Super Bowl Crowd Cheers for War Effort, as Well as Their Teams
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Fans of the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills left the Super Bowl on a common note, suspending their sports allegiances for a moment in wartime.
″USA, USA,″ the crowd cheered Sunday as an Army helicopter flew back and forth across the stadium after the football game won by the Giants 20-19. ″You have to feel good after this,″ said Angie Gregson. ″I think the troops in the Middle East probably enjoyed this game as much as we did. I know everyone here was thinking of them when they were coming into the stadium and every time you’d see the flags waving.″
Small American flags were handed out to the 74,000 people at the game. Many people brought larger flags.
″This is part of America and it goes on no matter what’s happening elsewhere in the world. We don’t stop what we’re doing because of Saddam Hussein,″ said Tony Caratozzolo of New York’s Long Island.
Along with the profusion of flags was intensive security.
The National Football League, along with city, state and federal law agencies, took precautions against possible terrorism.
Fans had been told not to bring radios, televisions, cameras or beepers to the game.
Bomb squads, dogs, holding centers, ambulances, metal detectors, baggage X- ray equipment and SWAT teams - one on the roof of the luxury boxes - were in place.
Nearly 1,700 police officers and another 1,000 security guards searched cars and people going into the game.
The only aircraft allowed in the airspace above the stadium were military helicopters that circled overhead and four Army F-15 jets. The planes flew over the stadium after the singing of ″The Star-Spangled Banner.″
The jets came from nearby McDill Air Force Base, the home base of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who is leading the allied forces in the Persian Gulf war.
The halftime show was dedicated to the troops in the gulf. The 2,000 children in the show wore yellow ribbons and carried U.S. flags.
A videotaped message from President Bush and Barbara Bush was shown on the big screens in each endzone.
NFL officials debated playing the game, and some glitzy events, including the commissioner’s party, were canceled.
″It’s a game, just something to take your mind off the war for a while,″ said Harold Arlen of Bridgewater, N.J. ″We can’t stop the whole country because we’re worried about the people over there.″
Fans, who paid $150 per ticket, said the game should be played. Some said it was a symbol for many in this country and in the war effort.
″I was in the Navy for six years, and I can tell you the (troops) in the Middle East want to see this game as much as we do,″ said Dave Keller of Deer Park, N.Y.
Bob Smith, the Tampa public safety administrator who headed security for the event, said everything went smoothly and the crowd took the security measures in stride.
″Although it was a difficult undertaking, it was fitting that the game was played before a worldwide television audience, especially the men and women of the Desert Storm operation,″ Smith said.
ABC broadcast the Super Bowl to 56 countries.