Monday, January 31, 2011

After All The Hoopla, It's Still A Football Game. Here Are 10 Tips to Enjoy The Main Event

It's Super Bowl Sunday and all of the parties are over, the NFL Experience is closing and the eyes of the world are upon Arlington, Texas for Super Bowl XLV.

If you are lucky enough to go to the game, Super Bowl is very difficult to maintain focus for all of the extra-curricular activities off-the-field. But it is the football championship of the world so it's kind of a big deal.

You don't want to miss anything on the field because of something off the field, so here are 10 things to watch for during the game: (NOTE: Some of these don't apply if you are at home watching along with the 100 million+ other viewers so if you don't want to read about what you'll be missing, you might want to skip this next part.)

1. Down and Distance/Play Clock--It's the most important part of the game. Regardless of how many flash cards, or how big the coaches laminated play chart is, he doesn't start until he knows the down and distance and what time the play clock was set. Cowboys Stadium did not account for this important stat in the original video boards but have made improvements over the last year. Locate the down and distance scoreboard before the game starts and check it after every play along with the play clock because it will help with #2 below.

2. Alignments--It's not really necessary for the average fan to recognize cover two from single coverage but it will help if you notice the teams alignments before the snap. If Green Bay lines up three wide receivers to one side it usually means they are passing. Conversely, if Pittsburgh features a two tight end formation, they are usually running. Pay attention and after a couple of series you will be able to play along.

3. Tendencies--Super Bowl game plans usually don't vary from the regular season because coaches are leery of changing what got them to the big game in the first place. So know before the game that Green Bay features a balanced offense that uses a spread passing game to set-up the run (30 passes vs. 32 runs in the NFC Championship.) Pittsburgh has a run-heavy, ball control offense that sets up the pass(43 rushes vs. 19 passes in the AFC Championship.) Both defenses are similar because both coordinators were coaches together in Pittsburgh when the popular 3-4 Zone Blitz defense both teams use was created in the bowels of Three Rivers Stadium. Watch the game within the game as Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers move their defensive players around like chess pieces trying to disrupt the opposing teams quarterbacks. The goal is to make the other team one dimensional. Notice any deviations from the above during the game and it usually means that team is the first to blink.

4. Key Playmakers--Football is the ultimate team sport but just like Michael Jordan once said: there may not be an "i" in "team" but there is one in "win." So, yes a single playmaker can make the difference. For Green Bay, watch Clay Mathews and Charles Woodson on defense. For Pittsburgh, watch Troy Palomalo and James Harrison on defense. On the offensive side, in addition to the two quarterbacks, for Green Bay, watch rookie James Starks and Greg Jennings. When Pittsburgh has the ball, watch Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward. Listen for the announcer closely and whichever players' name is being called the most is usually the winning team.

5. Watch the Play Not the Ball--Once the ball is snapped is where most casual fans lose track of the play. Television has spoiled us because it just follows the ball. However, if you really want to enjoy the game, after you have mastered the first 4 items, pick a key playmaker on specific down and distance plays and focus the binoculars on them. Try watching them move without the ball. If you have done your homework, you'll amaze yourself how many times the ball ends up in your field glasses.

6. Binoculars--Speaking of binoculars, take them and use them during the game. They also are great for people watching during timeouts and during the half time show. But leave the case at home. NFL prohibits binocular cases from Super Bowl.

7. Headset--Depending upon your seat, you may not be able to follow along very well at certain points when the play is at the other end of the field regardless of the gigantic video board at Cowboys Stadium. Take a headset and pre-set it to the NFL radio network before the game. Their analysis and insight into injuries, timeouts and in-game statistics will make your experience more enjoyable.

8. Seat Location--Be sure and find where your seat is located with respect to the nearest watering hole, bathroom and exit upon arrival. You'll appreciate that simple fact four hours later when you are searching for the bathroom and concession stand during the game or nearest exit after the game.

9. Pace Yourself--Advertisers don't pay $2.8 million for a :30-second television commercial to air during Super Bowl for nothing. Television rules so in addition to the regular breaks at the end of quarters, two minute warnings and injuries, there are more commercial breaks during the Big Game than regular season games. So be prepared and attentive and you won't miss a play. Watch the 20-yard lines during breaks. If the network television coordinator with the oversized yellow or orange glove comes out onto the field and holds his glove in the air, it means a 2-minute network television timeout. Take your cue and run to the bathroom. If he comes out onto the field and uses a circular motion with his glove, it signals the referee to keep on playing. Oh and be careful of the dreaded :30-second timeout. Most coaches timeouts are :30-seconds.

