TAMPA, JAN. 26 -- Players broke out the T-shirts at midweek. Red, white and blue, with an American bald eagle, fighter jets and the words "Desert Storm" across the front, they became the unofficial designer wear of Super Bowl XXV.

Buffalo Bills linebacker Carlton Bailey may have wanted one of the shirts more than some of his teammates because his father, Conway, is in Saudi Arabia as a member of the 260th Army Reserve Unit from Baltimore.

Like a lot of other people connected with Super Bowl XXV, Bailey is excited and happy to be here and knows the odds are this is his one and only Super Bowl. But, like a lot of others, he has had a hard time focusing on football.

"It takes away any positive feelings you have," he said of the war.

He's not alone. Teammate Keith McKeller's father-in-law, James Wood, is also in the Middle East. "I know he's rooting for us and thinking about us," McKeller said. "But the more important thing is we're thinking of him."

Bills safety Mark Kelso said he'll take the name of every Buffalo resident stationed in or around the Persian Gulf onto the field when the Bills play the New York Giants Sunday evening. "I'll get them," he said. "They've all been published and I want them to know I remember."

Giants tight end Mark Bavaro used a Super Bowl news conference to criticize the anti-war protests. Bills Coach Marv Levy said he turns on the cable television network CNN the moment he returns to his hotel room. The FBI will have a trailer at the Super Bowl for the first time.

This was the week war and the Super Bowl danced an uneasy dance.

This was the week the NFL gave almost simultaneous briefings on no-huddle offenses and hand-held metal detectors. This was the week the league promised to conduct business as usual, then sealed off Tampa Stadium with concrete barricades, chain-link fences and bomb-sniffing dogs.

This was the week politicians were hesitant to even confirm they were coming to the game, and when television announcers were warned about using the words "bomb" and "blitz" in connection with the football game.

Awkward moments everywhere. The NFL canceled a lot of its public parties, including the big Friday night bash. The league, which could teach the Pentagon a thing or two about spin control, did, however, hold some private ones, including a big one tonight for NFL Properties. Likewise, the dozens of corporate tents around Tampa Stadium will be filled with cold drinks and hot food long before kickoff Sunday.

More awkward moments. Pepsi-Cola canceled a scheduled call-in contest when the FCC warned the nation's telephone lines could be overburdened. The soft-drink company had planned to give away a million bottles of soda and three grand prizes of $1 million each.

And more. Children attending a youth camp at Tampa Stadium were frisked when they arrived.

Twenty children were pulled from the Walt Disney halftime show because their parents were nervous about the threat of terrorism. One kid who will take part is 8-year-old Heidi Hill, but her mother, Spec. Cindy Hill Shrum, will be in Saudi Arabia as part of a National Guard unit.

The FAA grounded blimps scheduled to fly over Tampa Stadium when airspace over the stadium was restricted to previously scheduled commercial flights, and a Moroccan-themed tiger was dropped from the halftime show because it was feared its Middle Eastern/Northern Africa heritage could be offensive. Pinocchio hired on instead.

The Navy canceled tours of four ships docked outside Tampa Bay, including the USS Stark, shelled by Iraqi missiles in a 1987 Persian Gulf incident. Navy officials won't say where the boats have gone.

"Absolutely nothing against our soldiers over there, but the Super Bowl has been tarnished," Giants center Bart Oates said. "It reminds us that this is just a game. If we lose, we'll still walk or limp off the field. If they lose, they're dead. My family isn't going to be devastated for a lifetime if I don't win this game. But there's going to be a lot of lives devastated over this war."

He could have been speaking for a few thousand others in this, the most awkward of Super Bowls, this silver anniversary game that is scheduled to begin at 6:18 p.m. Sunday against the backdrop of the Persian Gulf War and accompanying worries about whether a terrorist might take the opportunity to make a statement with more than 100 million Americans tuned in.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the game will go on as scheduled unless there's a security problem at Tampa Stadium or a catastrophic development in the war. He remembered that President Franklin Roosevelt wanted games to continue during World War II, and President Bush has said the same thing this week.

But to thousands of players, fans, league officials, politicians and others, the problem is more complex.

Is it inappropriate to celebrate? Can a local politician afford to make the trip here? Would it appear he or she considered the football game more important than the war effort?

And what about the Tampa Bay area, where millions of dollars and months of planning have gone into making this a showcase event? This is a championship game for the NFL, with another next year in Minneapolis and another in 1993, which had been scheduled for Phoenix.

It's different for Tampa Bay, which hoped to show off its beaches, golf courses and new $73 million convention center -- "Built on-time and on-budget," Tampa Mayor Sandra Freedman said.

A local columnist called this "the most sensitive Super Bowl ever produced." The NFL still wants the game and Tampa still wants its showcase.

But how to be tasteful? How to throw a week-long party without appearing insensitive to the war is a touchy problem, and one that a lot of people have struggled with.

Even as the NFL was canceling its biggest party, Tampa restaurant owners reported long lines with a lot of Giants and Bills fans eager to drop a predicted $125 million into the local economy.

Town Square, a temporary tent shopping village erected near the stadium, did a brisk business today as hundreds of fans lined up to pay $40 for a Super Bowl golf shirt, $90 for a windbreaker and $1,000 for an official Super Bowl leather jacket.

The Columbia Restaurant on Harbor Island was booked for the weekend, and the most famous spot in town, Bern's Steakhouse, was packed. An estimated 300,000 lined Bayshore Boulevard this morning for the Bomboleo Parade and Festival.

Hundreds of celebrating fans wandered in and about the team hotels, and the atmosphere was anything but somber.

"No one here, including myself, has the war out of their minds," Freedman said. "Every event begins with a prayer, but everyone wants as much normalcy as possible. I went to see support groups at MacDill {Air Force Base} the night we went to war, and their spirit astounded me. They told me they hoped things went well and they were anxious for us to keep things going. That's what I feel our job is."

The game's halftime show was rewritten to become a sort of pep rally for patriotism, complete with a flyover of fighter jets, 75,000 American flags and Mickey Mouse decked out in red, white and blue.

NFL officials working the game were encouraged to be upbeat even this week. Whitney Houston and Frank Sinatra are here, having signed up for concerts months ago. Jimmy Buffett is here too.

Not everyone is coming. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp is here to see his former teams play, and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo is scheduled to attend. But Sen. Alphonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) is in Israel and will visit the American troops operating the suddenly famous Patriot missiles this weekend. His office said he has taken Bills, Giants and Patriots -- New England Patriots -- hats.

By game time, a lot of NFL officials expect the game to resemble any other Super Bowl. That's after the fans have been searched and cleared through metal detectors. In fact, Barbara Casey of Tampa's Super Bowl Task Force said at one point this week, "If I didn't know there was a war, I wouldn't see anything different."

Not even the most upbeat of several dozen NFL officials would go that far.

"There's enthusiasm," said Jim Steeg, the man charged with coordinating Super Bowl activities. "But it's tempered enthusiasm." Staff writer Roxanne Roberts in Washington contributed to this report.