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Of Super Bowls and radio shows

It was May 1987, one week before the host city for Super Bowl XXV was to be announced at a press conference in San Diego, and Walter Baldwin's heart had just dropped to his stomach.

Baldwin, chairman of Tampa's Super Bowl Task Force, had learned that a key player in Tampa's bid, Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse, was going to skip the press conference to vacation in China.

Baldwin panicked. How could the home team's owner miss the announcement? He called Culverhouse. "What have you done?" he yelled.

Apparently, Culverhouse knew something Baldwin didn't. "Don't worry about it," he said calmly. "It's all taken care of."

Long story short: "It turned out great," Baldwin said.

A former Tampa Sports Authority chairman, Baldwin was involved in Tampa's successful bid to land Super Bowl XVIII in 1984, assisting with transportation issues.

But in 1987, Baldwin took the reins as the man in charge of bringing the silver anniversary Super Bowl to Tampa.

Had he known the problems he'd face when the day arrived in 1991, he might have declined the responsibility.

Super Bowl XXV kicked off shortly after the onset of the Gulf War with Iraq in January 1991, which gave Super Bowl planners the difficult task of combining a party atmosphere with tight security and a respectful attitude.

"Kind of like what we're going through now, with the terrorists," Baldwin said. "A lot of problems that you wouldn't have under "normal times.' "

Another battle played out locally. Baldwin had proposed to move that year's Gasparilla parade to the weekend of the Super Bowl, but black civic leaders were unhappy about an event featuring all-white Krewes on a national stage.

Baldwin, a member of the then-all-white Ye Mystic Krewe, scrambled to put together another parade, Bamboleo, in Gasparilla's place.

"We had to run around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to put together a parade of some sort, because that's what we'd obligated ourselves to do," he said. "It cost us a bunch of money to do that. It wasn't very good for the community, in my opinion."

In the end, though, the game itself was one of the most memorable in Super Bowl history, and Baldwin thinks it played a big part in Tampa landing its third Super Bowl in 2000.

"We just had a lot of complications, and we hurdled all of them," he said.

Baldwin, who at 73 has since retired from his insurance firm, says he thinks Tampa will land another Super Bowl sometime in the not-too-distant future.

"We did a hell of a job, in my opinion," he said.

Chuck Harder spent about three decades on the radio in Tampa, but darned if you can hear him here today.

Not that he doesn't want to come back.

"I'm ready any time," he says. If local radio stations would just give him a call, he says, "we could be back on tomorrow."

As it stands now, Harder is doing okay outside of Tampa with his show For the People, a consumer-advocacy show based in White Springs.

The program, which has roots in Tampa, has been picked up by more than 350 radio and television stations nationwide, making Harder one of the nation's most widely heard talk-radio hosts.

Harder came to Tampa in the 1960s and spent years hosting consumer advice shows on WFLA-AM 970 and WPLP-AM 570. He wasn't a lawyer, but he offered his opinions on listeners' day-to-day struggles on the radio.

Harder founded his own radio network based on the success of For the People on WFLA. He'd sit in his Tampa home and broadcast all the way to New Hampshire.

For Harder, radio was a labor of love. In the mid 1990s, he and his wife, Dianne, put their life savings into the network and the White Springs studio space.

Harder bills For the People as an educational, tax-exempt organization, operating on donations from listeners. That explains why, despite his wide audience, he has never experienced the success of the Rush Limbaughs or Michael Reagans of the world.

But recently, Harder's life and career have been on hold.

In 1999, Harder tore up his leg joints in a couple of nasty falls. He now wears enormous black braces on his legs and uses a wheelchair.Since then, he has focused his Since then, he has focused his energies on a full return to the airwaves. And he's looking to return to the market where For the People got its start: Tampa Bay.

Despite having 5,826 loyal local fans _ the number of people that he says have written to him from the Tampa Bay area _ Harder's show hasn't been heard here since 1996, when he was on WBDN-AM 760 in Brandon.

The show can be heard on shortwave radio _ show times can be found at www.chuckharder.com _ but Harder is ready for his show to return to AM.

"It'd be nice to be back on the air in Tampa," he says. "If I was given the chance and given a good signal, I could bring them a good audience."

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