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XXXVII XTRA

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Super Bowl XXXVII

Bay mayors put their best on the line

The wagers made by Greco and Brown vary nearly as much as the mayors themselves.

By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 24, 2003


TAMPA -- Could they be any different?

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown worked for Mother Teresa. Tampa Mayor Dick Greco worked for a mall developer.

Brown lives in a converted warehouse in downtown Oakland. Greco lives in a new Mediterranean-style home on an island.

Brown dated pop singer Linda Ronstadt when he was a young governor. Greco married pediatrician Linda McClintock when he was 62.

And despite being four years apart in age and mayors of bayside cities in warm climates, the men have never spoken to each other.

Until Thursday.

As is traditional for the mayors of cities with teams in the Super Bowl, Greco and Brown made a friendly wager on the game. It happened over the phone at 2 p.m., with Greco at his City Hall office and Brown somewhere in the Arizona desert.

Greco: "Mayor Brown!"

Brown: "Who is this?"

Despite the awkward start, Greco started talking.

"I've got all the press here," he purred. "They want to know what our wager is going to be."

Greco wagered the best Tampa has to offer -- a weekend at the Marriott Waterside, dinners at Bern's Steak House and the Columbia Restaurant, a trip to Busch Gardens, a humidor filled with cigars, Cuban coffee, even a jar of homemade guava jelly.

"I saw you on TV once and you didn't look like you ate much," Greco told Brown. "So we'll also send you a Tampa cookbook."

Brown -- who accidentally hung up on Greco midway through the wager -- quickly ticked off his offerings if the Bucs win. Beer from an Oakland brewery. Ribs from a restaurant.

And one more thing, offered Brown, who was known as "Governor Moonbeam" because of his penchant for Zen Buddhism and vegetarian cuisine while in office in the 1970s.

"Come over to my loft and I'll cook you a couple of meals."

The pair repeated their bets a few hours later, on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports.

"Let's see if we can up the ante!" Blitzer said cheerily.

Greco smiled. Brown, looking sunburned, sat stone-faced.

"If we don't win, I think we'll send the Raider Nation to clean up," said Brown, referring to the Oakland fans who broke out in a near riot when the Raiders won the AFC Championship on Sunday.

The two men have at least one thing in common -- both got into politics when they were young.

Greco was 33 when he was elected to the mayor's office in 1967; Brown was 36 when he took over the governor's office in California in 1974.

Both eventually left politics: Brown in 1982, Greco in 1974. Brown, now 64, studied Zen Buddhism in Japan, volunteered for Mother Teresa and ran for president in 1992. Greco was a development executive for Edward DeBartolo Sr., one of the nation's biggest mall developers.

But both needed the warmth of the political spotlight. Greco decided to run for mayor of Tampa again in 1995 and Brown, who by that time had moved to Oakland, ran for mayor in 1998 and won.

Unlike Greco, Brown has eschewed tradition throughout his career. He refused to live in the governor's mansion and wouldn't ride in limousines. Once, Brown suggested that California should start its own unmanned space program.

But hey, if we're talking wacky ideas, Greco has had a few of his own.

Like in the late 1960s, when Greco suggested bringing live bullfighting to Ybor City.

Greco also wanted to put Venice-style gondolas in Tampa Bay.

Gondolas?

"We have a beautiful lake in downtown Oakland," Brown told Greco on Thursday. "If you get out here, I'll take you on a ride on our Italian gondolas."

-- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.


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