First of all, man, I’m lucky! I’ve now been to three Super Bowls in four years covering the New England Patriots. I knew when I took this job in Providence, I’d get to do some cool things following the Pats. Did I think it’d be this good? I don’t think I could’ve predicted that, and I feel spoiled by it. It’s been a fun four seasons in Foxboro!
This year when I boarded a plane with a three-person crew from our television station, and off we went for 10 days, I knew this trip was different.
Instead of packing shorts and flying to warm weather, we had to pack more layers into our suitcases, headed for the “Bold North.” We didn’t get to enjoy 80 degrees like we did in Phoenix and Houston. We woke up Thursday morning that week to -8 with a wind chill that made it feel like -21! The two-minute walk from the car into the Mall of America felt like navigating to the North Pole.
If you’re reading this in Presque Isle or Caribou, yes, it felt like YOU were hosting the Super Bowl!
That made this year’s adventure unique for all involved.
Usually, the Super Bowl festivities for fans begin early in the week, with the NFL Experience set up in a central part of the host city, and fans making their way out. Because of the cold temperatures, things really didn’t pick up until Thursday or Friday. Even then, only some decided to brave the cold weather. Others stayed inside, either in the Minneapolis Convention Center or the MOA. The party wasn’t nearly as lively as it would be in a warm location.
There were some positives to having Minnesota host. The people? Couldn’t have been nicer. All week, the volunteers and staff who ran the events did everything they could to assist you. I heard “welcome to our city” more than I did in Phoenix or Houston combined! That made being inside a giant mall all week more tolerable.
That’s where most of the activities took place leading up to the big game. The Mall of America not only played host to the Media Center, but also, housed both teams in hotels, and that made for a different kind of experience too.
I can’t remember ever seeing the players out & about leading up to Super Bowls XLIX or LI. This time around, it happened a lot. One night, before going on the air for our evening newscast, my partner Ian Steele spotted Kyle Van Noy and some others grabbing dinner at Chick-fil-A (could that have led to giving up 41 points to Nick Foles? There are no studies that say the Spicy Chicken Sandwich slows you down…yet!).
The next night, I was setting up at our live shot location and I heard, “hey, what’s up man?” I looked up and saw captain Devin McCourty, along with a few of his teammates, back from a short walk to Foot Locker. Even Bill Belichick was spotted courtside one night at a Timberwolves game! It was different.
Another positive: the stadium. When we finally got to Sunday, you could see why the NFL was okay with having Minneapolis host the Super Bowl. Holy moly, U.S. Bank Stadium was nice! Not only was it climate controlled inside, but the venue itself, the seating, the concourse…Vikings fans have a lot to look forward to when they come out to a game!
It’s a treat to see who shows up to the big game too. When you walk around at field level pregame, you see celebrities and other big names taking in the scene. On our way up to the seats, we walked by Peyton Manning and other legends coming off the field after a ceremony. We looked up at Minnesota basketball phenom Karl Anthony-Towns as he passed us, another star athlete in town who landed seats, and was really, really tall.
There were a few movie & television stars who were among those wandering too. As the game wrapped up, and we watched the final plays in one of the tunnels, we heard someone making a lot of noise behind us. It was the now-famous under-the-influence comedian Kevin Hart, cheering loudly as his hometown Eagles were about to win the Super Bowl for the first time.
The end result of the game was disappointing. Our crew from New England was ready for another confetti shower as the Pats celebrated another championship…but it didn’t happen. The week was cold and mostly indoors. That doesn’t sound like the greatest time, does it?
All in all though, as mentioned above, the Super Bowl experience was again enjoyable, for different reasons. For us spoiled reporters, we have to savor these moments, because we don’t know how much longer we’ll enjoy these opportunities. Will we welcome the warm weather in Atlanta next year though? You bet!