One can only imagine what Mr. Grant would have to say about Randy Moss walking in the footsteps of seminal television star Mary Tyler Moore.
The retired Vikings wide receiver will do just that in the days leading up to Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium.
ESPN announced Tuesday that it will broadcast from the Crystal Court in the IDS Center on Nicollet Mall beginning Jan. 31, the Wednesday before the Feb. 4 Super Bowl.
The network will be near the heart of Super Bowl Live, the 10-day party on Nicollet Mall that will feature free concerts, food trucks and activities. The Crystal Court locale gives fans of the ESPN set an advantage they wouldn’t have outdoors: skyway-level vantage points of the celebrity-filled broadcasts on the ground floor. The network’s stage is usually packed deep with fans in the days leading up to the big game.
“This is our headquarters here, but our plan for the week would be to show off the city,” said Seth Markman, ESPN’s senior producer in charge of Super Bowl week coverage, on a final visit to the Crystal Court before the event. “I want people to turn on the TV and say, ‘These guys are in Minneapolis.’ ”
Markman wouldn’t reveal information about guests who will be on the show, but said fans should expect to see Hall of Fame football players alongside other stars and celebrities stopping by the set.
A couple of ground-floor businesses welcomed the temporary tenant, including “Love From Minnesota,” a gift store featuring all sorts of locally themed products, and Mission American Kitchen & Bar.
“I don’t have any problem with them as long as they spend money at my place,” said Bruce Nader, manager at Mission. “It’s going to be a great week for everybody. It’s the Super Bowl. People love football.”
At the Minnesota store, Arnaldo Bernal echoed those comments. “We’re all for it,” he said. “As long as they don’t block the door and I can get customers in.”
ESPN will produce daily editions of “SportsCenter” and “NFL Live” as well as the Super Bowl Sunday edition of “Postseason NFL Countdown” with Moss, the former Vikings wide receiver, and fellow commentators Matt Hasselbeck, Chris Mortensen, Sam Ponder, Louis Riddick, Rex Ryan, Adam Schefter and Charles Woodson.
The ESPN set opens the morning of Jan. 31 and runs up to the start of the game. Just outside the doors of the IDS, Super Bowl Live will take place between 12th and 6th streets on Nicollet Mall. The main performance stage for that event will be on 8th Street.
Markman and about a dozen ESPN staffers visited the site. The stage will face Nicollet Mall, but will be open so passersby can watch from the skyway. The stores and restaurants will be open and accessible, Markman said.
“We’re not in the way. If anything, we’re here to show off some of these retailers and be a good neighbor,” he said. “The whole country is going to learn about Bogart’s Doughnut.”
The doughnut shop with the red sign will be visible behind the ESPN stage.
The IDS Center appeared in the opening montage of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the early 1970s. Mary was seen dining at what became Table No. 4 at Basil’s restaurant overlooking the courtyard. Visitors can take a seat at the table, commemorated with a plaque, for a bird’s-eye view of the ESPN set.
The Crystal Court was the site of ESPN broadcasts during the 2001 men’s basketball Final Four at the Metrodome.
As for how Moss stacks up to Mary, he may not turn the world on with his smile, but he could, with a single dazzling catch, take a nothing game and make it all seem worthwhile.