Despite its long-standing relationship with Hollywood, the NFL wants no part of the blockbuster movie being released today in which terrorists blow up the Super Bowl with a nuclear weapon.
Actually, the championship game in "The Sum of All Fears" is not called the Super Bowl, no authentic team names or color schemes are used, and the NFL is doing everything it can to distance itself from the project.
"We declined to participate in the movie," said Brian McCarthy, the league's director of corporate communications. "We felt the way in which the NFL marks would be portrayed are not in our best interest. We would have declined to participate even before Sept. 11."
The film is an adaptation of a 1991 Tom Clancy novel in which terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb at a Super Bowl in Denver between the Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers. In the book, most of Denver was destroyed. The movie version is set in Baltimore--although the game action was shot at Olympic Stadium in Montreal--and the blast kills thousands.
Even though the filmmakers say the rough cut was assembled before Sept. 11, many people consider the subject matter all too real.
The specter of terrorism caused the NFL to take unprecedented measures at this year's Super Bowl in New Orleans. Fans, vendors, media, VIPs, and even players had to pass through metal detectors and were subject to pat-downs. Concrete barriers and eight-foot-high fences were erected around the Superdome, and streets were closed around the venue. A no-fly zone was in effect over the stadium, and nearly 2,000 police and security personnel were in attendance. There were no incidents of note.
The NFL has not always adhered to strict standards in its dealings with Hollywood. In the mid-1970s, the league allowed footage from Super Bowl X to be used in "Black Sunday," in which a terrorist threatens to kill fans at a stadium with a blimp loaded with thousands of darts. That plot might have been outlandish in years past, but many threats seem more realistic in light of Sept. 11.
The league allowed its images to be used in movies such as "Little Giants," "Heaven Can Wait" and "Everybody's All American"; and steered clear of less flattering depictions in "Any Given Sunday," "The Replacements" and "North Dallas Forty."
Unsettling as "The Sum of All Fears" might be, actor Ben Affleck, who plays protagonist Jack Ryan, said it would not discourage him from attending a Super Bowl.
"If I want to go see a Super Bowl, I'm going to go," he said. "I'm not going to sweat it. 'Whoa. What if there's a bomb at the Super Bowl? What if there's a bomb at the L.A. Convention Center?'
"You can talk yourself into staying under a table at home, and then the carbon monoxide will get you."