NEW YORK – For one week, Broadway became the boulevard of broken knees.
For one week, the NFL tried to dominate Times Square, from the TKTS booth to the NYPD station, and was rewarded with massive crowds, after renaming a patch of Broadway “Super Bowl Boulevard.”
A line formed at the miniaturized football field where you could try to kick an extra point. A guy in a Broncos Tim Tebow jersey booted one through on Friday, then Tebowed. The next guy up screamed “Omaha,” mimicking Peyton Manning, before shanking one into the net.
Of course, there are massive crowds in Times Square when the biggest attraction is the Naked Cowboy or the Olive Garden, so the NFL didn’t take Manhattan so much as it was engulfed by an unaware city.
In most locales, like in Minneapolis in 1992, the Super Bowl descends like a swarm of logoed locusts. In New Orleans, the Super Bowl is the life of a raging party. In New York, the Big Game stands on the corner and screams for attention like a comedy club barker.
This week, the Super Bowl was treated like an off-Broadway show — so far off Broadway that the actual play will occur in New Jersey.
“One unique aspect about the focus for this year’s Super Bowl has been on the weather,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday. “I told you we were going to embrace the weather. Of course, we don’t control the weather.”
With that, a flurry of fake snow began falling behind Goodell on the Lincoln Center stage. A few minutes later, real flakes began falling outside.
This week has proved that the Super Bowl and New York City are like pizza and ice cream, tasty in almost any iteration unless shoved into the same blender.
For those who buy tickets, the Super Bowl should be a vacation, not a forced march over freezing streets or a forced commute through crowded tunnels. New Orleans and Pasadena know how to host Super Bowls, and while Miami doesn’t necessarily know what it’s doing, the temperature usually cooperates.
It’s easier to get a ticket to the Super Bowl this week than to “The Book of Mormon,” and the Eugene O’Neill Theater doesn’t ask you to stand outside for seven hours to see the show.
In New York, the Super Bowl is one more traffic jam, and the inciter of one more internecine feud with New Jersey.
When Seahawks and onetime Jets coach Pete Carroll reminisced about his days “in New York” on Sunday, Rich Boggiano of Jersey City’s City Council interjected: “You said you’re glad to be back in New York, but I just want to remind you: You’re in New Jersey!”
Longtime New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica wrote a piece arguing that this is the New York Super Bowl even though the game will be played and the teams were housed and practiced all week in New Jersey.
Lupica wrote: “To say that Jersey and the city are ‘sharing’ this week is like suggesting that San Francisco will be ‘sharing’ Super Bowl L with Santa Clara in 2016 because the 49ers have moved there from Candlestick Park.”
He seems to be arguing that New York’s lights acted as the siren that caused the NFL to crash upon Jersey’s rocks.
Which is, in the manner of the locals, rude and true. If Jersey didn’t border New York, it wouldn’t be hosting a Super Bowl. If Jersey didn’t have an NFL stadium, New Yorkers wouldn’t have had to wait, impatiently, for the NYPD to escort buses of journalists through rush-hour traffic.
If you walked into Rosie O’Grady’s tavern this week — it’s tricky, finding an Irish bar in New York — you might find a few Seahawks or Broncos jerseys, but not many. Unlike in most cities, there were not bands of fans marching about, hollering about the game.
For one thing, it was cold. Low temperatures didn’t keep people from walking around Manhattan, but they walked quickly, bundled and single-minded. Minneapolis believes it will benefit from hosting a Super Bowl, but the result would be visitors questioning why anyone would ever live there. For Minnesota, the Super Bowl would be a tourist detraction.
New York’s charm is that it offers too much: Too many plays, too many restaurants, too many museums. You can’t take it all in. Adding the Super Bowl is like adding jalapeños to curry.
To summarize: The NFL held Super Bowl week in a cold city where it was greeted indifferently, while the state that will host the game stared daggers across the Hudson River.
Dear Mr. Goodell: Let’s all not do this again real soon.