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Official site is built for size

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001


For the past week, people walking in the Tampa Convention Center have stopped in front of the room where the official site for Super Bowl XXXV is being produced.

The main reason is a 40-inch monitor that has showcased Superbowl.com, a big-screen computer, if you will. When tonight's game kicks off, the NFL hopes people will take the time to check out the site for a similar reason: Everything is a little bigger.

"We're on pace for a significant increase from last year," said Chris Russo, the league's vice president for media, who had forecast a 30 to 40 percent increase from the 3.5-million visitors to the official site last January. Midweek traffic indicates the site will surpass those goals.

For the NFL and Sportsline.com, which is producing the site, this is a night to exceed expectations and reach an unprecedented number of fans.

"It's certainly a showcase," Russo said. "It's an opportunity to provide fans with a chance to interact with players, the league and the teams in the context of the biggest event of the year."

Superbowl.com will include chats throughout the game with former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt, Falcons running back Jamal Anderson and former Giant Jeff Hostetler, the last quarterback to win a Super Bowl in Tampa.

During the game, the site's "Game Center" will have continuously updated stats, live play-by-play features and down-and-distance information. Radio broadcasts in six foreign languages will be online, as well as the stadium public-address system and the press box announcements. Video of post-game news conferences with both coaches and the game's MVP will be streamed live.

In the fourth quarter, fans visiting the site can help choose the MVP. Online voting will account for about 20 percent of the selection process, and the NFL expects voting to reach six figures.

ESPN.com, CNNSI.com, Foxsports.com and MSNBC.com lead a pack of sites that will have comprehensive packages. For the past three years, CNN/SI has even had a review of the game's commercials, praising or panning each spot. Superbowlads.com invites fans to vote on the best and worst commercials, giving companies instant feedback on which ads were $2-million bombs.

ESPN.com's predictions page shows how close the game is expected to be. Thirteen analysts from the network, site and ESPN The Magazine offered insights, and all saw a tight, low-scoring game. No prediction had more than 33 total points, or a victory margin of more than 11. Nine picked the Ravens.

Many sites have made comparisons, mostly in jest, to another close race decided recently in this state. StarIQ.com, an astrology site, released its insights as to what's in the stars tonight.

"There is one important element of Sunday's astrological weather that was the same as on election day," said Courtney Roberts Conrad, the site's sports astrologer. "The moon, representing the public mood, is in the same sign, Pisces, and close to the same degree as that of election night, which is very significant for this game. This contest is too close to call. We may see overtime."

TID-BYTES: Cleveland's own Drew Carey, writing about the Ravens on ESPN.com's "Page 2" section: "I hope Art Modell doesn't win. I hope he never feels the joy of holding a Super Bowl trophy. I just don't think someone who rips a football team away from a whole city should get away with it." ... Ray Lewis rookie cards from 1996 that list for $2.50 in price guides are regularly selling online for $10-15.

-- 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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