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SUPER BOWL XXXIII: DENVER BRONCOS VS. GREEN BAY PACKERS;
3:15 P.M., SUNDAY; TV: CHANNEL 4. RADIO: KNX (1070)

Talk of the Towns

Two Packer Fans Pass on Tickets, but in San Diego, It's Angry Charger Fans Who Are Passed Over

January 19, 1998|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — The Super Bowl has come to San Diego in all its corporate opulence, a projected $232-million boon to the local economy. And while the Broncos and Packers arrived Sunday night for a week of sun and hype, Leland and Janet Hack remained in Stoughton, Wis., already the game's biggest beneficiaries.

City officials expect 100,000 visitors to spend an estimated $1,500-$1,700 each for accommodations and entertainment in the next week, but in the dead of a Wisconsin winter the Hacks passed on an all-expenses paid trip to San Diego and Super Bowl tickets in exchange for $5,000 to send their son to trade school.

"A trip to San Diego would have been nice, but my son comes first," says Leland Hack, a Packer fan who has worked for 23 years as a school custodian. "I didn't get all the schooling I wanted; I had to quit school in the eighth grade and go to work because my dad was sick.

"I want my son to have a better chance than I had."

The Stoughton Garden Center purchased some of the Packerland Super Raffle tickets, which included Super Bowl tickets and 245 other Packer prizes, and as a holiday promotion presented them to their customers. Janet Hack thought it would be nice to win a Brett Favre autographed football.

The phone rang, and the Hacks, about to become the envy of everyone living in that icebox, asked about the small print on the bottom of the raffle ticket. They had never been to a Super Bowl, or even a Packer game. Born and raised in Wisconsin, they had traveled to South Dakota and Tennessee, but never to California. But more important, none of their children had been able to go beyond high school, and now one of them had a ticket.

"When I called them to inform them they had won I was struck by the fact they weren't very excited," says Peter Vlisides, who helped with the raffle. "We did the same thing last year and the winner was so excited when we called.

"I could tell right away they were thinking, and when people here heard about what they did, they were in shock--even kids I know in school who know the cost of education. They said they would have gone to the game."

The Hacks never hesitated.

"The contest people gave us a few days to think about it, but there was nothing to think about," says Janet Hack. "We have two daughters, 33 and 34, living with us at home, and they're good girls, but we never had the money to send them on for schooling. Our son, Bill, has been working since the ninth grade at the Country Kitchen saving money, and he knows what he wants. He wants to become a cook and own his own restaurant.

"Finances just aren't real good, and this was our chance to send him to the Madison Area Technical College, which is $1,500 a semester for books, uniforms and cutlery. This will get him through the two years he needs and set him up for another year of baking if he wants it."

There were friends and neighbors who told them they were foolish for passing on a lifetime vacation, but the local newspaper took an interest, and then the radio and TV stations began calling.

"Oh gosh, I don't know what the big fuss is all about," says Janet. "I would hope other parents would think the same way.

"Country Kitchen has a scholarship where it gives 50 cents for every hour Bill works. . . . There's already a sign-up sheet on the Country Kitchen door for Bill's new restaurant. We're Packer fans and we'll be wearing our sweatshirts for the game, but listen, my son's a good boy and he has a dream. And now he's got a chance.

"We'll watch the Super Bowl on TV. We'll get to see the replays too."

So will most of the heretics in San Diego who have been squawking for weeks because the public gets no opportunity to become part of the Super Bowl crowd in Qualcomm Stadium, which was expanded for the big game with public money.

"I had one lady call and ask for tickets on the 50-yard line," says Sandie Hughes, who manned the phones for the San Diego Super Bowl Host Committee. "I told her none were available, and she said, 'OK, how about the 55- or 60-yard line?' "

Charger fans, who have been tortured for the past year watching their team flounder, have been even more upset. Duped into buying season tickets to watch a lackluster team in a stadium with plenty of available seats each week, they held onto the promise of maybe winning the right to buy Super Bowl tickets.

"Enough, Uncle!" wrote San Marcos' Julie Walker in a Viewpoint letter to The San Diego Union-Tribune recently. "Our Charger season tickets have a 1962 date on them. We have grumbled every time the Chargers raised prices, despite too many mediocre teams and even more mediocre coaches [except for Don Coryell and Bobby Ross]. But still we paid up. . . . But now we're spitting fire after learning that, despite being among the few season ticket holders who have hung on since 1962, we do not get to buy Super Bowl tickets, The Chargers have finally made us say uncle."

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