SAN DIEGO, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- America's most-watched sporting event will be played for the 37th time Sunday and the potential is there for an entertaining game.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, franchises that have traveled far different paths during their history but which have been linked over the past year by a drama worthy of a soap opera, will meet in Super Bowl XXXVII to determine the champion of the National Football League.
Kickoff at Qualcomm Stadium is scheduled for 6:18 p.m., in what forecasters say will be spectacular weather -- 72 degrees under partly cloudy skies. Oakland is a three-point favorite, only the second time in 15 years oddsmakers have considered the Super Bowl to be such a close call.
"It is very clear in all of our minds what opportunity we have," said Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden. "And we want that very badly."
For four seasons, Gruden served as head coach of the Raiders, leading them to two division titles and one appearance in the AFC championship game. But when his relationship with owner Al Davis began to sour, he investigated other possibilities. The best of those possibilities turned out to be Tampa Bay, which acquired Gruden from the Raiders in exchange for two first-round and two second-round draft picks along with $8 million.
One year after that transaction, both Gruden's old team and new team have found their way to the Super Bowl.
The Raiders and Buccaneers have met only five times since Tampa Bay joined the NFL in 1976 and it is a little-remembered fact that they played in the same division that year. Tampa Bay was a member of the AFC West for one season before being moved to the NFC Central to make room for the expansion Seattle Seahawks.
In addition to being at opposite ends of the country, Oakland and Tampa Bay have often found themselves at opposite ends of the league spectrum. The Raiders are one of the most glamorous franchises in American sport, having reached the Super Bowl for a fifth time and having won three of their four previous appearances.
It took Tampa Bay 27 games just to record its first victory and it had never won a road playoff contest until last Sunday, when the Buccaneers surprised the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC title.
Not only are the Buccaneers making their Super Bowl debut, the game will provide another substantial first. Never before in the Super Bowl has the NFL's No. 1 offensive team met the league's No. 1 defensive unit.
With league MVP Rich Gannon completing two-thirds of his passes, Oakland averaged 389 yards per game this season. Almost 72 percent of those yards came through the air.
Gannon had 10 games in which he threw for at least 300 yards and against Denver on a Monday night, he completed 21 consecutive passes to break the single-game NFL record. The short passing game has become so effective for the Raiders that, on occasion, they all but abandon the run.
In the first three quarters of their AFC championship game victory over Tennessee last Sunday, the Raiders called only one running play.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, allowed an average of 252.8 yards per game this season. In nine of the Buccaneers' 12 regular-season victories, they surrendered 10 points or less.
And in their playoff wins over San Francisco and Philadelphia, the Tampa Bay defense gave up one touchdown and three field goals.
"They are exciting," Tampa Bay star defensive tackle Warren Sapp said of Oakland's offense. "They move the ball all over the place. But we are pretty good, too."
Agassi wins Australian Open
Agassi, 32, recorded a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory that made him the first non-Australian to win this tournament four times. He moved into a tie for sixth place on the all-time Grand Slam victory list, drawing even with Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Ken Rosewall and Fred Perry.
He needs two more Grand Slam championships to tie Bill Tilden for fifth place.
It was the 21st straight Australian Open match won by Agassi, more than any player in history. He won the title in 2000 and 2001 before withdrawing from last year's event with a wrist injury. He also won the tournament in 1995.
Schuettler, appearing in his first Grand Slam final, was overmatched from the start. He did not win a point in either of the first two games and was broken eight times.
His hopes of staying in the match came crashing down in the middle portion of the second set. With that set still on serve in the fourth game, Schuettler won the first two points on Agassi's serve.
But Agassi then ran off four straight points to hold serve, after which Schuettler slammed his racket to the court in disgust. He followed that up by losing the first three points on his own serve and was eventually broken.
Schuettler then battled back to win the first two points on Agassi's serve again, only to lose four points in a row once more to fall behind, 4-2. The German held serve only once more for the remainder of the match.
"There is not a single day that is guranteed or promised to you," Agassi told the sellout crowd of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena in accepting the championship trophy. "Days like this are very rare. You never know when it will be your last win.
"I'll never forget being here and I'll never forget the love I have always felt coming down here. I feel like I am half Australian. I'll come back and work as hard for you as long as I can, I promise."
