Raider-Redskin Super Bowl a game that may live up to its name
| Tampa, Fla.
Once you eliminate all the time between plays, there is only about 12 1/2 minutes of real action in any pro football game. For Sunday's Super Bowl XVIII, which begins at 4:30 Eastern time, that means each winning player's share of $36 ,000 figures out to about $2,800 for every 60 seconds of work - and that even includes the time his unit isn't on the field.
Spectators, meanwhile, will pay $4.80 a minute for the privilege of watching the Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Raiders play for the National Football League championship.
In some years, that admission charge might seem steep. But judging from the enthusiasm of the fans jammed into this west central Florida community, tickets are a bargain at $60.
The reason is simple: the league's two best, strongest, and probably most colorful teams are taking the field.
They met one time in the fifth week of the regular season, and the memories of that game, won by Washington 37-35, can only heighten interest in the rematch. The contest was widely acclaimed as one of the most exciting in recent years, with Washington jumping to a 20-7 lead, L.A. storming back to go ahead 35 -20, and the Redskins finally pulling it out in front of their frenzied RFK Stadium fans.
Washington, of course, was the champion of the strike-shortened 1982 campaign. No flash in the pan, the 'Skins compiled an unmatched 14-2 record this season. They have now won 31 of their last 34 games, and are the first team to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances since the Pittsburgh Steelers did it in Roman Numeral Clashes IX and X.
During the regular season, the Raiders were only slightly less impressive, ringing up a 12-4 American Conference mark equaled only by the Miami Dolphins, who lost their opening playoff game. Los Angeles went on to crush playoff foes Pittsburgh (38-10) and Seattle (30-14) to claim the AFC crown.
The Raider organization is particularly proud of its history of success, highlighted by a best-in-pro-sports winning percentage since 1963. Al Davis, the club's controversial managing general partner, has sought to remind people of the tradition by plastering the team's ''Commitment to Excellence'' billboards around Tampa.
With a victory here, the Raiders would become only the second team to win three Super Bowls (Pittsburgh won four). They copped the 1976 title under flamboyant coach John Madden, who has become a highly successful TV personality and will be CBS's prime commentator Sunday. Their latest Super-duper triumph occurred three seasons ago, when current headmaster Tom Flores led them to the first title by a wild card team.
Another rarity is in the offing this time, as the Raiders attempt to become just the second NFL entry to win championships in different cities. Ironically, the only occurrence of this to date involves another team that relocated in Los Angeles - the Rams, champions in Cleveland in 1945 and L.A. in 1951.
For years the Raiders played in Oakland, where they were well supported. But Davis saw greener financial pastures in L.A. and defiantly moved the whole operation there before the '82 season. When the other NFL owners tried to block the move, the Raiders forged ahead, winning an antitrust suit against the league that is now under appeal. Not surprisingly, however, many people still call them the Oakland Raiders.
Maybe that's because the team retains the same old swashbuckling image, the same black and silver uniforms, and the same crest - the one with the crossed sabres and eyepatch-wearing football player.
Davis is famous for stocking his roster with so-called renegades, rebels, and rejects. To some degree the mystique veils the fact that this is not simply a pack of misfits, but if Washington fullback John Riggins walks to a different drummer, it generally is true that the Raiders swagger to a whole different percussion section.
It was not out of character, therefore, that eight players were fined $1,000 apiece by Flores when they failed to appear on time for one of this week's team meetings.
The Redskins are no automatons themselves. ''I think we're entertaining, and I think we're fun,'' says quarterback Joe Theismann, who is something of a one-man business conglomerate. Joe seems to be about the only man on the team without a nickname. There are the pint-sized receivers called the Smurfs, the leaping end zone celebrants called the Fun Bunch, the beefy offensive linemen called the Hogs, and the formerly bomb-riddled secondary called the Pearl Harbor Crew.
Certainly one of the key matchups in Sunday's game will pit superb Redskin receivers Art Monk and Charlie Brown against a suffocating Raider secondary, anchored by cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes.
Washington established an NFL single-season scoring record with 541 points, so stopping Riggins and a high-powered passing attack will present a major challenge to the Raiders.
By the same token, L.A. is nearly as hard to keep out of the end zone with its excellent big-play offense. Jim Plunkett is a master at stretching a defense with his long throws, but he also knows how to use tight end Todd Christensen on short routes to maximum advantage. (Christensen set a record for tight ends with a league-leading 92 catches this year).And in the running department, Marcus Allen has few peers.
In summary, then, this is one Super Bowl that should be able to stiff-arm away any claims of false advertising.