HOUSTON – Houston’s Super Bowl committee executed a symbolic handoff to Minneapolis on Monday morning, leaving our better-than-fair city with the same challenge that faced its predecessor and the Atlanta Falcons.
Minneapolis has to prove that the Super Bowl isn’t too big for it to handle.
The game and the spectacle surrounding the game have grown like an internet start-up since Minneapolis last was host to the big game. Google no longer fits into a garage and Super Bowl week can overwhelm almost any locale.
Houston is America’s fourth-largest city. It is a massive urban sprawl, and yet downtown Houston often felt too small to handle the week’s many events. According to the Houston committee, 1.3 million people visited their fenced-off NFL Live site and 130,000 tourists visited the city.
Minneapolis is much smaller than Houston, and our city’s footprint will be further reduced by the threat of frostbite. Short of building skyways from Rochester to Duluth, little can be done about weeklong overpopulation and gridlock.
Amid all of the obligatory compliments to Houston for its handling of the event, there is this fact: Every neutral observer I spoke with wished the game had been played in New Orleans, with its plethora of restaurants, bars and event centers, in a walkable city that knows how to throw a party without making anyone get into a car.
Super Bowl week will be a challenge for Minnesota, but if recent history is prologue gameday will provide a payoff.
When Minneapolis was host of the game in January 1992, the NFL occupied the city more than overwhelmed it. Then Washington blew out Buffalo in a snoozer of a game featuring one of the worst halftime performances in Super Bowl history, a lame attempt to make cold weather quaint.
So much has changed since then. The games are more often compelling and close — 10 of the past 16 Super Bowls have been decided by six points or fewer, and on Sunday the Patriots and Falcons played the first overtime in the game’s history.
And the halftime shows no longer look like high school pageants. Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney … the show has come a long way from Up With People.
What the Super Bowl undoubtedly will bring to Minnesota is star power. The first Super Bowl I covered was in New Orleans following the 1989 season. I was sitting in a bar late one night when Julius Erving sauntered in, looked around and announced, “The Doctor is in the house.”
These days, it’s hard to attend a Super Bowl without accidentally bumping into a dozen celebrities.
For a week next winter, Minneapolis will become the hub of American sports, entertainment and commerce. Our restaurants and skyways will be filled with Hall of Fame players, A-list actors, D-list actors, famous musicians and chefs.
If you’d like a table on Saturday night, Feb. 3, 2018, you might want to make a reservation today.
We might even be able to predict that certain football celebrities will make their way to Minneapolis. One might wear a hoodie, and another might bring a supermodel wife.
After 16 years of winning big, the New England Patriots might not be done. They won the Super Bowl this year without their second most-important player, injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, and with star quarterback Tom Brady missing four weeks because of a suspension.
Monday morning in Houston’s convention center, coach Bill Belichick smiled often and noted how quickly he can shift from celebration to planning.
“We’re five weeks behind every team in the 2017 offseason,” he said.
Brady said he doesn’t feel like he’s 39, that his training habits have him feeling better now than he did when he was 25.
Neither is even hinting at retirement, and the NFL remains vulnerable to their wiles. The big week, big game and big halftime show are coming to Minneapolis and the greatest winners in the Super Bowl era just might be there, too.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org