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A word to the Weiss: Super Bowl '81

Even as history begins tucking Super Bowl XIV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams into mothballs, plans for next year's game at the Superdome in New Orleans are already under way.

The point is, Super Bowls, because they involve so much planning and organization that never appears on the surface, go on the drawing board years in advance.

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While the game itself, even with its commercial breaks and halftime shows, may take only 3 1/2 hours, the get-ready portion has a framework as complicated as World War II's Normandy invasion.

The man who engineers the happenings that are called Super Bowls in Don Weiss , the National Football League's executive director and a former US Navy submarine officer and Associated Press sports writer.

Weiss has a flair for organization, a flair for public relations, and a flair for handling complex problems that ought to get him a job in the Pentagon. If Don has ever rubbed anybody the wrong way, it is the best kept secret in professional sports.

Weiss has become a human computer who anually deals with finding hotel rooms for thousands of people; provides week- long transportation to training camps for NFL personnel, the press, and others; and helps to resolve a million other problems.

Although Don has an operating budget of more than $1 million, time, not money , is his biggest obstacle. Basically he has solved the difficulty of being in two places at once by wearing the only permanent telephone ever attached to a man's ear.

That's an exaggeration, of course, but most of the everyday miracles Weiss performs are not. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle seems to find him indispensable.

Weiss's game plan is to try to arrive in whatever city is hosting the Super Bowl approximately 10 days in advance. Accompanying him are a 35-person staff plus a small army of secretaries. This year Weiss and his staff operated out of a suite of offices in a ground floor wing of the Marriott Hotel, located only minutes away from Los Angeles International Airport. While Don was here, he also began some of the paper work for Super Bowl XVIII, which will be played in Los Angeles in 1983.

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One reason the NFL has continued to rotate its Super Bowl games mostly among LA, Miami, and New Orleans (aside from the weather factor) is that cities that have handled it once get to know the problems and how to deal with them.

But with a domed stadium in Pontiac, Michigan, and a similar project scheduled to be built in Minnesota, the NFL now has more of a choice than it had in the past.

Other than the game itself and the preparation for it, the two biggest things Weiss has to deal with are the annual Friday night party and the halftime show.

This year the NFL reportedly spent $150,000 on its Friday night bash for 3, 000 league officials and their guests at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. They were royally entertained by two orchestras from the 1940s big-band era, Woody Herman and the Glenn Miller Troupe conducted by Tex Beneke. And for those with a flair for nostalgia, the main vocalists were Helen O'Connell and Bob eberle. There was also enough food to satisfy all the teen-agers in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too.

The halftime show down on the field is always difficult to stage because so much has to be squeezed into such a short span of time. And if the President of the United States should drop in, as has happened at least once in the past, the FBI has to be informed of all the stunts in advance so that proper security can be maintained.

Goodnight, Don Weiss, wherever you are!


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