Chris Core was determined to get to the core of the border issue.
Ever the intrepid reporter, he headed out from the Hyatt Islandia--where the Washington Redskins are teepeed--and soon found himself in the center of downtown San Diego.
Nice place, he thought. Doesn't look a bit like Washington.
He jumped on the trolley and soon found himself at the border--smack in the middle of the Third World.
"Not at all what I expected," said Core, one of two talk-show hosts in town for the Super Bowl representing WMAL (63 AM) in the nation's capital. Core and partner Bill Trumbull are broadcasting live by satellite all week from the lobby of the Hyatt Islandia. The show airs from noon to 4 p.m. in San Diego--3 to 7 back home during . . .
Motorists on leafy Rock Creek Parkway are hearing Core's and Trumbull's off-the-cuff perceptions about "America's Finest City," Super Bowl XXII, the National Football League, Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, owner Jack Kent Cooke and whatever else enters their minds during . . .
Guests Friday included Mayor Maureen O'Connor as well as Las Vegas oddsmaker Danny Sheridan. How's that for a contrast?
"You know, I envisioned Tijuana as this sleepy, moribund little border town," said Core, 39, with wide-eyed amazement. He looked a little bit like John Elway might with Dexter Manley staring him in the face.
"Well, it was hardly little, and frankly, I was really disappointed. It's just this run-down, grungy old place. I had dinner at Tijuana Tilly's. I liked that. But after that, there wasn't much to do."
Core, an obsessive golfer whose nagging regret during Super Bowl week is that he couldn't score a tee time at Torrey Pines, played golf in Mission Valley--at night, no less--before heading south, into the maw of another world.
He was surprised, he said, by the number of men on the street willing to furnish "dates" as the nightcap to a Tijuana evening. He met a border patrol officer. He described the man as "very nice. You know, he told me," Core said, "that every night they round up 600 people (illegal aliens). Imagine that, 600. Every night. He said, 'We'll get 600 tonight.' Amazing."
Surprised by San Diego
Neither Core nor Trumbull, 53, had been to San Diego before this week. They had no idea what to expect, they said, except the usual stereotypes--vain, shallow minds sitting atop "rocket" bodies, all in search of one more blast of sunshine.
Now that they're here, perceptions have changed.
They're surprised, and in some ways staggered.
"It's a lot smaller than I thought it would be," Core said. "It's more compact, so easy to find your way around. But the main thing I'm struck by is the friendliness. Are these people putting us on? Are they always this friendly? They're so much friendlier than Washingtonians or any East Coast group."
Trumbull said living in Washington is at times a foreboding challenge. If it isn't the weather--Saigon-like humidity in the summer, Anchorage-like chill in the winter--it's politicians.
He's been "blown away" by San Diego, calling it "nice, nice, nice, unbelievably nice--the people, the weather, the atmosphere. And especially the prices. Eggs Benedict for $6 is unheard of, where we're from."
New Goals in Life
Both Trumbull and Core say new goals in life--revised after Super Bowl week--are to return to San Diego after the game has come and gone.
"The beauty of the place is staggering," Trumbull said. "Absolutely staggering. I only wish my wife could be here to enjoy it with me. And you know, it seems completely effortless. No one seems to do anything to make it beautiful. The natives keep the place clean all by themselves. It's a lot like Disneyland, isn't it?"
Trumbull and Core have been to other Super Bowls, one in Pasadena, the other in Tampa. They say San Diego's effort far exceeds either of those, to the point that Tampa and Pasadena, in contrast, have been "embarrassed."
In San Diego, practice sites are easier to get to, separated by a few miles, instead of entire counties. The atmosphere, Core said, is folksier and funkier.
"Here, you've got all these free-enterprise souvenir stands," he added. "I haven't seen those at any other Super Bowls."
"Yeah, there was this guy building a souvenir stand right outside my room at the Dana Inn," Trumbull said. "He's out there like a kid making a lemonade stand. He's got the wood, the nails, the hammer, the whole nine yards. And he's selling these fake IDs from ABC, NBC . . . I just shook my head. It's one more thing about San Diego's Super Bowl that amazes me."
Say What They Please
Core and Trumbull like being irreverently candid. They pepper "Drive Time" with whatever chitchat springs to mind--whether it's the Redskins or the cosmos at large. Several times recently they've hurled shots at Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke.
"He walks into the lobby with this aura of, 'Well, I'm here, and you're not ,' " Core said. "He got in around 2 p.m. (Thursday) and brought with him his own private plane load--from his own 747. As we say in Washington, we have a President, a mayor and a king. The king is Jack Kent Cooke."
Cooke's plane load included former U.S. Sens. Eugene McCarthy and Edmund Muskie, as well as Washington Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. and columnist Carl Rowan.
"It's like, 'Everybody stop what you're doing--Mr. Cooke is here!' " Trumbull said. "He's the only one in Washington that everybody calls Mister."
Trumbull and Core have heard some local radio and said they like KFMB, which is to San Diego what WMAL is to Washington. It has a similar format of talk, middle-of-the-road contemporary music and news. They especially like the morning team of Mac Hudson and Joe Bauer.
Of course, they're forever in tune with their own D.C. audience--"Drive-Timers" Fighting gridlock in the twilight, praying the Redskins can overcome the odds as well as Denver's miracle-man passer, John Elway.
"The Redskins are the one string that binds the crazy city together," Core said. "Washington is made up of so many disparate elements, with so many people from someplace else. You either love or hate the Skins, but you had better know what they did on Sunday, come Monday. If you don't, you're going to be alienated from almost every conversation in town."
Redskins fans--as well as presidents--are listeners of WMAL.
"Carter probably wasn't and Reagan probably isn't (a listener)," Core said, "because neither is a Washingtonian. (Vice President) Bush probably listens. Probably a lot more this week (after his much-publicized row with CBS anchorman Dan Rather, the biggest Washington topic aside from the Super Bowl, Core said)."
"And Nixon," Trumbull said, picking up his partner's cue, "well, he secretly listened."