Terrible news. Terrible, miserable, awful. Up With People is not going to perform at the Super Bowl halftime. This breaks a string of, gee, I don't know, what, 45 consecutive Super Bowls for the group of 5,800 milk-fed, well-flossed, beaming, gleaming, redeeming singers and dancers. I, for one, am crushed. I've been hooked on UWP (not to be confused with UPS) since '75 when they opened for Springsteen at Carnegie Hall. But other than the Super Bowls I haven't seen them live since their "Party Hearty, You Dental Hygiene Animals" tour with Toni Tennille in '81. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how hard it is to get tickets to their concerts (or "gigs," as we say in the business). This is a big mistake by the NFL, B-I-G. Up With People is uniquely suited for the stadium atmosphere, not like a Morris Albert or a Tiffany, whose otherwise exquisite vocal stylings might get lost in, for example, the Rose Bowl.

So we'll have to muddle through with the Super Bowl XXII show the NFL has in store for us in San Diego, a naval port town -- a good town, it's said, to get a tattoo.

A. 78 and clear.

Q. What's the weather forecast for San Diego for the next 2,000 years?

Back in 1984, the workingman's columnist, Chicago's Mike Royko, bemoaned the San Diego Padres getting into the World Series; he thought they didn't deserve it because the citizenry there, "All they do is drink white wine and smoke the corks."

But I digress.

The pregame show is simply fabulous. And just for a change it's about -- you guessed it, patriotism. (I think what happens is that Pete Rozelle and David L. Wolper and the Disney guy get together and try to think up a new and different way to celebrate the unspeakable piles of money they're making as capitalists, and when they can't, they say, okay, let's just wave the flag for a couple of hours and sell more beer, cars and shaving cream to the yokels.) The pregame will honor Mr. USO, Bob "You're Darn Right It Means Something To Me That This Was Made In The USA" Hope. And I wanna tell ya, Hope hasn't seen a crowd like this since Anita Ekberg and Dolly Parton tried to ride up the same escalator.

Anyway, after Herb Alpert does the national anthem -- and we can only pray he plays, not sings, or have you forgotten his feckless version of "This Guy's In Love"? -- then we get to Hope. The NFL assures us the show will emphasize various phases of "Hope's great career and the songs he's popularized: 'Thanks For The Memories,' 'Buttons And Bows' and 'Silver Bells.' " Other than Dave Butz, who was in high school at the time, probably not too many NFL players remember that before Hope became a golf tournament he was a song and dance man in vaudeville.

To help honor Hope, according to the NFL there'll be "25 different singing and dancing celebrity look-alikes" (although they won't say who looks like who, because they want you to guess, you won't know at least 15 of them unless you watch "Hollywood Squares," and the other 10 are Jimmy The Greek), "400 field performers" (no track performers?), what are described only as "live animals" and "scores of military personnel," who, I suspect, include Lt. Napoleon McCallum, Col. Henry Blake, Sgt. Bilko, Col. Klink, Ensign Pulver, and the many contras who are his close personal friends. The salute to Hope will feature an original song called "Hats Off To Hope" (Del Shannon's comeback tune?), and the pregame show concludes with your everyday garden variety "40-yard long American flag made of balloons."

Are we having fun yet?

At halftime it gets really funky. Moving slowly into the 20th century, one decade at a time, the NFL spun the wheel and landed on the 1950s. So we'll see "a convoy of '50s convertibles, the world's largest jukebox, giant 45s and rock music legend, Chubby Checker." (Chubby, you sly dog, nobody's seen you in ages. How's your cholesterol count?)

Backing up Chubby will be some of the kinds of folks you'd expect at a '50s party: "300 jazzercize dancers" (yeah, dude, Kimberley, Jennifer and I give it a 95, great beat, easy to stretch our quads to), "an all-star drill team" (all the girls had drill teams at their sweet 16, didn't you?) and "1,500 additional singers, dancers and musicians including a 400-piece combined swing band." Go ahead and call me a stuck-in-the-mud traditionalist, but I don't think a swing band should have any more than 300 pieces. As my mother would say, "300 pieces? Who are you feeding, the West Virginia lesgislature?"

Did I forget the Radio City Rockettes? They'll be there, too. Usually they come gift-wrapped as 36, but to honor the year 1988 they're expanding to a line of 44 for an assortment of 88 legs. And to keep that theme alive the NFL offers "the largest number of pianos ever used for a performance, 88" which breaks the Wolper L.A. Olympics record of 84 motorized pianos (playing "Rhapsody In Blue," not, heaven help us, "It's Pony Time," boogedy, boogedy, boogedy, boogedy, shoop). Eighty-eight pianos, wow, what'll they think of next, 635 seals playing car horns to "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida"?


Not me, thanks, I'm driving.