SAN DIEGO, JAN. 27 -- Bette Mee, clothed head to foot in burgundy and gold, her lapel festooned with Redskins pins, had no problem getting past the guards at the team hotel. Her son is a team executive.
Garth Kinsell, a truck driver in search of autographs, needed more savvy to avoid a ban on football fans hoping to see their favorite players at the Hyatt Islandia. He drove in on a back road.
And Barbara Pickerill, a mammoth Redskins button covering most of her chest, sneaked in by walking along the beach and going in the rear entrance. "It's easy," she said.
It took a dose of street smarts to mingle among the Redskins today, but dozens of the faithful, using programs and even the back of a T-shirt as note pads in an effort to blend in with reporters, were equal to the task.
It is still early in the week, and while San Diego's media and municipal boosters are pumping up the promotion, it is quickly becoming apparent that there are plenty of hotel rooms (3,400 sitting empty) and game tickets. The ticket glut has caused scalpers' prices to plummet 50 percent, to a still stratospheric range of $450 to $800 a seat.
In tour groups, in private planes, even a few by Amtrak, Washingtonians are beginning to pour into town.
Asked what he was doing wandering aimlessly around the hotel pool today, Redskins quarterback Doug Williams said, "What I'm trying to do is nothing but the Super Bowl . . . . " What many fans are trying to do is everything but. Steve Ryan was at the San Diego Zoo, standing in line to see the two giant pandas, which were asleep. Former senator Eugene McCarthy, here as a guest of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, will read poetry at a local club Friday.
But you cannot escape the hoopla. Gordon Hodgson, a retired Navy fighter pilot, plans to see the Frank Sinatra-Liza Minnelli concert at the city's Sports Arena and drop in on Sea World. He ended up spending this morning shopping for souvenirs and gawking at the players as they lolled about the hotel in their shorts and flip-flops.
At Nordstrom's, a downtown department store, you can buy a Redskins board game ($30) or ceramic bank in the shape of a helmet ($22). No takers yet, said clerk Stephanie Young.
From the air, San Diego seems to have been shoehorned into an impossibly narrow sliver of land between the copper mountains and the glistening Pacific. On the ground, it is a city awash in Superdetail, the arcana of hype.
Such as: the latest on the Rockettes' halftime show, which will feature 44 high-stepping dancers, a total of 88 legs, including two belonging to a black woman, a first for the troupe from New York's Radio City Music Hall.
And this: Jack Murphy Stadium, a relatively small ballpark being expanded for the occasion, sits on the north side of town, reachable by a single road. Confused fans will be guided along by a security staff of superpower summit proportions.
The FBI, 300 Marines and even the Secret Service -- there to protect Republican presidential candidate Jack Kemp -- will join more than 1,000 city police officers and private security guards at the stadium. Pickpocket experts from New York and Los Angeles will team up with local police to watch over last-minute ticket transactions at the stadium.
So far, the only major safety threat has come not from terrorists but from the earth itself, which rumbled a bit on Monday. The minor quake was not what is known around here as the Big One. Locals take the threat of falling into the sea rather lightly. They profess to be concerned not about the Big One, but only about the Ed Sullivan. That's their name for the Really Big One.
Earthquakes are among the few things that unite San Diegans. Washingtonians accustomed to the Metro or simply to walking around downtown are finding out what Sunbelt sprawl is all about. From spectacular La Jolla to the Mexican border 15 miles south of town, San Diego is several cities.
There is the squeaky-clean military town that simply would not accept anything but perfect weather and polite behavior. That San Diego is celebrating this week with a "God Bless the U.S." fireworks show, a Steve Garvey Celebrity Golf Classic, and an evening with Bob Hope in an antidrugs benefit.
The hey-we're-only-two-hours-from-L.A. city is countering with Whoopi Goldberg and the Sinatra-Minnelli spectacular, for which scalped seats cost up to $150.
The city fathers -- chief among whom is a mother, Mayor Maureen O'Connor -- have revved up the requisite Super Bowl hype generator. More than 100,000 people are expected to watch the inflation of the world's largest football Friday night. The four-story-high silver colored polyester ball will be unveiled beneath a 50,000-watt laser show.
All this is costing the local Super Bowl task force $2.1 million, a pittance compared with the $141 million the event is expected to earn for the local economy. The idea is not only to haul in the cash, but to take advantage of the presence of more than 3,000 media people to get uncritical publicity.
Toward that end, every journalist in town has been supplied with a foot-high stack of paperwork including, for example, 12 single-spaced pages listing story ideas (Mexican cuisine! Wearable Art! Interview the creator of Jazzercize!) and photo opportunities (Stadium bus drivers party! Birdbath-sized margaritas!).
Not included in that list: the ladies of El Cajon Boulevard. In the last three evenings, San Diego police have arrested 31 women and 33 men on prostitution-related charges. The arrested people are being held through the weekend under a temporary high-bail policy. Still, officers conceded, the magnetism of the Super Bowl has brought enterprising streetwalkers from throughout the nation.
The seamy side of the streets is about the only view of San Diego that is unlikely to be beamed home to those who cannot attend Sunday's game.
One Denver television station today had its weatherman hold a boa constrictor from the San Diego Zoo during his forecast. Not to be outdone, a Washington station treated its viewers to a tour of Doug Williams' empty hotel room.
But have pity: With this many reporters in one place, being different must count for something. Being bigger must count, too. Consider this piece of Supertrivia: Denver has 159 accredited media types on hand so far; Washington has 185.