Take Dat! And party
Paul Higham saw a fairytale come true in Miami, and a whole lot more on Super Bowl Sunday.
By Paul Higham
Last Updated: 28/01/11 8:30am
The slogan on the New Orleans fans' T-shirts read 'Finish Strong', and I can think of no better way to describe both their team's performance and my own experience of Super Bowl XLIV.
After some mixed experiences of both the organisation and the lay-out of the Super Bowl in south Florida, Sunday erased any ill feeling whatsoever by being a classic day of superb 'ents' (as I like to say).
For a start, the sun was shining when I woke early doors, and I then discovered that Dunkin Donuts also provides a decent breakfast as well as free Internet - although the Wi-Fi problems on the clockwork laptop continued to annoy and frustrate in huge quantities.
However, a nice 20-minute stroll in the sun and I was at the media centre and on the first shuttle bus to Sun Life Stadium, as it's now called, and we were also treated to a police escort, which also caused some hilarity as normal punters on the roads took pictures somehow mistaking fat journos for a team of athletes!
It was a decent walk in the sun from the stadium to Calder Park racecourse where our pre-game party was being staged, but it was hard to argue when I got there - greeted by some charming American hostesses and a massive array of food and drink on offer.
Gayle forceUsing the American vernacular, Primesport, who organised the event, really 'hooked me up' on this one - just as they did in Tampa last year, although this year was even better with a superb view of the stadium from the top of the grandstand.
Munching down on a mouth-watering Argentinean steak (well two actually), and sampling the mini pulled pork sandwiches and Kobe beef burgers (the little ones always taste better for some reason?) and sipping on the kicking Colt (very strong) and Saint Who D'At (regulation strength) cocktails in the sun, it occurred to me that it wasn't a bad trip after all.
Banter from the NFL legends in attendance was great, none more so than Sky Sports' own Shaun Gayle, a Super Bowl winner with the Bears in 1985 and who turned out to be a legend in his own right off the field.
A great talker with fascinating and funny insight into the game and life outside of it, Gayle would definitely be on the list for my 'A beer with....' feature that I'd like to get off the ground - the title is self explanatory.
It did upset me to discover that Gayle had two hotel rooms, one in Ft Lauderdale and one in Miami, that he kindly said we could have used in emergencies, but that was 24 hours ago! Although maybe if I'd won a Super Bowl and not just been some chump from the UK then I'd have justifiably had two hotel rooms on the NFL too instead of my own budget hostel.
On to the game, and I know I'm going to be criticised for talking food again but they do look after the media in the NFL, with a packed lunch at your seat, regular hotdog runs, and constant choice of chilli or meatballs in the press room, followed by a post-game fajita bar! It's no wonder some members of the press are, shall we say, carrying a bit of timber nowadays...
On the field, the game turned out to be a cracker, maybe not the total points-fest expected but fascinating nonetheless, and maybe we should have guessed that the Saints would overcome adversity, in the form of a 10-0 deficit, to grab victory from the jaws of defeat.
Coach Sean Payton, a gunslinger of a play-caller, made the decision to go for the on-side kick after half-time and that successfully gave them all the momentum - with them even intercepting the great Payton Manning to effectively seal the most emotional Super Bowl win ever.
America was desperate for a fairy story, and they got their wish, but it may not be a one off the way the Saints have played.
One look at Drew Brees' emotion, and the sight of a number of fans around the stadium in tears showed just how much it meant to the Saints, with them seeing it more as the final piece in their return from the dark years post-Katrina as much as winning their first ever Super Bowl.
It was a night to remember for all concerned, maybe a night to forget for Manning and his Colts, but a night, and another Super Bowl experience, that I will find hard to beat. Saying that, I think Dallas should do a great job next year - everything's bigger and better in Texas, so bring it on!