Twenty years ago, during Super Bowl XXVI, I asked my dad when the Super Bowl might come to Indianapolis and what he told me has always resonated with me. He said “Rance…never. The city couldn’t handle the Super Bowl and the Hoosier Dome isn’t big enough and its too cold here in Indiana.” My Dad went on to root for the Bills that night, which he did 4 times and all 4 times came up with the short end of the stick. I told myself I would one day go to a Super Bowl but never thought it would be 35 miles from where I was born and raised.
Indianapolis’ Super Bowl Journey starts one place and one place only: The Debate of 1998. The goofy looking skinny kid from Tennessee or the Pretty Boy from the Pullman. Dad Wanted that Ryan Leaf kid and I wanted Peyton. The day after the Colts selected Peyton Manning with the 1st overall pick we went down to the RCA Dome and watched him. The night they unveiled the new Indiana Stadium was the night that Peyton tied Dan Marino with his 48th Touchdown pass of the season. (a record Tom Brady broke in 2007.)
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Most people don’t realize that Indianapolis really wanted Super Bowl XLV – the one that went to Jerry World down in Dallas. Last year, during what would have been Super Bowl week in Indiana, the high all week was 7 degrees and, oh yeah we had an ice storm.
Now onto this year: I rolled into Indianapolis from LA on Tuesday and my first stop was Bankers Life Fieldhouse to see my Pacers play.
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The Pacers were a sell out (playing the Nets mind you). I looked across the arena and saw Brandon Jacobs among other NFL players. It was official. I had the Super Bowl itch and the only way I could satisfy it was by partying downtown at Super Bowl Village.
A couple of days later NIKE was having a party at a location close to downtown and Indianapolis got rid of their open container law for the week so I popped into the NIKE party and grabbed 4 beers for my sister and 3 friends, a plate of parmesan chicken and fried squash and a peach cobbler. I’m the Designated Driver for life since I don’t drink. As we walked towards the free Darius Rucker concert, Super Bowl Village came into view and it hit me: this is real, this is really happening. The other 4 squeezed towards Darius Rucker and I decided that, like the Blowfish, I wanted far away from that scene. I was off to explore.
There was the zip line which I am sure everyone saw, a Nike party that I had already snuck into once, and oh, there’s Andrew Luck, Brandon Weeden, RG3, Trent Richardson, and of course the Honey Badger standing right in front of me. After about an hour at the NIKE party again, I hit up Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, ordered an appetizer, then realized that I had stumbled into a Hall of Fame heaven. The table behind the bar sat Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. Over to the right were Doug Flutie and Jim Kelly and Steve Young. To the left were Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson and Chris Carter. I ate my soup and told Steven Jackson that he was they only person at his table that had not played for the Colts and Rams and we would love to have him in Indianapolis someday. As I went to pay for my bill the bartender told me that Mr. Johnson had taken care of my tab. Keyshawn Johnson. Must have been the USC sweatshirt I was wearing. I thanked Key and told him to Fight On!
When I walked out, I noticed a barricade blocking a huge crowd from entering St. Elmo’s Steakhouse down the street so I walked around the group of about 300 or so, told the host and security out front that my party was already inside and surprisingly, they let me right in. St. Elmo’s was THE Super Bowl spot. Tom Brady and Eli Manning dined there one night, as did Coughlin and Belichick. The night I was there it was Adam Sandler, Ciara (the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in person), and Dan Patrick and his Danettes. I bellied up to the bar, sat down, and asked the bartender to turn the TV to TNT for the Clippers game. My buddy Josh shows up, we both order 45 dollar steaks and french fries because we are Indiana Classy and we watch the Clippers game. Now mind you we should not be in St. Elmo’s, we just should not. Every one in there has a Super Bowl Ring. The Nuggets start to pull away from the Clippers and Josh and I start chatting up Jamal Lewis, the former Raven. I don’t know how it happened but Josh and I put on a show and we basically took over the whole bar area and made friends with everybody including Woody Johnson, owner of the Jets, who picked up our tabs. As for the steaks: I am serious when I say that NY Strip made me temporarily forget who I was, where I was, and what I was doing there. It was that amazing.
Friday started at about 11:00 a.m. My sister and I walked around Super Bowl Village to the JW Marriot where to get in you needed to show your key to the sheriff working security. Again, I just slipped past, grabbed a room key from the other side of the front desk when no one was looking, and got my sister in. We had lunch, and as we were leaving I spotted a police escorted bus come roaring towards the Marriot. I grabbed my sister (a huge Giants fan) and pulled her to the elevator. We went up to the second floor and when we got out, I found out my suspicions were right. There they were: Brandon Jacobs, Victor Cruz, every Giant came through. Tuck, JPP, Nicks, and Bradshaw. And then it happened. Eli appeared, playbook in hand.
By Saturday everyone was in Indy. After hitting up Magic vs Pacers, I snuck a bunch of friends into the JW Marriot and stayed at the bar until 3 am. Gotta love that stolen room key. We had conversations with Chris Berman, Archie Manning, Jerry Jones, John Clayton, and Matt Stafford who was surprisingly super cool. After Tebowing on the bar at 3 am it was time to drive the crew home to get ready for a Super Bowl in MY HOME STATE.
Super Bowl Sunday. I left the house early and had no traffic on my way to the city. After another JW Marriot lunch, I headed to Lucas Oil. Around 5:30 I was in the Lower Bowl on the 10 yard line or so. I went to the gift shop and bought a hat for 40 dollars and it hit me this was the first time since I got to Indianapolis that I had to go into my pocket and pay for something. My whole Super Bowl Experience in Indianapolis cost me 40 bucks. I feel like I did everything but the zip line.
Kickoff was impressive. The Flash Bulbs were unbelievable. The Giants first drive was nothing special and say what you want about it but the Patriots really got jobbed on that safety call. I feel like it was just a missed route and we all know Ochocinco doesn’t understand the playbook. The Patriots played extremely well in the first half and took a lead into halftime of 10-9. You could just feel how nervous the Giants fans were at halftime because they all knew Brady was getting the ball back, and they hadn’t really done anything in the first half.
Madonna at halftime was simply amazing. I was behind the stage so I only go to see the back portion, however I still feel it was the best halftime show I have seen in a long long time. When the second half started I just felt the Giants were lucky it wasn’t 17-0. After a couple of Giants field goals made it 17-15, the Wes Welker Drop rejuvenated the Giants and Eli put together a drive that placed the Giants right in front of me when Bradshaw scored with about a minute left.
And suddenly the Giants were The Champions of Super Bowl XLVI.
After the game winded down we went and partied in the streets of Indianapolis and part of me was sad knowing that this was the only time we were probably going to get to do this in Indy.
Indianapolis was called the best host city ever by over 25 outlets. According to a buddy over at ESPN, there’s a 6 month window Los Angeles has to build a stadium and get Super Bowl 50. If not, that Super Bowl or the one after will be in….wait for it, wait for it…. INDIANAPOLIS – the little engine that could. Hoosier Hospitality at its finest.
Was it the best host city ever? Maybe. Was it the cleanest super bowl city? Maybe. Did Indianapolis show the world how to do a Super Bowl? YES! When I told my dad how well the city did he said it will never happen again so let’s just hope he keeps his streak going and we can invite the world back in a few years.