The 46-year-old Navratilova, playing this event after a 14-year absence, became the oldest Grand Slam champion in tennis history. Sunday's victory also gave her a career sweep of all three titles -- singles, doubles and mixed -- at all four majors.
Marcus Allen voted into Hall of Fame
SAN DIEGO, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The scenario was perfect for Marcus Allen this weekend with his former team -- the Oakland Raiders -- playing in the Super Bowl in his hometown.
On Saturday, the franchise's all-time leading rusher became the first player born in San Diego to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"This is the greatest day of my athletic career. It is what I wanted to achieve, especially this year in my hometown," Allen said.
Joining Allen in the Class of 2003 were James Lofton, who ranks third all-time with 14,004 receiving yards; Houston Oilers defensive end Elvin Bethea and Buffalo Bills guard Joe DeLamiellure.
Former Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram, the recommended nominee of the Hall's Senior Committee, also was elected.
The only player to earn a Heisman Trophy, NFL Most Valuable Player and Super Bowl MVP, Allen was elected in his first year of eligibility.
However, Raiders owner Al Davis, who has not spoken to Allen for more than a decade after the two had a falling out, was not on hand to salute the best running back in his franchise's history.
"I don't want to get into anything negative today," Allen said, "I wish the Raiders and Mr. Davis the best in their quest to win another championship. That's all I'm going to say."
Allen played 11 years with the Raiders from 1982-92, when they were based in Los Angeles, and five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He ran for 12,243 yards, caught 587 passes for 5,411 yards and scored 145 touchdowns.
A six-time Pro Bowler, Allen rushed for a career-high 1,759 yards in 1985 and was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XVIII, rushing for 191 yards and two touchdowns in the Raiders' 38-9 rout of Washington.
That was the last previous Super Bowl trip for the Raiders, who will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here in Super Bowl XXXVII on Sunday.
No. 1 Arizona stages big comeback
LAWRENCE, Kan., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Salim Stoudamire scored a career-high 32 points Saturday to rally top-ranked Arizona past No. 6 Kansas, 91-74.
The Wildcats stormed back from a 20-point deficit to end the Jayhawks' 25-game home winning streak.
Arizona (15-1) looked lethargic and uninspired in a mistake-filled first half. The Wildcats had 10 turnovers midway through the period and Kansas took its largest lead at 44-24 on Keith Langford's dunk off an alley-oop with 5:41 left to play.
Jason Gardner's two free throws pulled the Wildcats within 52-39 at halftime. Arizona then used stifling defense to take command with a 23-5 run to open the second half, grabbing a 62-57 lead on Gardner's layup with 13 minutes remaining.
Kansas (13-5) missed its first seven shots of the second half and shot 29 percent over the final 20 minutes. The Jayhawks were a sizzling 65 percent in the first half.
Kirk Hinrich's three-pointer cut the deficit to 81-74 for Kansas with 2:18 remaining. The Wildcats got back-to-back three-pointers from Rick Anderson and Stoudamire for a 13-point cushion and were on their way to a 10th straight victory.
In Pittsburgh, Julius Page sank a free throw with four-tenths of a second left to give second-ranked Pittsburgh a 65-64 victory over Georgetown in a Big East Conference battle.
Georgetown tied it at 64-64 on freshman Brandon Bowman's free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining, giving Pittsburgh enough time to get off a shot.
With Panthers star point guard Brandin Knight having fouled out, Page took the inbounds pass beyond center court, dribbled down the left wing and received a mild shove from Drew Hall before sliding under the basket.
Page sank his first free throw and missed his second intentionally as Pittsburgh (15-1, 5-0 Big East West) ran its home winning streak to 17 games and continued its best-ever start in the conference.
Elsewhere in the top 10, No. 3 Duke downed Georgia Tech, 91-71; No. 4 Texas overwhelmed No. 20 Missouri, 76-55; No. 7 Oklahoma pulled away late to beat Baylor, 67-54; No. 8 Connecticut won over Villanova, 74-65; and No. 10 Kentucky whipped No. 13 Alabama, 63-46.
Spurs win before long road trip
SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Tim Duncan collected 22 points and 11 rebounds Saturday night, allowing San Antonio to cruise past Detroit, 108-76.
Stephen Jackson added 20 points for the Spurs, who played their last home game for nearly a month.
San Antonio has won nine of its last 10 games at SBC Center but will not see its home floor for quite a while. The Spurs embark on a nine-game, 20-day road trip Monday as the arena prepares to host a rodeo.
