(This story was published in 2003).
Halloween may be an unofficial gay national holiday, but Super Bowl Sunday has that distinction for all of America—gay, straight, bi, transgendered, questioning, asexual or neutered. To help you impress your friends, families, co-workers or that trick you picked up Saturday night, here’s all you need to know about the Big Game.
WHAT: Super Bowl XXXVII (37 for those who flunked Latin) will be played between the Oakland Raiders (13-5) of the American Football Conference and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-4) of the National Football Conference. The NFL likes to bill the game as the be-all and end-all, but as the Dallas Cowboys’ Duane Thomas said in the early 1970’s, “If it’s the Ultimate Game, how come they play it every year?”
WHERE: The game will be played in San Diego starting at 3:18 p.m. local time. San Diego bills itself as “America’s Finest City,” an honor it definitely earns whenever the fleet is in or when the Marines from Camp Pendleton have a three-day weekend and head to Hillcrest.
HISTORY: The Buccaneers are in their first Super Bowl, the Raiders in their fifth (they're 3-1), but first since the 1983 season. The Las Vegas bookies have made the Raiders 3 ½-point favorites to win. If Oakland wins and the total points in the game are under 50, I win $100 in an office pool (but don’t tell the IRS).
AYE, MATEY: This is the first Super Bowl between teams each with a pirate theme. The Raiders’ logo is that of a menacing-looking chap with an eye patch and has been the team’s look since they started in the 1960s. The Buccaneers sport a skull-and-swords logo (right) introduced in the mid-’90s. It replaced the mustachioed dandy holding a knife in his mouth (left), a real “gay blade.”
FASHION ALERT: The Raiders will wear their white uniforms with silver pants and black numbers. The Bucs will wear their combo of red and pewter. Tampa used to have a rather hideous outfit, orange and white, that made its players look like Creamsicles in helmets.
THE OWNERS: Forget the Bucs in this category. They are owned by Malcolm Glazer, just another boring, rich gazillionaire. The real action is with the Raiders, owned by Al Davis. With his tinted granny glasses, chains around his neck and penchant for wearing silver and black jumpsuits, Davis looks like a stereotypical old queen. He’s secretive and paranoid, thinking the rest of the NFL has it out for him. He’s partly right, having taken the league to court and won several times. He has moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles and back to Oakland.
Davis has enemies throughout pro football. David Kopay, who was with the Raiders briefly in the early 1970’s, still has bad memories of his interaction with Davis. “He’s a snake,” Kopay said, in one of the more mild epithets uttered about Al over the years.
CHUCKY COMES HOME: Tampa Bay is coached by Jon Gruden, who coached the Raiders until this year. He left for Florida, lured by a huge paycheck and total control. His facial contortions and scowls on the sidelines earned him the nickname “Chucky” from once-adoring Raider fans, after the movie series of the same name. Gruden, though, is now the enemy and his former players have been firing shots across his bow in anticipation of playing against him.
"A lot of the antics that happened when Gruden was here, and how they had to have a camera fixated on him during a game, to me was funny,'' tackle Lincoln Kennedy told the Los Angeles Times. "He was like a little man who wanted to be a big man and wanted to rule the world. He had kind of a Napoleonic complex. It's things like that that Gruden carried himself the way he carried himself.''
HOT PLAYERS: There are players for all tastes in this game. We went to the experts and asked Outsports’ readers for players to watch:
--“I think that Rich Gannon, Jerry Porter, Tim Brown, Rod and Charles Woodson (Oakland), and John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Mike Alstott (Tampa Bay) are all hotties! The funny thing is, they all have different types of sex appeal.”
--“Does anyone else agree Joe Jurevicius of Tampa Bay must have the longest butt in the NFL? It just keeps going from top to bottom.”
-- “Mike Alstott & Joe Jurevicious are the hottest guys on the Bucs. Is there a law against this? Coach Chucky is hot as well. I love it when he scrunches up his face--yeah baby.”
-- “Mike Alstott. He looks like someone at Marvel Comics drew him and his body. Damn! He is one hunky dude.”
THINGS TO WATCH ON THE FIELD: It's the irresistible force vs. the immovable object. Oakland has the league’s best offense, the Buccaneers the best defense. The Raiders are led by league Most Valuable Player, quarterback Rich Gannon, who threw for 4,689 yards this season. Gannon is all business and never smiles, even when the Raiders win. He throws to great receivers in Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Jerry Porter and tight end Doug Jolley. Running back Charlie Garner is quick and underrated.
Tampa Bay’s defense is cat-quick and sparked by linebacker Derrick Brooks, voted the NFL defensive MVP. The line is anchored by sack specialist Simeon Rice, along with the overrated motor-mouth Warren Sapp. The secondary is led by safety John Lynch and terrific cornerback Ronde Barber. The Bucs gave up the fewest points in the league, while the Raiders scored the second-most.
Tampa’s offense and Oakland’s defense are less celebrated. The Bucs plod along behind quarterback Brad Johnson, who is very accurate but has a fairly weak arm. Tampa seldom scores a lot of points. The Raiders are tough to run against, with linemen Sam Adams and John Parrella throwing a combined 650 pounds of beef around. Oakland’s secondary is banged up and can be thrown against. The kicking games are about even. On paper, this game looks like it should be close.
ENTERTAINMENT: The Super Bowl is never subtle and tends to overkill. Why else have a five-hour ABC pregame show? This extends to entertainment before, during and after.
The pregame warbling will be performed by Carlos Santana, Michelle Branch and Beyonce Knowles. Celine Dion will sing “God Bless America” and The Dixie Chicks will perform the National Anthem followed by a fly-over by the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornets (your tax dollars at work!). No Doubt and Shania Twain will perform at halftime, while Bon Jovi heads post-game festivities.
Nothing, though, will ever beat the 1993 Super Bowl, where Michael Jackson performed at the Rose Bowl with 3,500 local children (supply your punch line here).
THE COMMERCIALS: Admit it--many of you consider the game as filler between the commercials. Research by Tivo a year ago found that the most-replayed part of the Super Bowl broadcast was not Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning kick, but Britney Spears singing for her Pepsi. Expect more ads this time for the carmel-colored carbonated sugar water. You’ll also see a lot of beer commercials after Anheuser-Busch spent $20 million for the privilege. And according the Associated Press: “Levi Strauss will tout a gold-, diamond- and ruby-laden pair of jeans, appraised at $85,000. Hanes will feature Michael Jordan and Jackie Chan. Tax preparation firm H&R Block will showcase musician Willie Nelson, whose tax troubles are well-known.”
One ad you won’t see is from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority. The NFL said no to Vegas, because it did not want to be seen as endorsing gambling. Hypocrisy, thy name is the NFL.
FACTOIDS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS: The Raiders wear silver and black because owner Al Davis is color-blind. … Tampa Bay started league play in the NFL in 1976 and lost its first 26 games. … Raider linebacker Bill Romanowski is a fitness freak. He spends more than $100,000 a year on supplements, massage therapy, a personal chiropractor, and yoga. “"He's a madman out there, a crazy guy,” one Raider said of Romo. … This game is the first time in Super Bowl history the NFL’s top-ranked defense will meet the top-ranked offense. … Raider receiver Jerry Rice has four Super Bowl rings from his days with the San Francisco 49ers and was MVP in 1989. … Tampa Bay receiver Keyshawn Johnson owns a fully customized $105,000 black Cadillac Escalade.
AND THE WINNER WILL BE: Oakland has too many weapons. Raiders 23, Buccaneers 14.