Triangle Super Bowl Diary, Day 5: Parties, Problems, and That Action
We’re back. Friday. After five days full of way too much Super Bowl coverage from everyone on earth, we’ve got just two more days before there’s an actual football game. In between, there have been parties, concerts, a giant toboggan that is actually more like a big slide, Marshawn Lynch turning himself into a national hero, and then the weather, obviously. Here’s an update on the weather this week:
Indeed. Donnie speaks the truth.
But good news! As of now, Sunday’s weather is expected to be 49 degrees during the day and 26 degrees that night. No snow Super Bowl apocalypse, no new millennium ice bowl, just some standard early February weather. It could be a lot worse.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, when I came here, I was hoping for any kind of weather apocalypse that would make this game the most chaotic Super Bowl ever. A full-on blizzard, a nasty sleet storm, or maybe just some good ol’-fashioned single-digit temperatures that make everyone want to die. North of the Wall weather.
Putting the Super Bowl in New York and New Jersey never totally made sense, but since they did it, I wanted to get the most of the experience. Just straight-up anarchy that we remember forever.
On the other hand, memorable in the long run wouldn’t necessarily make up for a miserable Sunday, so who knows? I’m actually excited about watching these teams play football, so maybe we’re coming out ahead here if the weather doesn’t hijack everything.
Either way, Donnie Wahlberg can rest easy. It’s warming up around here. A few other notes before the end of the week …
The Toboggan Run Is Real But Not That Spectacular
We mentioned the Super Bowl toboggan run on Monday. It was billed as a “60-foot-high, 180-foot-long toboggan run,” and I said it “might single-handedly make up for everything else about this week that makes no sense.”
Alas, there were two problems.
1. That’s just plastic up there. There is no ice. Roger Goodell promised a toboggan run. If it’s a giant water slide, call it a giant water slide, and we can get excited about that instead. Don’t promise Norway and deliver North Florida. In retrospect, I guess the NFL didn’t think it was a good idea to build a real ice slide that would almost certainly end in horrific injuries for 20 percent of participants. But that was all part of the appeal!
2. The lines were every bit as unbearable as you’d imagine. Or maybe worse. I bought the $5 ticket, and then went back a little later to find a line that would’ve taken a solid hour and a half to get through for that big-ass slide. This is how I failed to test the giant toboggan. Failed you, failed me, failed Grantland. This tweet was one big lie. But nobody should ever spend 90 minutes in Times Square, especially when it’s 20 degrees and full of 100,000 people squeezed together elbow to elbow.
The only highlight of the toboggan experience was seeing a scalper selling Super Bowl toboggan tickets. God bless America.
Maybe it’ll be different this weekend. Until then, R.I.P., toboggan dreams. And speaking of Times Square …
The Problem With the New York Super Bowl
The NFL created Super Bowl Boulevard across 13 blocks in midtown Manhattan and Times Square to act as the epicenter of the Super Bowl celebration. In practice, this scene will give you a panic attack if you stay long enough.
We knew it would be bad in Times Square, but it’s kind of like football-themed New Year’s Eve out there. Complaining about crowds in Times Square seems pretty obvious, but the problem is that this is where 95 percent of the Super Bowl stuff takes place. Everywhere else in the city, you’d barely know New York is even hosting. Everyone’s just carrying on like normal. So … most of the city will make you forget they’re hosting the Super Bowl, and the one part of the city that actually reminds you the game is happening will also drive you completely insane. It’s not the greatest dynamic.
But let’s move on to brighter news.
Hasheem Thabeet Wins the Super Bowl
Last night, a friend of mine helped me get on to the list at Roc Nation’s Kevin Durant Super Bowl Party at the 40/40 Club. Durant’s in town to play the Nets on Friday. I had absolutely no business being there, but when you’re invited to worship in the house of the Illuminati, you don’t say no. A few observations:
• It’s one thing to be at a party with famous athletes, but when you’re around an athlete as incredible as Durant, pretty much any sense of “playing it cool” goes out the window. Everywhere he went the camera phones followed, generally from people staring right at him. And in a dark club, everyone’s camera phone would default to flash, making it even more obvious. Every time he went anywhere, a cloud of little flashes followed and all you could see was KD’s little head at the top with his Redskins hat.
• Durant spent way more time outside the VIP room than I would have in his position. But he seems pretty comfortable at the center of all this. Not really embracing it, but not shy, either. He’s just completely indifferent to the mobs of people trailing him at all times.
• That’s probably the only way you can stay sane if you’re that famous. Just ignore everyone but other famous people and old friends.
• Shout-out to the 50 people throughout the night who attempted to take selfies with Durant in the background.
• I’ll never forget the blonde girl who triumphantly snapped one, except KD saw her taking the picture and moved out of the background, so she turned around looking at her phone, then looked up and saw nobody was there. Great moment.
