By ROBERT TRIGAUX
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001
Sorry, Wilson, ol' football chum.
I know you were supposed to be the star of Sunday's Super Bowl. You had your airborne moments, to be sure. The eyes of all those fans were glued to your pigskin progress during a tough gridiron battle 'tween the Giants and Ravens.
Don't be jealous, Wilson. Sure, your namesake and soccer ball cousin co-starred in the recent hit movie Cast Away. But he just kept that lonely Tom Hanks character company for years on some deserted island. Where's the roar of Tampa's Raymond James Stadium crowd in that?
You, Wilson, you entertained more than 125-million people Sunday with your leathery exterior and spiral smile of laces. You won the numbers game, Wilson.
Yet, my air-filled bladder, your status in this Super Bowl is, well, darn inflated. Your spotlight in this game-day sun is waning.
If there were truth in advertising (that's a good one), the Super Bowl would be better dubbed the Corporate Bowl. The ExecuFest. The Super Schmooze.
Sure, Wilson, the Super Bowl still decides first place in pro football. But it offers Corporate America a remarkable marketing venue for introductions, bragging rights and comebacks.
Consider Cingular Wireless, a newly named wireless telecommunications service that spent money for warm-and-fuzzy Super Bowl ads just to introduce its name to the widest possible audience.
Consider the three Internet-driven businesses with ads this year: E-Trade, Monster.com and HotJobs.com. They can crow because they are not only still around (following the demise in 2000 of so many dot-coms) but still willing to spend the $2.3-million for a 30-second ad during this most-watched event.
And consider EDS and Levi's. Both companies are trying to revive their faded glory and see their Super Bowl ads as the quickest way to say: "We're back."
Wilson, can you see me from the field way down there? Stand up high in the nose-bleed sections of Raymond James Stadium and the Super Bowl spreads out below surrounded by a massive refugee tent city for the Fortune 500 glitterati.
While thousands of Giants and Ravens fans, many painted in their team colors, hoot and grunt for victory, executives and guests of such companies as Philip Morris, Ford, Coca-Cola, EDS, WorldCom, Allegis, Thermo King and many others are dining on fancy fare in luxury suites or the mock-tent world eerily reminiscent of the TV set of Fantasy Island.
Look upward from the stadium stands, and the sky is abuzz with corporate messages. Blimps from Budweiser and Monster.com float above. Plane-pulled banners of companies ranging from Bacardi ("Who let the bat out?"), Nextel, Sportsbook.com, Starband hi-speed Internet services and others circle the football arena in an ad blitz so intense that even the Ravens defense is jealous.
Outside the stadium, Wilson, are thousands of ticketless people longing to see you. They cluster about just for a taste of the party atmosphere. Many carry handmade signs: "Need tickets." Super Bowl tickets with face values of several hundred dollars are going for $2,000 or more, if at all.
Wilson, this is not a game for the faint of wallet.
Rows of limousines glisten outside Raymond James Stadium. One limo, a Lincoln Navigator, surely is long enough to play the bowl game inside and still have room for caviar.
And Wilson, let's not forget the tremendous plug this Super Bowl will deliver to St. Petersburg's own Raymond James Financial Corp. Company CEO Tom James must be feeling pretty good right about now about spending those millions on the stadium naming rights.
So you see, Wilson, you have plenty to be proud of. You played one heck of a game. But let's get real, my pigskin friend.
The Big Score in the Super Bowl just doesn't have much to do with a football anymore.
- Contact Robert Trigaux at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8405.