Fans in San Diego
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2003
Southern California has been quite the scene for Mr. Ed and Rich, a couple of blue collar guys from eastern Pasco and Hillsborough counties. The Gas Lamp party district was eye opening. The traffic, daunting.
"We rode around all night, got lost and ended up at Hooters," said Richard Fulton, 44, of Plant City. "It seemed familiar."
Clad in pewter hard hats, Bucs jerseys and beads, their aw-shucks act caught the eyes of Late Night with David Letterman producers, who did on-camera interviews with Fulton and Ed Barker, 52, of Zephyrhills, who co-own a business called Buccaneer Sheet Metal.
So, what did they think about their shot at fame?
"Aw, we're just two guys having fun," Fulton said.
With his Darth Vader helmet, black cloak, spikes and light saber, die-hard Oakland Raiders fan Charles Ybarra quickly caught the attention of Super Bowl security screeners.
Police pulled the 30-year-old Fremont, Calif., resident aside, X-rayed his helmet, light saber and spikes, then let him go. Sweating under a warm, San Diego sun, Ybarra wasn't complaining.
"It's a beautiful sweat," he said.
There were few complaints or problems Sunday as fans slowly made their way through a half-hour security line that resembled an airport more than a football game.
Police were everywhere around Qualcomm Stadium -- on motorcycle, on foot, on horseback. National Guard troops in camouflage fatigues stood guard at a 60-acre fuel-tank complex next to the stadium.
San Diego police, in charge of Super Bowl security, required all patrol officers to be on duty Sunday. The city was spending about $2-million on security, including $400,000 for a system of 52 cameras capable of monitoring every corner of the stadium.
Oakland Raiders fans have apparently won Round 1 in the off-field battle with Tampa Bay Buccaneers rooters.
Tampa Bay officials confirmed that an unknown person, certainly believed to have been a Raiders supporter, "hacked" into the Bucs' official team Web site Saturday and changed a headline.
The original headline and story on the site dealt with the Bucs' final walkthrough session for Sunday's Super Bowl. The headline on the story was changed to denigrate the Bucs and finished with, "Go, Raiders!"
Bucs officials said the bogus headline was on the site for about an hour before the team was alerted by users. The original story and headline were then restored.
As soon as the Super Bowl matchup was known last Sunday night, the Wilson Football Factory in Ada, Ohio, made 72 game balls with the Super Bowl logo and each team's name, then sent them via courier to San Diego.
"It's amazing how much impact this small town of 5,400 has on America," said Dan Riegle, Wilson's plant manager. "Every game ball you see passed, kicked or piled upon at the Super Bowl is made right here in Ada. It's a testament to American manufacturing and quality, and a tremendous source of pride."
The Wilson Football Factory employs 150 workers, who produce more than 700,000 game balls annually.
It took 21 hours to fly here, including a stop in Chicago and a three-hour layover in Las Vegas. Their hotel is an hour and a half from Qualcomm Stadium.
But Brooksville couple John and Susan Olsen were just thrilled to be here. And how did they luck into such a deal?
"I booked it myself on the Internet," John Olsen, 36, said sheepishly. "But it was cheap."
At $1,300 for the two of them for air fare, hotel and a rental car, it certainly was. And hey, said Susan Olsen, 38, they got a chance to gamble in Las Vegas.
"Well, I don't know if you can call it gambling," John Olsen said. "We donated."
QUESTION OF TRADITION: Facing a plethora of Raider Nation fans, you would think the Bucs fan strategy would be to match them tattoo for tattoo, skull for skull. But 22-year-old Dave Henderson, a University of Tampa student from Brandon, took the opposite approach, donning an orange bandana with the old winking pirate on it. "Coming up, we've got a bunch of nasty old Raider fans getting in our faces and flipping us off," Henderson said. "We gotta be standing up for ourselves and be proud of where we came from. Football is, after all, tradition."
BUDDY-BUDDY: Madeira Beach residents Mark McKay and Bob Fedor couldn't have been closer together, walking through the parking lot arm in arm. And the two close friends -- McKay dates Fedor's sister, Camille -- couldn't have been further apart ideologically, McKay in full Raiders regalia and Fedor adorned in red. "I grew up a Raiders fan," McKay explained. "He's genetically challenged," Fedor replied.
JUST CHILLIN': Fox 13 news anchor Kelly Ring said she saw golf great Tiger Woods sitting on the 50-yard line on the Bucs side, which was the shady side of Qualcomm. So, did she ask him whether he was rooting for the Bucs? "I couldn't get near him," she said. "I'm a big fan. He was looking straight ahead, trying to stay incognito."
-- Times staff writers Alicia Caldwell and Marc Topkin contributed to this report, which also includes items from the Associated Press.