Saturday, Feb. 2
The annual Commissioner's Party held the week of the Super Bowl is usually the place to be and be seen among the week's affairs. Tickets on the street can cost up to $1500 and no expense is spared when it comes to food and entertainment. It's sort of the royal ball of Super Bowl parties.
This year, partly due to the Sept. 11 attacks, the NFL decided to downgrade its annual Commissioner's Party. The idea was to incorporate it into a Friday night CBS made-for-television concert featuring Sting and Sheryl Crow. It was held at the New Orleans arena right next to the Superdome.
I thought it was a coup snagging a couple tickets but as it turned out, the arena was only around one-fifth full. On the floor of the arena, producers of the show had populated the front half nearest the stage with willing participants to make noise while the TV cameras were live. The back half of the arena was gated off and set up with tables for VIPs, including Robert Kraft and his entourage. From my vantage point way up at the top of the stands I could make out other owners like the Cowboys Jerry Jones making the rounds. I think I saw him talking with Redskins owner Dan Snyder. I hope Jones let him know he's created a dangerous precedent by paying someone with no NFL head coaching experience more than any other coach.
Anyway, from the opinion of some in the VIP area, this year's substitute Commissioner's Party was little bit disappointing. Not that they disagreed with the decision to cutback, but I guess the atmosphere and treatment was more hurried and less schmoozy than in the past. And after all, that's the point of any party down here.
Hey, I had a good time even though I could have used more music and less breaks for the TV production. The food and drink were free and I had a delicious roast beef po-boy (in case you're wondering, a po-boy is a hot sub with gravy and the usual condiments).
Saturday was the last day of preparation for the team. After a morning walk-through, they came back to the hotel for lunch and then packed to leave for an undisclosed location. That's something that I think all teams do the night before the big game. It's good to get away from all the hype and commotion of the team hotel. We've got people coming to pick up tickets, sponsors visiting marketing and the lobby full of Patriots fans. The whole scene is not conducive to what these guys need to do – get mentally prepared to play in the biggest game of their lives.
Members of our Finance department and upper management were really scrambling this morning trying to figure out the logistics of flying home all the people sent down. It wasn't so much flights and such as it was getting luggage out of the hotel and bus schedules. Another flight of people was coming down Sunday morning and then going back after the post-game party early Monday morning. I'm still amazed they pulled all this off on such short notice.
The lobby at the team hotel had been increasing in activity throughout the week. By today, it was all out pandemonium. A New Orleans band marched through playing music, Patriots Cheerleaders signed autographs, an occasional player sighting would have people seeking autographs scurrying in their direction. Every so often a Let's Go Pats chant would break out. People were ready for some football.
Word was traveling fast about a Patriots pep rally at a place called the Corner Oyster Bar & Grill located in the French Quarter. I figured it would be a good place to give out some Patriots Football Weekly's. A bunch of us got in a van and brought down some boxes.
By the time we got there around 6:15pm, the place was a madhouse. It was wall-to-wall Patriots fans. Some guy standing on a table yelled for people to clear a path and we somehow managed to bull through the crowd. We broke open the boxes and fans grabbed PFWs like they were money. The owner of the bar was on a ladder throwing out Super Bowl paraphernalia and people were just going wild.
Overall, I've seen many more fans in Patriots garb than Rams garb. I'm surprised since the Rams were expected to get here and people would have made arrangements well in advance while Patriots fans had to scramble. I guess we travel better.
Since tomorrow is going to be a long day, I decided to take it easy after the pep rally. A group of us had dinner in the French Quarter at a jazz bar and restaurant and then headed back to the hotel. In less than 24 hours, we'll know whether or not the Patriots are World Champions.