After all of the consternation about the weather and the first Super Bowl ever held in the New York metropolitan area, it was a pretty decent day by early February standards for all except the Denver Broncos. During Super Bowl week, perceptive lead Fox Sports voice Joe Buck told me that the weather was far worse in Dallas last year. He also pointed out that even though New York had a cold week, the conditions were far better than those in Southern cities as Atlanta and New Orleans.
Giants co-owner John Mara is one of the most accessible and likable sports executives you will ever meet. I was surprised that he wandered through the Super Bowl media party without any aides. “Even if you are not a football fan the energy and excitement of the Super Bowl raises the spirits of everyone living in the metropolitan area,” Mara told me. He concurred with my analogy of how even diehard Democrats enjoyed having the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004.
To the NFL’s credit, the league did not shy away from the issue of concussions as on the first day of Super Bowl Week, former All-Pro players Mike Haynes and Ted Johnson, along with a number of medical experts, discussed the newest technology designed to record needless helmet hits in youth football leagues. Former Harvard defensive tackle and onetime World Wrestling Entertainment star Christopher Nowinski is spearheading the drive to get leading technology companies to work with helmet manufacturers so that blows to the head can be counted the way pitches in Little League are counted for young arms.
Stamping out concussions is dear to Nowinski’s heart because they ended his WWE career prematurely. Both he and Haynes concede that it will be difficult for old-school Texas Pop Warner football coaches (the kind you see on Esquire Network’s “Friday Night Tykes”) to change their ways of teaching how to tackle. Chris also emphasized to the press that concussions don’t just occur in football but in high school sports such as lacrosse and soccer. Women are no more immune to the dangers of head trauma in sports than guys are.
The next day Fox Sports had its talent and execs meet with the press. Jay Glazer, who broke the story about Jets head coach Rex Ryan telling his team that he expected to be fired with two games to go in the season, claimed he never said that he thought that Rex would get canned. “He did one of the best coaching jobs in NFL history this past year. I think that he was just trying to motivate his players for the final two games of the season,” Glazer said.
Former ESPN and current Fox Sports air personality Erin Andrews grew up in Tampa, Fla., which has always been a popular domicile for professional wrestlers. When I asked her if she thought that Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s infamous post-NFC Championship interview was a homage to the WWE, she claimed that she knew nothing about pro wrestling. When I pointed out how pro wrestlers were like movie stars in her hometown, Andrews replied “I grew up following Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, not Hulk Hogan.” I think that she protested too much.
Fox’s Joe Buck was happy to have the Super Bowl in New York for another reason. “I am leaving for Europe from JFK the day after the game,” he said when asked if he had any vacation plans.
The Super Bowl chill in the New York air certainly gladdened the hearts of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, since Glendale, Ariz., (located 45 minutes from Phoenix) will be the home of the 2015 Super Bowl. The Caribbean island nation of Aruba had a booth at the GBK Suites, a gifting lounge for NFL players and assorted VIPs, many of whom were certainly looking for a warm-weather getaway after “The Big Game.”
Bobblehead dolls have long been the most popular giveaway promotions at baseball stadiums. Of course the figures that are given out are inevitably great players from a given team’s present or past. A Long Island company called All Bobble Heads was at the GBK Suites showcasing its figures. The difference was that instead of making celebrity figures it makes bobbleheads from the likenesses of regular people such as you and me. Now that’s what I call a clever concept.
Video game manufacturer EA used the Super Bowl to kick off the silver anniversary of its famous Madden NFL game by having an exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria [see separate story in qboro]. It is amazing how in 25 years, Madden graphics of NFL players have gone from being Pacman-like to being so lifelike that you have to remind yourself you’re not watching a live game on network TV.
Super Bowl Week is a big time for product launches and rebranding for corporate America. Radio Shack executives showcased a remodeled Manhattan store to the media and spoke about how exercise technology such as FitBit, which measures cardio and calorie-burning activity, and Sol Republic earbuds, which are popular for those working out, are becoming a key part of its business. Likewise Nutrilite, a health supplements manufacturer, brought in recently retired Giants running back Brandon Jacobs and Redskins QB Kirk Cousins to promote its new Bodykey line of weight-loss products to the press.
I wasn’t very impressed with Super Bowl Boulevard, which ran down 7th Avenue from 47th Street to 34th Street. The walkways were too narrow for the masses and it seemed as if every exhibition had folks 10 rows deep. The best free option for the public was Pepsi-Cola’s Pepcity, which was a large indoor bubble in Bryant Park that offered free food, samples of new Pepsi beverages, autographs from NFL players such as Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, and pretty good entertainment from an array of singers and dancers.
Yes, even vegetarians can enjoy NFL football. Gardein, which makes a variety of tasty frozen vegetarian entrees, held a tailgating party for the press on Super Bowl Sunday in Manhattan. The firm served meatless sliders and wings which frankly tasted pretty much like their less healthy meaty counterparts.
The end of the NFL season means that spring training is imminent. If you are planning on seeing the Mets in Port St. Lucie, you may want to stay just a bit up the road in Vero Beach. It has been a number of years since the Dodgers left Vero but the town is still quite picturesque. The Vero Beach Hotel & Spa is located on the Atlantic, and it’s affordable luxury.
Of course before everyone fully concentrates on baseball we will be occupied with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The best-known American athlete, skier Lindsey Vonn, will not be competing as she recuperates from knee surgery. Of course NBC was not going to let a little thing like that keep one of the most attractive athletes in recent memory from its airwaves. The Peacock Network signed her to work as an analyst at the Games. The current issue of TV Guide is a quick but excellent primer on the various members of Team USA.
This should be a big year for sports tourism in North Carolina. The best golfers in the world will descend once again on Pinehurst for the US Open. It has been 25 years since the Kevin Costner film “Bull Durham” was playing in theaters. This year Durham will be hosting the Triple-A All-Star Game. Finally, Charlotte will be unveiling its new minor league ballpark in April.
The 2014 International Housewares Show held in Manhattan two weeks ago was far more than just a display of different manufacturers’ cooking utensils, plates and glasses. Coolgear, a company out of historic Plymouth, Mass., makes Coca-Cola beverage tumblers that are ideal for storing a soft drink if you have opened the can and don’t want to finish it at that moment.
Another idea that is so simple that you wonder why no one had created it before is the Safe Pillow. This hypoallergenic pillow is ideal for sleeping but also has a zippered compartment within so that you can store your valuables such as a cell phone or wallet. This is a good idea if you have an early flight and you want everything in one spot the night before, or if you are having a guest staying over at your place.
Everyone who has ever worked in an office or even at home has crumpled up papers and tossed them at a waste paper basket with fantasies of being a shooting guard in the NBA. Spalding has produced a waste paper basket made of basketball hoop net for more authenticity. In a nice jab at licensing fees, Spalding says that its receptacle is approved by the WPBA, the Waste Paper Basketball Association!