This is the 26th year I’ve been going to the Super Bowl. On one front that seems like a lot of games, but on another it seems like a drop in the bucket. I’m on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee and some of the guys on that committee have been to every Super Bowl.
But I have seen change at the game and for the week.
The Super Bowl has always been a celebration of pro football, a gathering of the greats of the game and kind of a convention for everybody associated with pro football. That used to be a fairly small group involving, players, coaches, administrators, media and a few associated businesses.
It’s not that anymore.
The game played on Sunday between the two top teams in the league is the common ground that holds the week together but the “party” is what the “game” has become. Corporations, the NFL and the Players Association have numerous events to promote different things. The league marches from one day to the next with a very regimented, scripted agenda, promoting one thing or another whether it’s a charity, neighborhood improvement project or something the league has cooked up overseas.
The NFLPA is involved in promoting themselves as a separate entity, a place where current and retired players can celebrate their “fraternity.” They have their projects, but they’ve put together a brand that promotes partying at the highest level. Those are the tickets that are coveted during Super Bowl week, the tickets to the “Players Parties” where stars from all kinds of sports are around and you might get a glimpse of Michael or Tiger, or Shaq or somebody who gives that party some kind of legitimacy.
Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Maxim Magazine and other nationally known businesses and publications have always sponsored the big parties. But because of the economy Playboy and SI have cancelled their parties. Maxim is still on the schedule but I’ve never been impressed with that party anyway. Lots of hype, not a lot of substance but maybe I’m looking for something else.
“See and be seen” is the mantra of the Super Bowl. If you’ve played in the league, you pretty much can’t go anywhere without getting mobbed, either for an autograph, a picture or some kind of interview.
Radio Row is one of the big changes at the game. It used to be that a few radio stations were broadcasting from different locations in the Super Bowl city. Now, the Super Bowl headquarters hosts a huge room full of broadcast entitles. From the NFL Network to every syndicated and local radio station in the country, everybody’s set up in the same room.
Imagine what happens when somebody like Joe Namath walks through that room! It’s bedlam with everybody trying to get a minute with a legend on the air. Of course, the legend is selling something: a book, a product, an appearance somewhere. It’s a big show, and it can be very entertaining.
All kinds of announcements are made at the Super bowl as well. Never heard of any? Of course not. They’re just being made there so the corporation or whomever can say they put it together at the Super Bowl.
Practices are closed except to one reporter and one photographer. Press conferences are everyday, even after the celebrated “media day” with select players and coaches available. Media day is truly a circus. This year the key to getting an interview was to wear a dress. Especially if you’re a man. Women garner all of the attention at this testosterone convention so if you wear a dress, and you’re a guy, you’ll stand out. If that’s what you’re looking for.
They’ll get around to playing the game. Eventually. Outside of the press conferences the players are generally sequestered but they can find their way around the Super Bowl city. There’s trouble to be had if that’s what they’re looking for.
Wonder why Tampa is hosting the game again? Strip Clubs, Nightclubs and Casinos. That’s the key as a Super Bowl host.
Warm weather helps, but not necessary.