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Published: Saturday, 11/18/2000

Football or politics, Florida's in a frenzy

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - It's a game for all the marbles. Everyone's talking about this rivalry of rivalries. Everyone, it seems, is here to watch these two powerful forces apply all their wiles to score the big hit and walk away with a win.

Traffic is terrible. Hotels are jammed. Restaurants, such as they are in this smallish southern state capital city, are filled to the rafters. Don't even ask about the bars.

And then there is the race for president, the other contest that has been center stage here as Florida's top courts and state officials do battle over the statewide vote total and who should win the set of keys to the White House.

The politicians and attorneys who have reigned supreme here for the past 10 days have been not-so-politely shoved aside by rabid football fans who have flooded this city for the Florida-Florida State University game tonight.

On downtown street corners, T-shirt salesmen duel each other, one selling shirts commemorating the football game, and the other featuring different versions of shirts featuring two football helmets, one labeled “Al” and the other labeled “Bush.”

The political shirts are, well, not exactly selling like hot cakes.

In the state Senate office building at the state capitol, where hundreds of reporters have taken over and where they get their daily press briefings from the Gore and Bush campaigns, advertisements for lodging ask, “Do you know where you're staying this weekend?” Others declare rooms “available immediately.”

They can be had for up to $500 per night - cash only, please.



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