by Patrick P. Marek
The mayor of St. Paul said it best: “Hosting the Eagles in the Super Bowl is like having to be a bartender for the wedding of the girl who jilted you.” Only in this case, the girl was marrying a green-clad, beer-swilling, pole-climbing, chest-pumping, E-A-G-L-E-S-bellowing galoot. So, what does a proper Minnesotan do?
You unclench your teeth, force a welcoming smile, and kill him with kindness.
Light flurries turned the Nicollet Mall into a slippery snow globe, with Patriots and Eagles fans joining with thousands of Minnesotans who were determined to have a good time, despite the frigid temperatures. The place had a State-Fair-in-the-freezer feel, with bands playing, abundant food and drink booths, and attractions that included downhill skiing, ice sculpting and skating, and even a daredevil who did a death-defying flip over the mall on a snowmobile. Now that’s something you don’t see every day. The NFL experience was packed with families posing with the Super Bowl trophy and trying their hands (and feet) at NFL skills including 40-yard sprints, passing accuracy, and field goal kicking. It was fine spectator fare, with cute kids competing and many adult epic fails, especially at the field goal venue.
And everywhere you went, from the Nicollet Mall to the zip line over the Mississippi to the big game at U.S. Bank Stadium, you were met by an army of unbelievably friendly and happy volunteers who were eager to take your picture, give you directions, or answer questions. The positive perkiness factor was off the charts. Mary Richards would have been proud. All of the volunteers were clothed in distinctive (and reportedly almost too warm) cyan blue cold weather garb, but it was clear that they weren’t into it for the free gifts. It was obvious that all of the volunteers signed on, of course hoping that the Vikings were in the Super Bowl, but mostly wanting to be part of an elite team that wanted to show off the state that they love to the rest of the world.
As for the Eagles fans, although they came to Minnesota branded by the incidents where they gave the “Dilly Dilly” treatment to the visiting Minnesota fans, they got into very little trouble once they arrived on our frigid home turf … even after they won the Super Bowl. I asked a policeman if they had greased the light poles, and he said that is was so cold that any adventurous Philly fans would probably be frozen in place and have to be hosed off by the fire department. He said that law enforcement officials from all across the country were brought in to keep the Super Bowl safe and secure, but that there had been remarkably fewer incidents than they expected from the Eagles and Patriots fans, as well as Minnesotans. He attributed the subdued behavior to the friendly atmosphere and the frigid temperatures.
The Super Bowl itself was epic entertainment. The Eagles were able to win their first Super Bowl 43-33 over the defending champions, the New England Patriots, in a game for the ages. Over 70,000 fans (the majority of whom seemed to be wearing Eagle’s green), witnessed an offensive explosion that broke 18 Super Bowl records. Tom Brady threw for 505 yards in a losing effort, both teams combined for 1,152 yards of offense, and there was only one punt in a game that came down to the last play. Obviously, there were no records earned for playing superior defense. Tom Brady proved that he is the G.O.A.T., and Nick Foles deservedly won the MVP with a cold-blooded, deadly accurate performance. He also was the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with less than three regular season starts. He plans to become a minister after his playing days, and he certainly has plenty to be thankful for, including two questionable touchdown pass completions and the non-existent Patriots defense.
There was a prop bet that Pink was going to fly during her rendition of the National Anthem, but she stayed firmly rooted to the ground and delivered a beautiful performance despite battling an illness. Leslie Odom Jr. of “Hamilton” fame led off the pre-game program with a memorable version of “America the Beautiful” backed by two Twin Cities children’s choirs. Justin Timberlake’s halftime show featured the University of Minnesota Marching Band and was incredibly busy in size and scope, but it was hard to hear the vocals in the stadium (maybe it sounded better on television). I found his “duet” with the hologram of Prince to be a little creepy, especially the song choice. However, it was great to honor “The Purple One,” and when it flashed onscreen that Minneapolis was bathed in purple the crowd went wild.
The real star of Super Bowl LII (other than the awesome staff and volunteers) was U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota can lay claim to having one of the finest football (and concert, and soccer, and monster truck) stadiums in the country.
If it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of Minnesota State Senator Jeremy Miller, State Representative Gene Pelowski, and (although it kills me to say it) Governor Mark Dayton, the Vikings would be playing in Los Angeles right now, and all we would have is a big hole in the ground. They took a lot of political heat at the time, but the investment in a state of the art football stadium has already paid off in a Super Bowl … and the best is yet to come in future downtown development and events.
It was bittersweet watching the Super Bowl without the Vikings in it, but Minnesota deserves credit for an impressive season. They have some decisions to make in their coaching staff and at the quarterback position, but with a first round draft pick and over 56 million in cap space, the future is bright for the Minnesota Vikings. Until next year, stay purple my friends.