The marathon road trip made Saturday's game an important one for the Spurs, who shot a season-high 61 percent from the floor and posted their most lopsided victory of the season.
Duncan scored 11 points in the first quarter as San Antonio jumped to a 30-14 lead. Steve Kerr scored five points and Duncan added three during a 14-4 run the Spurs used to open the second quarter and build the cushion to 44-18.
Other NBA results: Philadelphia 97, Miami 91; Minnesota 97, Washington 89; Atlanta 102, Cleveland 101 in overtime; Seattle 95, Memphis 83; Milwaukee 88, Denver 75.
Senators rally twice
OTTAWA, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Daniel Alfredsson scored his second goal of the game 2:22 into overtime Saturday night, giving Ottawa a 4-3 decision over Buffalo.
Ottawa rallied twice before pulling out the victory in a meeting of teams in deep financial trouble.
Prospective Sabres owner Mark Hamister on Friday received a fourth -- and apparently final -- extension from the NHL to complete his purchase. Senators owner Rod Bryden got a weekend reprieve from two banks with which he is trying to build a deal to retain the team.
Both teams have done a remarkable job putting their financial troubles behind them, combining for just one loss in their previous 15 games.
But Alfredsson ended Buffalo's seven-game unbeaten streak when he got a pass from Todd White at the inner edge of the right faceoff circle and one-timed a blast that trickled between the pads of goaltender Martin Biron.
Other NHL results: Atlanta 4, New York Rangers 1; Washington 1, Montreal 1; Pittsburgh 5, Chicago 3; Boston 1, Philadelphia 0 in overtime; Colorado 3, Toronto 0; Columbus 4, New York Islanders 1; Florida 3, Carolina 2 in overtime; Dallas 4, St. Louis 2; Nashville 3, Tampa Bay 2.
Frazar leads Phoenix Open
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Harrison Frazar carded a 4-under-par 67 Saturday to seize a one-shot lead after the third round of the Phoenix Open.
Frazar, who has had at least a share of the lead following each round, had six birdies and two bogeys at the TPC of Scottsdale to reach 17-under 196. He took the lead with an eight-foot birdie putt at the short, par-4 17th.
Tim Petrovic finished a shot off the pace after shooting a bogey-free 68. He had earned a share of the lead Friday with a career-best 63. Petrovic and John Huston, who shot a 66, stood at 16-under 197 for 54 holes.
Rahlves wins World Cup downhill
KITZBUHEL, Austria, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Daron Rahlves posted the first United States World Cup downhill victory on the famed Hahnenkamm Saturday.
A two and half hour delay did little to faze the United States skier, who blitzed down the shortened course in 1 minute, 9.63 seconds, to collect his second victory of the season.
"I feel like this is my destiny," Rahlves said. "It's the greatest feeling in the world.
Switzerland's Didier Cuche climbed the downhill podium for the first time this season, finishing runner-up in 1:09.68. Norwegian veteran Kjetil Andre Aamodt was third in 1:09.71.
The victory came at a perfect time for Rahlves, who will enter the upcoming world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, as one of the favorites in the speed disciplines.
Rahlves also won a downhill in Bormio, Italy, in late December and has graced the podium five times in all this season.
The only other American to have ever won a downhill on the Strief was ski legend Buddy Werner, who triumphed in 1959, nine years before the creation of the World Cup circuit.
Dodgers trade for Daryle Ward
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers added a lefthanded bat Saturday, acquiring outfielder Daryle Ward from Houston for minor leaguer Ruddy Lugo.
Joining Shawn Green, Todd Hundley and Fred McGriff to give the Dodgers plenty of pop from the left side of the plate, the 27-year-old Ward provides Los Angeles with depth in the outfield and a potent bat coming off the bench.
After hitting a career-high 20 home runs for Houston in 2000, Ward swatted just 21 over the past two seasons, including 12 in 136 games in 2002. In 418 career games, he has a .269 average with 49 homers and 188 RBI.
The younger brother of Houston shortstop Julio Lugo, 22-year-old Ruddy Lugo split the 2002 season with Class A Vero Beach and Class AA Jacksonville, posting a 10-3 record with a 2.89 ERA. Drafted by Milwaukee in 1999, Lugo was dealt to the Dodgers with Marquis Grissom in February 2001 for Devon White.
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