Super bowl XXXVII Set

In so many ways this is a homecoming weekend as we prepare for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego. Jon Gruden will come home to face Oakland, well the second home of the Raiders that is, to face the team he coached, this time as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs disposed of Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game Sunday, 27-10. Oakland will get another home game when it arrives to San Diego after dismantling Tennessee 41-24. Both teams won by 17 points, and as always, Corporate America hopes for a close game from start to finish during the Super Bowl.

The problem is Corporate America is just not spending like they used to. The problem is it will get worse as hotels cut their rates this week in order to obtain a higher occupancy rate. Hotel reservations are down 15-to-25 percent from the last time this city hosted the Super Bowl in 1998.

"Corporate America isn't coming to this year's Super Bowl like they did in 1998," said Matt Deline, of San Diego Hotel Reservations, Inc., the official reservations agency for this year's game.

Remember there is also one week between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl now instead of two. That also cuts into profitability.

The good news?

The game is for the fans, and now fans will have a chance to get to the game and enjoy it. In years past Corporate America had a stranglehold on the game and everything surrounding it. Now the people who enjoy the games and know the game, will get their chance to see it. They will no longer be priced out of the biggest game of the year. Hotels rates are already down 20% from 1998 and the figures will continue to drop.

While the Raiders being in the Super Bowl certainly may aid to the demise in money spent this coming weekend, the game itself has some of the best subplots money can buy.

Jon Gruden will face an Oakland team that traded his rights to Tampa Bay for two first rounders, two-second rounders, and $8 million. The move has turned out to be the best for both franchises and now one of the teams will crush the dreams of the other.

Tampa wanted Gruden so they could get to the big show, and paid heavily for it. But only one team can win and the Glazier's are hoping they were wise in paying such a price.

Make no mistake this game is personal. Gruden says he remembers where he came from, but his mission is clear.

Bill Callahan stepped in for Oakland and has done a marvelous job at motivating his team of All-Stars. Still without a Championship he is under the microscope. A lot is made of the Raiders being an aging team, and that may be true, and you only get so many chances at winning the Super Bowl. Having Gruden standing in the way could make a victory all the sweeter, but a loss would be bitter.

As Raiders guard Frank Middleton said, "It's going to be a ticket worth buying. It's going to be a No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense. Everybody wanted it. And now everybody is going to see it."

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