Legacy of Mara Looms over '08

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 12, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Legacy of Mara Looms over '08


Byline: Eric Fisher, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Arizona Cardinals, who don't win much of anything else, have the inside track to win the right to play host to the 2008 Super Bowl.

That piece of information is not at all surprising. Many NFL owners and their corporate sponsors have grown quite accustomed to playing Super Bowls in beautiful, warm weather. The Cardinals have an elaborate new stadium due to open in 2006, and having the NFL's showcase back in Arizona presents the league with virtually no real risks of any kind.

But NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue still wants to see a Super Bowl played in Washington, New York, or both. A Super Bowl at FedEx Field or Giants Stadium would be the first to be played outdoors in a cold weather city. And in an owners vote slated for Oct. 30 in Chicago, the tally could come down to two important words:

Wellington Mara.

The New York Giants' president, even among the Rooney, Hunt, Wilson and Modell families, is perhaps the NFL's true elder statesman. And numerous NFL insiders say if the Giants' Super Bowl bid becomes at all attached to the long legacy of the 87-year-old Mara, New York easily could overcome Arizona, Washington and Tampa, Fla., and land the game.

"It's rather easy to see this vote becoming a tribute to Wellington Mara," said Marc Ganis, a Chicago sports industry consultant who works with numerous NFL teams. "There's no one in the NFL more beloved. This would be a powerful way to recognize his contributions to the league."

Said Bob Harlan, Green Bay Packers president, "I'm very close to the Mara family, and a New York Super Bowl would be appealing. Obviously, we know a lot about playing in cold weather. But nobody needs partners in this league more than Green Bay. We rely on our partners, and we want to be good partners. We're going to go [to the Chicago meeting], hear the presentations and seek to do what's in the best interest of the league."

Despite all that praise, one should not start printing New York Super Bowl tickets just yet. A handshake deal between the Giants and the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority to rework the Giants Stadium lease and conduct a $290 million renovation has yet to be ratified.

It is uncertain whether that formal vote will happen before the Chicago meeting. Either way, NFL owners must be sufficiently convinced that the framework to turn 27-year-old Giants Stadium into a Super Bowl-ready facility indeed will become reality.

Assuming that all goes to plan, those same owners will have the backdrop of a Mara career that dates to 1925, when he was just 9 years old. His father, Tim, purchased the Giants franchise that year, and five years later turned over ownership to Wellington and his 22-year-old brother after the stock market collapse.

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