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This Time the Game Is Showpiece


SAN DIEGO — Finally, a Super Bowl was super for all the reasons it is supposed to be super. The football game.

This time, the show was more than the show. The dancing girls didn't dance off with all the attention. The headliner wasn't somebody with a microphone, but somebody with a football. This time, the attention of the fans didn't fly away with the jets that roared overhead moments before the first snap.

This time, the sideshow wasn't the show, the halftime wasn't the best time. This time, running and passing were more memorable than singing and dancing. They had fireworks during the game, as well as before and after it.

Super Bowl XXXII wasn't what it had become as those Roman numerals piled up. This one wasn't a Super Bore. Maybe you have to go back to Super Bowl III, when Joe Namath told the world what would happen and then made it so, to get a game that kept the public buzzing like this one will. No wisecracks over the water cooler at work tomorrow after this one. The show lived up to its press clippings, and heaven knows there are enough press clippings in advance of this annual event to ruin a couple of forests in Oregon.

To give this better perspective, look at what the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers were up against, were they to become the best of show at the National Football League's annual best show.

Just before game time, there were nine planes overhead. Also, three helicopters, four blimps, the jets from the Blue Angels and a B-2 Stealth bomber. Whatever migraine headache Terrell Davis had, it couldn't have been much worse than that of the local air traffic controller.

And that was before the game.

Also before the game was a tribute to California, filling the air with Beach Boys' songs and an inadvertent tribute to our 1849 gold rush days: a couple of hundred young ladies wearing gold lame. The dancers danced, the music blared and the place rocked and rolled like a 6.0 on the Richter scale. At hand was both excitement and ear damage.

It is onto this stage that, year after year, two football teams step out and face a world awaiting even more. It is a stage that always seems to cry out: OK, show us more. Keep our feet tapping, make the beat go on.

And usually, after a few minutes of "establishing the running game" and "playing for field position," thoughts turn to the next Bulls' game, or halftime, whichever comes first.

And since halftime does, indeed, come first, that always gets the batteries charged up again and attention back to Broadway and away from Green Bay.

Sunday's halftime show was up to the task. It had a full-sized concert stage, set up in a couple of minutes, and it went from Motown to Queen Latifah to Boyz II Men. The music was marvelous, sounds echoing through a cavern of nearly 70,000 people. Surrounding the singers were hundreds of dancing girls in silver and black, certainly the most talented group of athletes wearing those colors on a football field this season.

There were inflated helmets, Bronco blue and Packer green, 50 feet high. There were huge red, blue and orange balloons, framing the scene and drifting lazily in the wind. And a sound system that would have blown the roof off, had there been one.

Year after year, it has been like that, like people going to see Titanic and walking out talking about how good the popcorn had been.

But not this time. Yes, Virginia, this Super Bowl was a Super Bowl. This had everything, and a game to go with it. Maybe the people who got scalped for $3,000 a ticket didn't.

In the end, the drama was John Elway, the music was Terrell Davis and the dancing was by NFL officials who, after all these years of putting on a game to go with their show, got a show that was worthy of their game.

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