoma and Rambo will go to his camper where they can watch the game on television.

Judging by his appearance, Rambo seems as though he may be the more content with such an arrangement. His collar is three beer cups bound together by string.

Actually, there are a number of sightings of unusual activities and personages, besides anything involving Michael Jackson.

It is sort of a costume party, a hybrid of big-time football and Halloween.

There is the man in an ape costume wearing a rainbow colored wig. The logo on his vest identifies him as a Kansas City Chief fan.

A figure on stilts wearing a skeleton costume holds up a sign that reads: "Bones knows Super Bowl." No one is arguing.

Jim Schaefer of Carson is looking at the world through buffalo-tinted glasses. He is carrying a stuffed Buffalo head with a plastic helmet tied on top.

Schaefer, formerly of Buffalo, N.Y., says he took the head off the wall of his living room. He calls the stuffed head 'Buff."

Says Schaefer: "He's our head coach."


Over at the NFL Experience, the league's so-called theme park, 10-year-old Matthew Weiner of Wayne, N.J., has just had a football card made with his picture on it. He is wearing a San Francisco 49er jersey.

Matthew figures the rest of the fourth graders at John F. Kennedy elementary school back home will be duly impressed.


"Because it's cool," he said.


At the same time, the NFL's ultimate tailgate party is proving to be a similarly cool experience for anyone lucky enough to have a ticket.

There is a Ferris wheel. There are barbecued ribs and open bars. There is a pro beach volleyball exhibition. There is no way the Super Bowl can match this.

Meanwhile, there are so many helicopters, the sky is a blue mixing bowl. Garth Brooks, who obviously has dripped paint on his shirt, holds his white hat and sings the national anthem. The Bills act as if they couldn't hold onto the ball if it was as big as the inflatable globe in Jackson's halftime show.

Fireworks explode on the field. Garbage piles up outside the stadium. Pasadena police stand on top of firetrucks and watch the crowd. They rub their eyes, probably because after this day, they've seen it all.

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