10. Beer Man Is Your Best Friend--You didn't pay big bucks to miss a play waiting in the beer line. Upon arrival at your section, locate the nearest beer man, introduce yourself, tell him you're thirsty and tip him handsomely. It will pay off when you need a refill during the big play and lower your stress level.

So now that you have the basics, do your homework and enjoy the biggest football game in the world.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Super Bowl for Dummies (Or "Man Up & Get Off the Couch Losers. It's The Freakin' Super Bowl!")

OK, so you're lying there on the sofa somewhere in the middle of the country and wishing you were like Jimmy, Terry, Michael and Howie and had Super Bowl tickets. If you really want to go, think again sunshine because being in the game doesn't require a media pass.

But it does require a game plan, some moxie and big cahones just to get a shot.

Here's a proven strategy to score the most expensive ticket in sports Dallas-style and enjoy the total Super Bowl experience. It's a game of numbers and if you play the odds correctly, you just might score!

1. Transportation--Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is one of the largest and busiest in the world. Airlines are adding flights like crazy and upgrading plans to accommodate the Super Bowl traffic into DFW. Love Field is also in Dallas and Southwest Airlines is based there. If you can't find a flight suitable to your needs in Dallas, check out San Antonio, Houston and Austin. It's not a long drive. If all else fails, fill up the car with gas and hop on I-35 and drive.

2. Hotel--Dallas Fort Worth has 100,000 hotel rooms. The NFL took 24,000 for the Super Bowl. That leaves 76,000 rooms for visitors. The Convention and Visitors Bureaus are estimating 50% occupancy for the Super Bowl. That leaves 38,000 hotel rooms for you. If you want one and don't mind staying in Denton at the Holiday Inn on I-35, you're set.

3. Parties--Unless you're dating Pamela Anderson, are married to a beer distributor or willing to spend $1,500 to see Prince perform "Purple Rain" in a tent, forget about the parties. Oh sure, there are plenty to be had and they are affordable to the guacamole and cracker crowd like you. But let's face it. If you can afford it so can other people just like you and you can see them in your local bar in Des Moines.

4. Getting Around Dallas--Yes, we have a light rail called DART but unless you already know a red line from a green line, just ask any OU/Texas fan about the convenience of DART on a busy football day. We also aren't a taxi-friendly city like say, New York City. Ok, yes we have them but some of the ones we have are on strike and good luck getting one. And, if you do, better luck getting one to pick you back up. When in doubt, drive yourself. Oh, and we drive fast here, don't turn on our blinkers when we cut you off and honk at you if you drive too slow. And we don't pay any attention to speed limit signs. If you get on the Tollway and it says 60 mph, it's really 90 mph. And, if you have a wreck don't bother calling the police. Unless someone is injured, they won't respond so just exchange information with the other driver and mosey on lest you block traffic any more than necessary because we are in a hurry.

5. Valet Park--If you are adventuresome and want to taste a little Bright Lights Big City Super Bowl weekend, don't bother trying to find a parking spot at the nearest watering hole or restaurant because we don't have any. Oh, yes you can park on the street in the M Streets or Lower Greeneville but unless you can distinguish one Tudor from the next, good luck finding your car at 2 a.m. after you've had a few. Trust me. Valet and tip the guy $5. It's the best investment you'll make.

6. NFL Experience--If you want to buy Super Bowl merchandise, an official program just like they sell at the stadium, have your photo taken with the Lombardi Trophy (yes its' the real one,) get an autograph from an NFL player and make a fool out of yourself trying to throw a football like Steve Young, check out the NFL Experience at the Dallas Convention Center. It's the best $25 you'll spend and if you don't score a game ticket, you'll at least feel better having gone.

7. Restaurants--OK big spender now that you've waited until the last minute to come to Super Bowl, all the good restaurants are booked and have been for awhile. But you don't need to fret. You're here on a mission to score game tickets so there are plenty of Chick-Fil-A's and Taco Bells in Dallas. Save your money for more important things.

8. Bar Scene--Yes the bar scene in Dallas is lively, with great people watching and we have plenty of them. But remember what your mother always told you, nothing good happens after midnight. Enjoy yourself, leave your game jerseys at home and try and act like you've been out before. Otherwise, see below.