• Wale was there.
• If there’s a celebrity-filled event anywhere on earth, Wale is never not there.
• Russell Westbrook showed up wearing a designer shirt long enough to make you think he maybe bought it at a maternity store. For the five minutes he wasn’t in a VIP area, he was by the corner of the bar eating peanut M&Ms. King shit.
• The 40/40 Club is not actually ridiculous, but any club that plays 50 to 60 percent Jay Z songs is cool with me forever. Also, “Fuckin’ Problems” and “Feds Watching” are songs I’m going to love until I’m 80.
• Finally, Thabeet showed up around midnight wearing the bottom of a Scottish kilt over his pants. It was as amazing as it sounds. Aside from the obvious greatness of seeing a 7-foot-3 man from Tanzania rocking a Scottish kilt … Can you even imagine how jealous this made Westbrook? Hasheem Thabeet wins everything.
The Super Bowl Pop-Up Shop
I went to the Super Bowl shop above Macy’s. There were NFL garden gnomes ($27.99), Peyton Manning Lego Man ($15.00), New York–New Jersey Super Bowl shirts ($45.00), two different commemorative coins ($19.99), and so much more. There was a $50 Super Bowl XLVIII wine goblet. A bedazzled Super Bowl shirt for the ladies ($50), and Super Bowl maternity clothes for the other ladies. There was also this $450 jacket, which only makes sense if you imagine Goodell modeling it in his mirror, nodding to himself in a bitchin’ pair of Aviators. Completely naked.
All of Super Bowl week in the host city (and everywhere else) is one long reminder of how ridiculous the NFL’s power is, but nowhere is it laid more transparent than the pop-up shop. This stuff is sold because people buy it. Someone’s gonna buy the wine goblets. And the jackets. And the commemorative coins. Because if the NFL is selling it, people will buy it. For the same reason people will wait 90 minutes to take a picture with the Lombardi Trophy in Times Square. The NFL turns everyone into zombies.
None of it’s new, but it never stops being amazing. Pro football is the most popular sport in America, but the league is also better than anyone at capitalizing on that popularity, which is how the most profitable sport gets a little more profitable every year. The NFL is the shark from Jaws, and it will never stop eating.
I bought an $8 Super Bowl XLVIII rubber duck on my way out, because I’m no better than anyone. We’re all just peasants in Goodell’s kingdom. And with that, onto the game.
The Thing That Could Decide Everything
That’s just an A-plus athlete quote right there. And the point about the Seahawks’ defensive line is a good one. We’ve spent so much time talking about the Seahawks’ secondary that people forget about Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Red Bryant, and the other hell-beasts from Seattle’s front seven. They’re not quite as amazing as the secondary, but they’ve gotta be just as terrifying for the Broncos.
The one thing we’ve seen over and over again in big games over the past few years is that once great quarterbacks get hit, they tend to become pretty ordinary. Not bad, but nowhere near as dominant as they could be. It’s happened to Aaron Rodgers, to Tom Brady in his last two Super Bowls, we’ve seen it happen to Drew Brees, and it can definitely happen to Peyton Manning. If the Seahawks hit him early, this might not be as close as everyone expects.
One more thing.
That’s Why They Play the Game
It would be easy for someone who doesn’t like sports to call the Super Bowl the most obnoxious event on earth. Just look at Times Square this weekend. There’s so much talk about this one game that every year I start to get sick of the Super Bowl about five days before it even happens. I definitely feel weird and a little bit dirty participating in all this for the first time.
But the game saves everything. And the players, too. As corporate and unstoppable as the NFL is, the players are still awesome. Marshawn Lynch really is just about that action, boss, and none of this other stuff. Peyton Manning spent a year rehabbing from a freakish neck injury that absolutely should have ended his career, but he came back because football is his life. It’s like that for most of these guys. The coaches, too. Pete Carroll and John Fox have been coaching since they were 22 and 23 years old, respectively. Everyone involved in this game has spent their whole life chasing this.
Then there are guys like the Seahawks’ punter, Jon Ryan, who’s got his entire hometown rooting for him in Saskatchewan. They’re flying the 12th Man flag at Regina City Hall this week. You could find 50 players with a story like that.
When the game starts, those guys will make it awesome. For everything about the Super Bowl that’s obnoxious and ridiculous, the game usually makes it all worth it.
Anyway, I’m going to Nets-Thunder tonight to detox from a week of Super Bowl hype, and I’ll probably ignore most pregame coverage from here on out. But by Sunday morning, I’m gonna wake up and remember how great the Broncos have looked all year, how the Seahawks are the most badass defense I’ve ever seen, and how completely awesome it is that we wound up with these two teams in the Super Bowl. Then I’ll head to the stadium. It’s time for that action.