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Gries, Storm have a score to settle

She has since washed her hair, but Sherry Gruden still can't shake the scent of beer, soda and curses dumped on her when the Tampa Bay Storm lost to the Orlando Predators May 21 in Orlando.

"We had a few women in our group with children _ one of the women was pregnant _ and I did not feel safe," said the wife of Storm quarterback Jay Gruden.

"They get treated like that " said Jay, rolling his eyes slightly, "I mean, it's just a game."

Tell that to Bob Gries. The Storm owner has embarked on a radio campaign this week, attempting to portray Saturday's Tampa Bay-Orlando rematch at the Florida Suncoast Dome as a grudge match between the teams and their fans. Gries has produced ads that hint at retribution for the hostility that his players, players' wives and coaches felt last month.

Ads that are as much a call to arms as a call to the box office.

"I feel really strongly about this," Gries said. "Once a year I might publicly say something _ it's just that every time we go down there (to Orlando) it has been a circus; their fans have treated us like animals."

Animals? "I think Bob is making a bigger deal than it is to sell tickets," Predators director of operations Eric Leins said, laughing. "My wife had beer spilled on her, too."

But the Storm players also felt abused in their 46-34 loss _ the only one of the season.

"I got doused, I got a Coke thrown at me, they were throwing papers and anything they could throw at us on the field, and the referees and security did nothing," wide receiver/linebacker Jeff Mayes said.

Injured Storm running back Doug "Tank" Landry, who was sitting in the stands during the game, became so incensed that he got involved in a fight. "It was the first fight in Orlando's 16 home-game history," Leins said.

On the field, the officials tried to contain the players' emotions. They ejected Stevie Thomas in the second half for a flagrant foul.

"We had like 20 penalties, a lot of personal fouls, the people fighting in the stands were getting to us," Gruden said. "We should have been above that."

When the rivals, both 4-1, meet Saturday, the outcome could determine home-field advantage during the playoffs. Dome manager Jerry Oliver hopes the fans won't "return any unsavory favors."

"We have tried our best to put a kibosh on something like that," Oliver said of potential disturbances. "I don't know if it spurs ticket sales or not, but our security will be so advised. It's ridiculous to try to make it into something other than a football game."

Oliver said the Dome will be adding more security, but only because he expects a crowd that could exceed 22,000. (As of Tuesday, more than 10,500 tickets were sold.) "Now, for example, when Guns N' Roses came, we obviously did beef up because we knew their history. We have not beefed up because of those remarks (from Gries)."

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