9. Police--Yes Dallas has police it's just you never see them until after midnight. That's when the DUI roadblocks pop up all over town. For Super Bowl weekend they have even beefed up the resources with the Texas Department of Transportation. So unless you know the neighborhoods and can navigate around the police on the major arteries, get home early. Oh, and if the blonde in the corner at the hotel bar, who you could never get at home, is smiling at you and asks you what your name is, just remember she's not who she says she is. She's probably a working girl and if you're lucky you can't afford her and if you're not, she's likely an undercover officer waiting to bust your ass and arrest you for solicitation.

10. Tickets--The game is sold out. Scalping is illegal in Arlington and Super Bowl is a Homeland Security Level One event meaning you'll never get close to the stadium without a ticket. There are no public tickets available anyway unless you want to dabble in the secondary markets. The best bet is where the NFL allows valid ticket sellers to resell their tickets. As of this morning, there were 1,914 tickets available ranging from $2,500 to $23,000 per ticket!

This is a simple supply and demand situation. The longer you wait until game time, the lower demand becomes and ticket sellers get nervous they are about to get stuck with the ticket so they lower the price. There aren't alot of tickets out there like this but if you are patient, willing to risk watching the game at the Media Bar at the Hilton Anatole and have cash, you might get lucky.

And, remember it's a football game and stuff happens. People get sick, they get in a fight with the hottie in the next cubicle who they thought would be fun to take to Dallas, someone misses a flight or Uncle Rob from Sheboygan couldn't get off work Monday. There are a myriad of reasons why someone has an extra Super Bowl ticket. The trick is you won't know until the last minute and unless you are out and about asking, you'll never know about them.

Hang out at the nicer hotel bars (Anatole, Ritz, Crescent,) tip the bartender and tell him you are "buying a single." Go to the NFL Experience, check out the local coffee shops or just walk around the media hotel. Also, this is Dallas so that means "Gentlemen Clubs." And there are plenty of them all over. So pay attention to the main stage because you never know if "Amber" is dating Mr. Big who has your ticket. You never know who is connected. And, smile at everyone. That Packers fan with the cheesehead might have a single.

If all else fails, relax and enjoy the game with the local bar crowd. You'll be glad with the money you saved on a ticket and if you did everything else on the list, you will have enjoyed the Super Bowl and can at least say you were here.

Happy hunting.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why Cowboys Fans Hate the Packers and Steelers

It's not you. It's me.

Really. If you are a Green Bay or Pittsburgh fan coming to Dallas this week for Super Bowl XLV and feel an eery feeling coming over you like someone is looking at you strange, you're not imagining things.

The feeling you are having is most likely being caused by a "pioneer" Dallas Cowboys fan who really hates your teams guts. Seriously. Any Cowboys fan born in the 1960's most likely is staring you down with laser beam hatred. It's nothing personal. It's just that your team, Packers or Steelers, shares equally-earned animosity within every "pioneer" Dallas Cowboys fan. Those fans are the ones who came of age during the Cowboys formative years when Dallas earned the moniker "Next Years Champions." You see those fans feelings are deep-rooted inside and evoke painful memories unlike any other for one very real reason.

Your team stole our childhood.

I know. That sounds serious but it is. Just ask any 40-something Dallas Cowboys fan about the "Ice Bowl" or the "Terrible Towel" and it will evoke instant pain and agony.

You see those are the "pioneer" Cowboys fans who fell in love with the Dallas teams who struggled early to just win a playoff game let alone a Super Bowl. Then, just when it seemed our beloved Cowboys would finally get over the hump, thud. Your team bitch-slapped us back into reality.

So while we may look friendly on the outside and glad you are in Texas, we are dying inside by the very sight of your garish gold, green and black.

Dave Robinson started it all in the 1966 NFL Championship game in Dallas. You see he ignored Coach Vince Lombardi's coaching instructions and crashed down on Dallas quarterback Don Meredith on fourth and goal from the one yard line jumping on his back forcing a game-ending endzone interception ending our Super Bowl hopes. Robinson admitted recently that had he missed Meredith with his rushing angle, he would have scored and tied the game and Coach Lombardi would not have been happy with him.

Bart Starr was the Cowboys-killer the next year in the same game in Green Bay. Trailing 17-14 without any timeouts remaining, Starr convinced Coach Lombardi to let him sneak the third and goal play with just :17-seconds remaining in the "Ice Bowl." Jerry Kramer's block on Cowboys tackle Jethro Pugh is one for the ages and is replayed just about this time every year.

