Rob Hiaasen on the Super Bowl: Even in Tampa, war makes big game less than super

June 29, 2018
  • By Rob Hiaasen
  • Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Kenneth_Keifer/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The flag of the United States of America waves in the wind against a deep blue sky (stock photo).

A primped and psyched Tampa finds itself hosting not only Sunday's Super 

Bowl but also the mixed emotions of football fans who will be passing metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs before taking their seats. 

The Super Bowl is here all right. Just look at the Shamu blimp lumbering over Tampa Stadium and the courtesy hotel vans and Super Bowl street banners, buttons and shot glasses. 

The war is here, too. In these packed hotel rooms, alongside the Super 

Bowl hospitality tables, are televisions frozen on CNN and Persian Gulf War 

happenings. 

"The war has taken a lot of kick out of the Super Bowl," said Al 

Edelstein, one of 900 Super Bowl hotel hosts constantly smiling this week. 

Dozens of people have questioned her about security. Edelstein said they 

are worried this Sunday could be a Black Sunday, referring to a 1970s movie about terrorists attacking during a Super Bowl. 

One middle-aged Tampa woman decided against using her ticket and entering her boat in Saturday's flotilla. She didn't want to be near the game, Edelstein said. 

"They can always play another Super Bowl. They can't reschedule a war." 

Norma Gonzalez and Betty Lumia work with Edelstein as official greeters 

in the downtown Holiday Inn. The game should go on because the men and women overseas are looking forward to the Super Bowl, Gonzalez said. The country needs the distraction. "You can only stay glued to the TV for so long," she said. "With all due respect, they are with us in our hearts." 

Lumia was thinking about how she'd feel if one of her three boys were 

fighting in the Middle East. 

"It would hurt me so deeply I don't think I could do this," Lumia said, 

later handing a visitor a button and a How To Tackle Tampa guide. 

Super Bowl week is a party week, but because of the war, some efforts 

have been made to tone down celebrations or at least inject a little more 

patriotism. 

The National Football League, which runs the show, canceled its pregame 

private party. About 3,000 team owners, reporters and advertisers had been invited to a $1 million buffet and booze spread at Tampa's new convention center. 

The cancellation disappointed some and relieved others while making about 40 hotel rooms instantly available because of departing corporate invitees. 

Lisa Brock, with the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Task Force, said the rooms were quickly gobbled up. There's been no exodus of visitors from the more than 2,400 hotel rooms in business this week, she said. 

"We're not experiencing any problems," Brock said. 

City-sponsored events, such as the Ybor City Street Festival and the 

Bomboleo Festival, have not been canceled because of the war. 

"We live in the real world, and the real world has to go on," she said. 

1,700 SECURITY OFFICERS 

Twenty-two law enforcement agencies, from the FBI to the Lakeland Police 

Department, have assigned about 1,700 officers to the Super Bowl. Ticket- 

holders will pass through metal detectors at the stadium's 68 gates. X-ray 

detection might be used. There are bomb-sniffing dogs, a new 6-foot security fence and concrete barricades inside the stadium and strict house rules. Fans can't carry radios, televisions, video recorders, bottles, cans, 

umbrellas or portable phones into the stadium. 

"About the only thing you can carry in is a blanket, but we'll be 

looking in that, too," said Bob Smith, Tampa's public safety administrator. 

Police had not received a bomb threat or any other threat of Super Bowl- related violence until Tuesday, Smith said. There was an anonymous phone threat made to police Tuesday that officials declined to detail. 

"It has no credibility at all," Smith said. 

For every mention of the Super Bowl in Tampa, there is a reminder of war. The courtesy van drivers debate whether the New York Giants' defense can stop the awesome offense of Jim Kelley's Buffalo Bills. Meanwhile, a Tampa radio talk host was talking war. "Folks, we are cleaning their clocks! It isn't even close!" 

MIXED EMOTIONS 

A deep voice on the public address system inside the Tampa Convention 

Center reminds the gaggle of reporters about team picture day Tuesday, where MTV's "Downtown" Julie Brown shows up in black fishnet stockings and mini-skirt. The temperature maybe was 50. 

Another voice, this time inside the Tampa International Airport, reminds passengers to not carry bags for people they do not know. More security  precautions. 

One town, two stories, many emotions. 

Bernie Goebel and his pals will have a little Super Bowl party at the 

American Legion Post No. 139. Goebel spent 21 years in the Army, with Vietnam and Korea on his resume. He also spent time in bunkers listening to the Pirates or Steelers on the radio. 

"You're letting people down in a roundabout way" if the game gets 

canceled, he said. "You just can't give everything up." 

Reportedly, a Tampa group of former POWs wanted to march in Saturday's 

street parade, which features Joe Montana and other attractions. But Henry Brown, a parade coordinator, said parade applications were final in November. "The parade is not a platform for political or social issues," Brown said, reading from a parade bylaw. "It's designed to be an uplifting 

experience." 

There will be military bands and color guards, Brown said. About 500 boats are expected in the flotilla before the floats and bands move on Bayshore 

Boulevard. "We have asked all boats to fly the American flag," Brown said. 

SUPER BOWL ADS 

A 30-second advertisement during Sunday's Super Bowl XXV will cost $800,000. Although ABC won't confirm the figure, it amounts to $1.6 million a minute or $96 million an hour. Last year, CBS charged $700,000 for 30 seconds.