The National Football League says there are 1,250 media people covering Super Bowl XVI here this week. Everybody's got an angle. Here are some of them:
The Voice of Italy: Rino Tommasi is here to handle the play-by-play for Italian television. He says that 4 million to 5 million Italians will watch the game live at 10 p.m. Sunday. Tommasi writes under his own name for La Gazetta dello Sport in Milan and under a pen name, Tom Salvatori, for Il Tempo in Rome, and describes himself as the two best sportswriters in Italy.
And why will so many Italians watch, he is asked?
"Italians don't know much about American football," he says, "but three things they like: violence, uniforms and cheerleaders. So it's perfect for us. It's Star Wars on a field."
The Cartoonist: The winning share for the Super Bowl champion is about $18,000 this year. Jeff MacNelly, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, is here to draw a little, and take home maybe $15,000 from a few weeks of following the end of the NFL season.
About 25 papers signed with the Chicago Tribune-New York Daily News Syndicate to receive a series of cartoons and caricatures of the leading principals in the game from MacNelly, who gave up political cartooning last year to concentrate on his comic strip, "Shoe," which appears in 650 papers.
He's gone to all the press conferences this week and will roam the sideline Sunday. He's done two or three drawings a day and says he's having a wonderful time. "It's not so much football I'm doing, it's the hype that goes with it," he said. "That's the only story here for me."
Book Report: Nobody will say so for sure, but at least two Bay Area writers are planning 49er books, and another, columnist Murray Olderman of the Newspaper Enterprise Association, may do a cartoon-and-text book on San Francisco's favorite team. The Bengals? A possible epilogue to a previously published work on Paul Brown.
Lou Sahadi, publisher of the magazine Pro Football Monthly, is the Super Bowl book king, having written instant tomes for two Steeler championship teams and for the Raiders and Broncos. "You really have to discipline yourself to write 3,000, 4,000 words a day," he says. "I pick up interviews during the week, I go back and get the clips. We have stories in the magazine. It takes two, three weeks. It can be done."
It also can be done faster.
When the Denver Broncos made the Super Bowl four years ago, Paul Zimmerman, then a columnist with the New York Post, now a Sports Illustrated writer, was asked to do an instant book with Bronco lineman Lyle Alzado.
Zimmerman spent most of that week in the press room or Alzado's room, taping lengthy interviews. He wrote his newspaper column and another story every day, and knocked out a few thousand words every day for the book.
"When the week started, I asked Dave Anderson (of the New York Times) if he thought I could do it," Zimmerman said. "He said sure, but you'll probably wind up in the hospital."
Early in the week, Alzado would lie in his bed and Zimmerman would sit in a chair and ask him questions. By the end of the week, Zimmerman was in the bed and Alzado was in the chair. "I hurt my back and I had to check into the hospital the next week," Zimmerman said. "Then the publisher came to me in the hospital and said they needed a rewrite. So I'd sleep an hour, write an hour. Took three days and it was done."
Zimmerman got $8,500 for his effort, Alazado $5,000. The book was on the shelf in Denver bookstores 10 days after the game and got up to No. 10 on the Denver charts. "Never again, " says Zimmerman, who's had another tough week this year.
He went on "Good Morning America" Wednesday and took a few shots at Detroit. He's had 30 hate letters and two telephoned death threats. But his back is fine.
TV Timeout: CBS has 350 credentials for its people to televise the game, prompting one publicist to declare, "We've got enough people to handle the Normandy invasion." ESPN, the sports cable network, is broadcasting live every day in a room off the press lounge, and Cable News is everywhere, as well.
Best camera coverage of the week went to the last crew in a daisy chain of sorts. One camera zooming in on another camera, zooming in on another camera zooming in on two sportswriters.
Worst question of the week came from a golden throat who breathlessly broke in on Bengal linebacker Reggie Williams to ask, "Who is your roommate?" Second worst: a man asking every sportswriter he could drag in front of his camera, "Who was your best interview this week?"
Newspaper Numbers: The Cincinnati Enquirer has 18 people on hand, one short of the record 19 by the Philadelphia Inquirer last year. The San Francisco Examiner plans a 56-page Super Bowl special section Sunday and has hired a Lear Jet to take back rolls of color film for Monday's editions. Both the Associated Press and United Press International estimate they are filing from 8,000 to 10,000 words a day this week.
Computer Update: Because of the increase in newspapers now filing stories by computer terminal, the work room in the press area resembles the set of the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," with scads of wire umbilical cords seemingly growing out of the ceiling to handle all the extra outlets necessary to plug in the machines.
The rat-a-tat of typerwriters has been replaced by the clackety-clack computers, which can cause other problems. The NFL took a bit of heat because the Princess phones in writers' rooms were not compatible to many terminals. It's a jungle out here, sports fans.
Oh yes. There are Pac-Man and Space Invader computer games just off the media lounge, although the traditional nightly poker game still flourishes. That, of course, is off the record.
Press Conferences: Everybody's gotta have one. If not a conference, then at least a press release. They had a press conference for Bobby Layne Friday. He's going to toss the coin. Joe Greene of the Steelers showed up to talk about the Arthritis Foundation. The NFL Alumni has a press room. So does the NFL Players Association, with Ed Garvey available this past Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to talk about upcoming negotiations over a new contract wwith the league.
All-Star Lineup: Lots of greats and near-greats handling microphones this week. Alan Page has been filing reports for National Public Radio and Cable News, Sam Huff is doing a daily show for WMAL in Washington, Bob Trumpy works for a station in Cincinnati, and Channel 4 in Detroit hired several Detroit Lions, including Billy Sims and Tom Skladany, to work the news conferences. Dwight Clark of the 49ers is doing a daily diary with Ira Miller of the San Francisco Chronicle, and his revelations have been fascinating.
Just the other day he said, "I ordered a double and a single burger, but I was still hungry after that, so I had another single. Plus french fries, a milk shake and two iced teas. Joe (Montana) had a double and a single, two fries, a milkshake and a soft drink."
Well, sometimes it's tough to find an angle at the Super Bowl.