Green Bay would go on to win its' second straight Super Bowl. If not for two yards and two final season-endzone-ending plays the Dallas Cowboys would have played in the first two Super Bowls. Ouch.

Pittsburgh's animosity was earned later in 1975 after the Cowboys had won Super Bowl VI in 1972. The Cowboys were coming off their first non-playoff season in eight years with a rejuvenated youth movement. Pittsburgh had just won their first Super Bowl in 1974 against Minnesota and was looking for a repeat.

The Cowboys seemed destined to win their second Super Bowl in five years when some kid by the name of Lynn Swann decided to have his breakout game. Swann only caught 4 passes that day but gained 161 yards as the Steelers beat Dallas 21-17.

Dallas would win the Super Bowl again in 1977 against Denver and was going for a repeat in 1978 against the hated Steelers in the first rematch in Super Bowl history. Dallas had added the #1 draft choice and Pennsylvania-native Tony Dorsett in the 1977 draft and felt they had the missing piece to beat the Steelers. And, if not for Jackie Smith's infamous drop of a Roger Staubach touchdown pass late in the game as the Cowboys rallied, they just might have pulled it off.

But just like in 1975, the Steelers rebounded this time behind little-known running back Rocky Bleier and scored 14 unanswered fourth quarter points to defeat Dallas 35-31.

So you see Packers and Steelers fans, if not for your two teams our Dallas Cowboys would have won the first two Super Bowls and two more in the 70's to cement their name in NFL annals as one of the greatest dynasties ever.

If not for Dave Robinson, Bart Starr, Lynn Swann and Rocky Bleier, Cowboys players like Don Meredith, Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, Cliff Harris, Charlie Waters and Drew Pearson all would be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

And, instead of just having the highway leading to the Cowboys Stadium named after him, the trophy your two teams are playing for next Sunday would be called the "Landry Trophy" not the Lombardi Trophy.

Good luck next weekend Packers and Steelers fans and welcome to Dallas. Enjoy your visit but when you see us Cowboys fans take it easy on us. We maybe smiling on the outside but on the inside we're still hurting.

So What Is This Super Bowl?

It's ironic that North Texas' first Super Bowl comes 45 years after the idea for the very game was hatched in the parking garage of Dallas' Love Field.

That's right.

The Super Bowl was created when Dallas Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm and Kansas City Chiefs Owner and AFL Founder Lamar Hunt held their clandestine meeting in the parking garage of Love Field. They were trying to negotiate the formation of a new NFL/AFL merger which would split the NFL into two conferences. Schramm's Cowboys would anchor the NFC and Hunt's Chiefs would anchor the AFC.

Hunt would later coin the phrase "Super Bowl" after watching his daughter play with one of her toys called a "Super Ball." Hunts' Chiefs and Schramms' Cowboys would go on to play in 4 of the first 6 NFL/AFL Championship games, winning two. And, although the Kansas City Chiefs played and lost in Super Bowl I (it was originally called the AFL/NFL Championship Game,) they would make it back three years later and win their only Super Bowl. And the Dallas Cowboys played in five Super Bowls in the 1970's, winning two and were the only NFC team to win a Super Bowl in the 70's.

So against that backdrop, an estimated 150,000 visitors will embark on Dallas/Fort Worth later this week for Super Bowl XLV. Sadly, both Hunt and Schramm have passed but these two wily entrepreneurs who created this game, would simply be amazed at the monster they have created called Super Bowl.

The North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee estimates over $600 million in economic spending will envelope the North Texas area (the name the surrounding counties created to prevent everything being called "Dallas.") A separate study just released by PriceWatersHouseCoopers pegs the number closer to $200 million. At any rate, this is big business and as the NFL proudly promotes, "It's More Than Just a Game."

And, the game will be played in the most expensive and largest stadium in Super Bowl history: the $1.2 billion Cowboys stadium with an estimated record crowd of 105,000 and counting (the NFL just added 15,000 temporary seats) who will purchase the most expensive ticket in sports ( had 1,900 tickets on sale Monday ranging from $2,500 to $16,000.) Plus, over 5,000 credentialed media members will report on it and an estimated worldwide audience of over 100 million will watch it live on television.

So whether you are a serious, casual or just an "experience" fan, sit back and relax and enjoy the largest single sporting event in the world: Super Bowl. Right here in our own backyard.