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Computer age crashes the party


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2001

It would seem nearly impossible to add more to the media frenzy that accompanies the week leading up to the Super Bowl -- more than 3,000 journalists descending on one stadium, armed with cameras and notepads and microphones.

Now, they are competing with webcams and live chats and Internet-only radio and TV shows. The Internet has made the biggest event of the U.S. sports calendar even bigger.

"We're finding that this really is the first Super Bowl in the age of new media," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, who expects a 40 percent increase from the 3-million visitors who stopped by superbowl.com last January.

This week, perhaps more than any all year, is a chance for sites to separate themselves. More people will be logging on than ever, and the only question is where they'll go to find their information. It's not just the media, either -- teams also are taking advantage of technology to get ahead of the pack.

To find the computer age impacting the Super Bowl, McCarthy said fans need look no further than the Ravens. Though he carries a sheet of paper on the sideline, Ravens coach Brian Billick uses a computerized playbook, well ahead of most of his colleagues.

"When you talk about the team's playbook, this isn't a three-ring binder. It's a laptop," McCarthy said.

Visit motorola.com and you can download a video of Giants coach Jim Fassel singing the praises of the wireless headsets the company brought to the league last season.

Fans watching the game at home will be able to visit sites such as superbowlads.com and superads.tv and replay their favorite commercials and rank them in the time it takes to say "I'm going to Disney World."

Two years ago, three dot-coms had Super Bowl commercials, but that number was up to 17 in 2000. Only three -- Super Bowl veterans E-Trade, Hotjobs.com and Monster.com -- are set for this year's lineup, but the Internet will make its presence felt in other ways.

Watch for increased plugs for the game's official site at superbowl.com, where fans can vote in the second half for their choice for Super Bowl MVP, with their pick counting for 20 percent of the process.

"We believe that no sport has ever done this in the past with a championship game," McCarthy said.

HELLO, IS ANGIE THERE?: A 15-minute phone conversation with Giants defensive back Jason Sehorn, up for auction at eBay.com, was bidding at $610 on Saturday. The auction ends Thursday, but we offer a caveat to Ravens fans: The fine print warns that the NFL can "terminate the call at any time, without refund, in the event of abusive language or other inappropriate behavior."

TID-BYTES: The 16 new contestants on Survivor: Australian Outback, which debuts after the Super Bowl, include the president of a software distribution company and an Internet project manager. ... Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson, writing at athletesdirect.com, picks the Ravens to win, "like a 17-10 or 16-10 game. It's probably going to be a pretty boring game, but hey, you've gotta watch it -- it's the Super Bowl." ... A charity auction on eBay for a foursome to play a round of golf in Tampa with Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott went for $1,525, but that figure was less than the auction's reserve price.

- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, send an e-mail to staff writer Greg Auman at aumanac1@aol.com.

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