Super Bowl Notebook
Rams unusually heavy favorites for title gamePosted: Saturday February 02, 2002 4:25 PM
Updated: Saturday February 02, 2002 9:07 PM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Only twice in Super Bowl history have there been bigger underdogs than this year.
The St. Louis Rams are 14-point favorites to beat the New England Patriots in Sunday's game. Although there have been two other games that equaled that spread, only the 1969 game between the Jets and Colts and the 1995 game between the 49ers and the Chargers had bigger margins.
The Colts were 18-point favorites to beat the Jets. The 49ers were 19-point picks over San Diego.
The Jets won their game 16-7; San Francisco beat the Chargers 49-26.
NFL starts fund for Americans killed in Afghanistan
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The NFL has established scholarships funds in the hometowns of two Americans killed while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced Saturday the permanent endowment of several hundred thousand dollars in the names of CIA Intelligence Officer Johnny "Mike" Spann and U.S. Marine Sgt. Jeannette Winters.
Spann, 32, of Winfield, Ala., was killed in November during a prison riot at Mazar-e-Sharif. He's was the first American killed in action in Afghanistan.
Winters, 25, of Gary, Ind., was killed along with six other Marines in January in the crash of tanker plane into a mountain in Pakistan. She was the first woman killed while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.
A $10,000 scholarship in Spann's name will be given annually to a high school football player in Marion County. Spann played football at Winfield High School.
A $10,000 scholarship in Winters' name will be awarded annually to a female student athlete in Gary. Winters was a member of the track team at Calumet High School.
The scholarships will be given to students who demonstrate leadership and community service.
Tagliabue was joined at the news conference by Spann's high school football coach Joe Hubbert and Calumet High principal Leroy Miller.
"Our school system is definitely excited about this," Miller said. "We have a lot of students who could benefit from a scholarship like this."
This is the sixth Super Bowl without a week off after the conference championship games.
Ditching the extra week before the game not only shortens the hype surrounding the event, it seems to shorten the final points margin, as well. Games without an off week tend to be closer. The average margin in the five non-bye week games is 10.2 points. The margin in the other 30 Super Bowls was 17.3 points.
"I like getting right into it," said New England linebacker Roman Phifer. "You're still warm from the championship game, and you go right into preparing for the Super Bowl."
The NFL chose Bernie Kukar, an 18-year official, to head the seven-man officiating crew for the Super Bowl. Kukar also refereed the game three years ago and has officiated 15 playoff games.
The other officials for the game include Jeff Rice, umpire; Mark Hittner, head linesman; Ron Phares, line judge; Pete Morelli, field judge; Laird Hayes, side judge; and Scott Green, back judge.
Mike Carey is the alternate referee and Ron Botchan is the alternate umpire.
Aside from Kukar, Phares is the only on-field official with Super Bowl experience.
It's not just the mayors of St. Louis and Boston betting on the outcome of this year's Super Bowl. The mayors of the towns where the Rams and Patriots hold training camp could lose their shirts on the game.
Tom Carper, mayor of Macomb, Ill., challenged Smithfield, R.I., Town Manager Russell Marcoux to the wager. Western Illinois University in Macomb has been the summer training camp site for the Rams since 1996; Bryant College in Smithfield has played host to the Patriots for seven years.
If St. Louis loses, Carper must send Marcoux a Rams NFC championship sweat shirt. If New England loses, Marcoux must send Carper a Patriots AFC championship sweatshirt.
"He'd better be shopping right now," Carper said.
Marcoux said he is confident in his team: "They got off to a shaky start, but who would have ever expected they'd be in the Super Bowl? They've earned it."