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Wednesday, May 15
 
'The Sum of All Fears' doesn't focus on football

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

First of all, I have a confession. Despite investing virtually all of my time to covering the NFL, I love good spy dramas. Maybe that explains my fascination the inner workings of the Al Davis Raiders or the constant political intrigues that lead to strange turnover in NFL front offices.

So with great interest, I recently attended a sneak preview of the movie, "The Sum of All Fears." The premise of the movie, based on a 1991 Tom Clancy novel, is how terrorists sneak a nuclear bomb into the Super Bowl.

Leaving the movie reviews to the professional reviewers, my thoughts will concentrate on the possibilities of such an act happening. After viewing the movie, which I liked, I called the league to see its public position. I called teams to see what they were saying. Results were the same. No comment.

The reasoning is understandable. The league and teams don't want to publicly reveal the strategies used in protecting those in attendance at the nation's biggest spectacle. Why educate those who might use that information in some form of attack?

Even last year, teams and the league were vague in how they protected the sport. No one talked about how often bomb-sniffing dogs went through the stadiums. No one gave what internal security checks were in place. Whatever strategies they used, stadium security experts changed them to keep those who might threaten them from figuring out a pattern.

Explanations focused on preventing spectators from bringing any kind of weapon or dangerous object into a game. That's fine, too. Despite the emotional trauma of Sept. 11, at no time did I not feel safe in an NFL stadium. Even at the Super Bowl, it took extra time and extra checks to enter the perimeter of the Superdome.

Once inside that perimeter, you felt safe.

It makes you wonder, though, if the NFL shouldn't use the platform of a movie like "The Sum of All Fears" as an educational tool about how safe it is to go to games. More is going on at stadiums than fans know. Wouldn't it be a good idea to educate fans about how safe it is to go to a game?

Not being a security expert, though, maybe it is better to keep the fans in the dark about those kinds of details. After all, as long as those who go into stadiums on a regular basis feel safe, there is no reason to scare them.

With that in mind, I won't feel scared to go into a stadium after watching "The Sum of All Fears." Without divulging the plot, let's just say a bomb awaiting detonation gets into a stadium. Maybe I'm na´ve, but I feel there are enough security measures in affect at football games to check for some kind of a bomb.

At Super Bowls, chances are even slimmer of something happening. Anyone who has access into and out of the stadium during the week has to have some clearance by either the FBI or Secret Service. Even reporters had to wear identification badges that clearly stated which part of the Superdome they had access to.

Another year of preparation will even make those systems more refined and efficient. Meetings are going on year round about stadium security. It is a priority. If anything, the movie will only heighten the awareness of those decision-makers and keep their minds open to new and different strategies to disrupt a big game.

However, while the Super Bowl plays a role in the movie, it isn't the focus. This movie only uses the sports theme to stay true to Clancy's novel.

Having a nuclear bomb go off in a Super Bowl game isn't what the promoters of this movie are hyping. In fact, Phil Alden Robinson, the movie's director, did his best to not make the Super Bowl the focal point.

"The movie is more about how people respond to a terrorist event," Robinson said. "We tried to spend as little time on the sports aspect of it, but we had to use the book as a guide."

For that, I'm thankful. No NFL uniforms were used. In fact, the brief clip of the game looked more like an Arena League contest but the uniforms were those of the Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. The Super Bowl part of it was so minimized, you had the feeling that the purpose of this movie was to concentrate on the response and not the game.

The 1977 movie "Black Sunday" left a much scarier feeling.

Robinson compressed the football game into a cameo role. The CFL uniforms and close up shots of a play or two gave it almost a cartoon like appearance. It didn't seem real.

"Black Sunday" did.

I remember sitting in the Orange Bowl press box that was hit by the blimp that ended up spraying bullets from a massive gun. They had game footage and stars running through the crowd as the game was progressing.

That's why "The Sum of All Fears" isn't a football movie. Black Sunday was more about football than this one. To sum it up, the May 31 release is about fears, fears about terrorism and complacency about terrorism. It's about the fears if there is a successful attack.

Since Sept. 11, this country has lived in fear and will continue to do so. Sure, I'll think about this movie at the Super Bowl in San Diego and at stadiums in regular season games. Attacking a Super Bowl is a real concern. But in "The Sum of All Fears," the movie didn't rub it in my face.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.






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