- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

CHICAGO — NFL owners yesterday dashed the Super Bowl dreams of greater Washington, awarding the 2008 game to the Arizona Cardinals and suburban Phoenix.

The front-runner in the race for Super Bowl XLII, Phoenix easily prevailed over Washington and Tampa, Fla., obtaining the necessary 24 votes among 32 team owners on the first ballot.

The vote created a new level of community scar tissue for Washington area political leaders, thwarted repeatedly in recent years in high-profile attempts to land a major league baseball team, the 2012 Summer Olympics, a Mike Tyson heavyweight fight and other major sporting events.

“We were dissed, and that’s really unfortunate,” said Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, one of several high-ranking politicians aiding the Washington Super Bowl presentation to NFL owners yesterday.

“What else does this region have to do to show that it’s first class? How many times do we have to prove that?” Steele said.

Said Jack Johnson, Prince George’s County executive: “The owners were simply not in touch with the bid. They missed a real opportunity to think outside the box. It’s very, very frustrating.”

The Washington Redskins, who led the local Super Bowl bid, will seek again to have FedEx Field play host to the league’s title game, said team owner Dan Snyder.

But several complications loom in future efforts. In 2009, a presidential inauguration will dominate midwinter Washington. The New York Giants are also expected to re-enter the Super Bowl race for that year and, like Washington, seek to stage the first open-air Super Bowl at a cold-weather site.

Furthermore, several NFL team owners said they were simply not ready to buck the tradition of playing Super Bowls in warmer climates or in domed stadiums. Even playing in a Northern city with a dome, which has happened with two Super Bowls and a third upcoming in three years, causes concern among owners.

“The Super Bowl game itself is almost sort of an aftermath to the whole week,” said Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson. “People like to go somewhere warm, somewhere fun, maybe play some golf or tennis. A cold-weather Super Bowl is simply something I’m against. That wasn’t the decisive reason for Arizona, but that’s something I oppose.”

Also aiding the Cardinals yesterday were a state of the art stadium due to open in 2006 in Glendale and the team’s assistance in moving this week’s Monday night game from San Diego to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

Phoenix and Sun Devil Stadium additionally played host to Super Bowl XXX nearly eight years ago, a game well received by NFL owners.

And Wellington Mara, Giants co-owner and a powerful league figure, threw his support behind Phoenix after the Giants elected to delay their Super Bowl bid.

“Let’s just say I am very appreciative and gratified this got done on the first ballot,” said Michael Bidwill, Cardinals vice president and general counsel.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue issued high praise for the Washington presentation, which was led by former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and District Mayor Anthony Williams. The 15-minute presentation included a short video that, among other things, showed Redskins fans exuberantly tailgating at FedEx Field on a cold, wintry day.

“All three presentations were extremely strong, not only in the presentations themselves but the underpinnings, the underlying themes,” Tagliabue said. “Washington could be attractive to the owners as a Super Bowl site at the right time.”

Tagliabue last year started the idea of considering New York and Washington as cold-weather sites for the Super Bowl as a way for the league to connect further with the country’s political and economic capitals.

In other league business, Tagliabue and NFL owners continued to lash out at ESPN’s dramatic series “Playmakers.” While the network insists it is only a drama and in no way connected to the NFL, league executives continue to be upset with the show’s portrayal of rampant sex, drugs, and violence in professional football.

“We find the show offensive,” said Bob Kraft, New England Patriots owner. “They’re devaluating their rights fee [to air NFL games on Sunday nights]. They’re creating an image of pro football that’s just not accurate, and they’ve used our product to promote it. I’m just surprised ESPN would do that.”

No direct responses to ESPN, such as lobbying sponsors to pull economic support, are being planned, however.

Tagliabue also said Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick should be fined for his profane outburst against instant replay last weekend. Despite the criticisms from Billick and others, the commissioner predicted owners would continue to use instant replay after the current three-year commitment to the system expires in March.

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