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Things Beginning to Look Rosy for NFL and L.A.

The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

September 23, 2001|T.J. Simers

You know what a joker NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is, so when he told staff members recently that it'd be great to see the Raiders playing the Rams in the Rose Bowl in this season's Super Bowl, they had to know he was just kidding.

Everybody understands there's no way that can happen.

The Raiders aren't going to be in the Super Bowl.

There's still a chance, however, Super Bowl VI will be played in Pasadena with the Westside serving as the hotel, team and media base for the NFL, while the NHL all-star participants occupy downtown L.A. the same weekend.

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THE NFL now appears committed to pushing the Super Bowl back a week to Feb. 3 because of its love affair with money and reluctance to give back more than $100 million in TV and advertising revenue because of canceled playoff games.

A Feb. 3 Super Bowl will be played in either New Orleans or Pasadena--with league officials making it clear to The Times they favor the Rose Bowl over alternative sites in Miami and Tampa.

The NFL effort now is to keep the game in New Orleans, but moving the game to L.A. excites the NFL, which has been looking for a way to rekindle interest in pro football here. The move would certainly be embraced by sponsors, who like mixing with the Hollywood set, and L.A.-based Fox, which has TV rights to this year's contest.

L.A. officials will submit a bid to the NFL later this week.

The NFL already has made contact with NHL officials, knowing the minor sport will have its all-star game Feb. 2 in Staples Center. Obviously, the NHL is not pleased at the prospect of being overshadowed by the Super Bowl. WNBA officials might consider scheduling their all-star game the same day as the Super Bowl every year--that way they wouldn't have to invent an excuse why no one watches.

There's some thought, however, the NHL might benefit from playing its all-star game in the same city as the Super Bowl--giving the media something to do the day before the Super Bowl.

I'll be busy, of course, that Saturday because of my Playboy Mansion connections, and I've already invited the NFL to join me that day.

This will be a problem, of course, if Miami advances and brings Cade McNown along. I'm afraid he'll have to go to the hockey game.

The NFL loves stars, and obviously I'm pretty tight with most of them. I'm pretty sure my new buddy Tom Hanks would be willing to sign some autographs.

However, if getting the Big Game all hinges on delivering Bum Garner, the game will be played in the Big Easy. From what I've been told, Garner recently took a header into the water on the par-five eighth hole at Bel-Air while trying to hit a ball, and there seems to be continuing debate at Bel-Air whether anyone wants to fish him out.

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IN THE Timing Is Everything Department, it certainly didn't hurt L.A.'s chances Saturday to have a national TV audience watching Ohio State and UCLA in a picturesque Rose Bowl in front of 73,723 sun-drenched fans. They even saw the same kind of dull game they'd expect to watch in the Super Bowl.

Now it's up to the National Automobile Dealers Assn. whether the Super Bowl is played in New Orleans or Pasadena.

The NFL has asked NADA to swap weekends, offering to pay the dealers for any losses incurred while also making a charitable donation in NADA's name.

Remember, these are car dealers, so we're still talking sticker price here--just waiting for the sales manager to be called in to close the deal.

The NFL believes pressure is mounting on NADA to either swap dates or cancel its convention, which would allow the NFL to remain in New Orleans and play on Feb. 3. League officials said they intend to wait on NADA--setting an Oct. 15 deadline for a final determination where the game will be played.

New Orleans, of course, is not about to surrender the Super Bowl and more than $200 million in economic impact. City officials are already aware of rumors the Saints might move to L.A. after the 2003 season, so letting the Super Bowl go to L.A. and renew interest in the NFL here is even more incentive to keep the game.

And imagine the backlash if the NFL decides to move the game to L.A. and the Saints reach the Super Bowl. Those people would probably be so upset at L.A., they'd turn off the all-star hockey game in protest.

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YOU CAN learn a lot about an athlete when things don't go well, and they were disastrous for UCLA running back DeShaun Foster, who fumbled four times in his run for Heisman consideration on national TV.

Although Foster struggled on the field, he excelled off it--refusing to make any excuses for his performance and making himself available for every question.

"Had we lost and I hurt this team, I might still be on the field," he said. "But we won, and that's what this is all about."

Last season Foster broke his right hand, but it has fully recovered. However, the pinky finger on his left hand required surgery, and because he's still trying to regain strength in that hand, he's having difficulty squeezing the ball.

He may have to wrap the ball with two hands more--or make sure he gets to the end zone untouched.

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UCLA WINS with defense and the Dodgers rally twice for a victory. I have to check my answering machine to see if USC President Steven Sample has called.

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from Bryan:

"If you had to make the decision to either have dinner with the grocery store bagger or Kevin Malone--who would it be?"

Malone. There's no chance of the bagger picking up the check.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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