During last fall's San Diego City Council campaign, Ron Roberts made effective use of a one-liner that never failed to elicit laughter from audiences.
"I have the answer to your first question," Roberts would say. "It's: 'Two Super Bowl tickets.' "
Then, after a well-timed pause, Roberts would add: "And the question is: 'Why are you putting yourself through this hell?' "
Candidate Roberts is now Councilman Roberts, and on Super Sunday, the payoff to that punch line will come in the form of two choice midfield seats in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium for Super Bowl XXII.
In a Good Position
At a time when many of San Diego's biggest VIPs are frantically pulling strings, begging and offering a small ransom to try to secure any of the 74,000 or so tickets to the Jan. 31 extravaganza, Roberts and 25 other local elected and appointed public officials find themselves in the enviable position of having two guaranteed free seats by virtue of their office.
"It's a good time to be on the council," Roberts said, understating the obvious. "As perks go, I have to admit this is a real nice one."
Under terms of the stadium lease, the city controls a sky box on the 45-yard line next to San Diego Chargers' owner Alex Spanos' private box. Officially called the Stadium Directors' Box, but commonly referred to as simply the "city box," the 50-seat section was excluded from the city's lease negotiations with the National Football League, allowing it to remain--as it is for all other sporting events at the stadium--the exclusive preserve of San Diego's top public officials, their spouses, significant others, relatives and friends.
The 26 public officials entitled to two seats each in the box include the mayor and eight San Diego City Council members, the five county supervisors, the city manager, the city attorney, the county's chief administrative of ficer and the nine members of the Stadium Authority, the body that advises the council on the stadium's operation.
The potential numerical problem posed by the allotment of 52 tickets to a box with only 50 permanent seats normally does not come into play at Padres', Chargers' and San Diego State Aztecs' games. But at capacity events--and the Super Bowl will draw more people to San Diego's stadium than ever before--that means that two people can look forward to standing not only when they applaud the on-field exploits, but for the rest of the game as well.
Lockwood Stands Tall
City Manager John Lockwood, who drew up the assigned seating chart for the game, decided that the only diplomatic thing to do was to select himself and his girlfriend as the lucky twosome.
"I don't mind because I stand most of the game, anyway," Lockwood said. "But if anyone complains that he doesn't like his seat, I'll say I'll be glad to swap."
Don't waste too much sympathy on Lockwood, though, because besides the two city box tickets, he also has two other tickets. A longtime Chargers' season-ticket holder, Lockwood became eligible to buy those tickets when his name was drawn in a lottery conducted by the team. Lockwood plans to use the tickets to "make a friend for the city" by offering them either to a leading local civic figure "who's desperate the day before the game" or to the chief executive officer from one of the two cities whose teams will compete.
During regular-season baseball and football games, many of the seats in the city box are used by the public officials' friends, leading supporters or staffers. Not so on Super Sunday, however, when most of the seats will be occupied by the officeholders themselves.
"The way I see it, it's a chance in a lifetime because I don't envision having the opportunity to go to another Super Bowl," City Councilman Ed Struiksma said.
City Councilman Wes Pratt added: "This is history being made in San Diego, and I want to be there for it. And I will be there with bells on."
Though Pratt, like the other officials, found that his extra ticket "caused me to hear from a lot more friends than I ever knew I had," the ticket's destination was never seriously in doubt.
Wife Makes Her Point
"My wife said to me, 'I am going to the Super Bowl, aren't I?' " Pratt recalled. "I said, 'Of course, dear. No doubt about it.' "
A conversation along those lines could have saved newly elected Councilman Bob Filner considerable grief. As it is, however, Filner finds himself at least temporarily victimized by this arithmetical and spatial axiom: Three people cannot fit into two seats.
"My son assumed he was going and my wife assumed she was going, so now it looks like maybe I'm not going," Filner said. "At this point, we know that two of the three of us will get to see the game. We just don't know which two yet. I might have to start scanning the ads in the papers."
Councilman Bruce Henderson narrowly averted a similar dilemma when he asked his girlfriend whether he could take his brother to the game.
"She said, 'Absolutely not!' " Henderson said, laughing. "I suspect she's never been to a game in her life. But she said, 'It's not the game--it's the pageantry.' "
And how did Henderson's brother accept that news? "He took it like a man," the councilman said. "I think he's still talking to me."
Mayor Maureen O'Connor's guest will be her husband, businessman Robert O. Peterson.
"My husband has never asked for anything in his life, but he asked for this, so he's going to the Super Bowl," O'Connor said. The mayor herself said she plans to "roam everywhere" during the game to "soak up as much of the atmosphere as I can"--and, perhaps, to seek out the TV cameras in this election year.
Graciously Bowing Out
Several of the public officials, however, are doing the unthinkable by magnanimously giving up their tickets so that relatives can attend the game.
City Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer, for example, originally had promised her son one of her tickets but, as a 25th birthday present, recently decided to give him both tickets.
"I'm a big football fan, but when it's going to be this crowded, I don't mind staying at home and watching the game on TV," Wolfsheimer said. "Besides, he's been such a wonderful cat sitter for me during all of my long hours that he deserves it."
Similarly, Supervisor Susan Golding, who has a 16-year-old son, half-jokingly noted that, "If at least one ticket isn't used by him, I'd be drawn and quartered." Though her other city-box ticket likely will be used by her husband, Golding said she probably will attend the game, too, because she has been offered other tickets.
Some eleventh-hour political maneuvering kept outgoing Stadium Authority member George Mitrovich in the city box for the Super Bowl. Though the county Board of Supervisors had tentatively planned to name Mitrovich's replacement this week, the board, at Supervisor John MacDonald's urging, opted to delay that appointment until February to honor Mitrovich by allowing him to attend the game as a Stadium Authority incumbent, rather than an ex-member.
"The issue isn't whether or not I'd be at the game, because I would have been there regardless," Mitrovich said. "This might not have made a difference to anyone else, but it made a difference to me."
So Much for Symbolic Gestures
Several officials with tickets in the city box said that they gave fleeting consideration to trying to use their tickets to make a grand symbolic gesture but that those plans were felled by practical problems--as well as by their own desire to be at the game.
Roberts, for example, said that, with some ticket brokers--scalpers--trying to sell tickets for as much as $3,000, the tickets could have been a good fund-raising tool for a charity. The city box tickets, however, cannot be sold, even though they can be used by anyone designated by the official holding them.
Some officials also considered giving the tickets to someone on their staff, but most quickly realized that, in the words of City Atty. John Witt, "That would have created more problems than it would answer.