He's long and lean, friendly yet slightly shy; there's a little bit of Jimmy Stewart about him. But come Sunday when the cameras focus on the galaxy of stars radiating on the field, in the broadcast booths and in the sky boxes, no one at home will yell, "Hey, look, there's Jack McGrory."
Maybe that's too bad. Because if it weren't for McGrory--the City of San Diego's Super Bowl point man--and his team of equally anonymous bureaucrats, there very likely wouldn't be a Super Bowl being played at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium this Sunday, leastways not one remotely familiar to the standards set by the National Football League and expected by the fans.
Jim Steeg, the NFL's director of special events and a man not given to hyperbole, recently said this about McGrory:
"I don't want to sugarcoat things," he said, laughing, "but he is absolutely the best guy I've ever dealt with. He gets the job done . . . . If there's been one guy in the city to get the job done, it's been him."
Depend on Each Other
High praise, indeed. And Steeg must know what he's talking about because this is his ninth Super Bowl. Steeg is McGrory's NFL counterpart--the person the league relies on to make sure the Super Bowl goes on without a hitch, from the verdant grass at the stadium to team accommodations. Although the two have spent considerable time on the telephone together for the last year, in the last few weeks they have had daily face-to-face meetings.
So much so, Steeg says, that McGrory's wife joked she expected the two of them to run off and elope.
At 6-foot-6, McGrory is a formidable physical presence. He looks like a former basketball player, which he was in high school. A Boston native, he played on his college's tennis team, was a Marine Corps lieutenant stationed at Camp Pendleton, was graduated from Colgate University and today lives in Bay Park with his wife and three daughters. Until October, 1986, he was the city's chief labor negotiator.
Then he was named a deputy city manager, his reward after more than a decade of city service. Along with the job came new territory: parks and recreation, the library system, risk management, purchasing, the equal opportunity office--and the stadium.
In any other year, the stadium might not have been such a big deal. But with the job came the challenge of preparing the stadium--from new speakers and fresh paint to new seats and asphalt for the parking lot--all for Super Bowl XXII.
At first, planning for the Super Bowl was confined mainly to two or three meetings a week, and took about 5% to 10% of his time. But as the Jan. 31 game approached, so did the demands on time. Last month it occupied a quarter of McGrory's work week, this month it grew to half and this week he is routinely spending 12 hours a day on the job, most of it devoted to the Super Bowl.
"It depends on the latest crises we're involved in," said McGrory, 38, describing his time commitment to football's mega-event.
Measure of His Modesty
It's a measure of McGrory's modesty--as well as his reluctance to be painted as the city's one-man Super Bowl machine--when he says the workload has been spread through a team of high-ranking city department managers that he heads. There are Bill Wilson, Jerry Groomes, Jim Sewell, Jim Kennedy and Dave Hall. And there are also the likes of Marty Breslauer, John Costa, Barbara Lupro and Ace Parking's Evan Jones.
He also lauds the cooperation of the San Diego Super Bowl Task Force--the group of private business leaders and others who have helped prepare the city for the game. "I don't think we've ever had this close cooperation with private business leaders and the city as we've had in this," he said.
For the most part, preparations at the stadium have gone smoothly. There have been a few glitches, though. There were problems constructing a second scoreboard and video replay screen in the stadium and there were concerns about the 21,000 temporary seats and making sure the expansion was in accord with city building codes.
While the city had its building inspectors overseeing the construction, McGrory could be seen, seating manifest in hand, counting the number of new bleacher seats, Steeg said.
The increased logistical work load on McGrory and his team has been "tremendous," said McGrory, noting that the city not only hasn't added any new personnel for the effort but that each bureaucrat has had to fit the Super Bowl into his other regular duties. For McGrory, that's a lot of territory, as his appointments calender can attest.
"I'm supposed to be at a (City Council Public Facilities and Recreation Committee) in two minutes," McGrory told a reporter at the end of an interview this week, five days before the game. Yes, the Super Bowl is grabbing all the attention, but life at City Hall continues, and in this case the committee hearing concerned a topic of particular local importance: what to do with the McDonald's restaurant massacre site in San Ysidro.
All the Super Bowl planning and the preparations will peak on Sunday, for both the NFL and the city. Usually 100 people work at a sold-out Chargers game, but the city will have 750 people at the Super Bowl. There will be police, fire fighters, maintenance people, paramedics and others. And of, course, McGrory will be there too. Though, if everything goes according to plan, he'll only be a spectator.
McGrory is a tad reticent about proclaiming the Super Bowl as his biggest professional challenge, given the vagaries of running a big city. But it certainly ranks right up there. "There's no doubt it's one of the more unique and challenging events in the city's history," he said. "This is as (great) a big time event as we've ever had in the city."