Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Jersey steps up

With apologies to super-Patriots fans – I am an admittedly fair-weather follower – there are a number of upsides to the local eleven’s not making it to the Super Bowl this year.

Foremost among the upsides is not having to put up with a couple of weeks of run-up hoopla in the local press, where every evening’s local news will include way too many banal utterances on the part of one of the boys of autumn. Thank you, gods of football for that.

Another key upside is being able to watch none, part, or all of the BIG GAME without actually giving a hoot who wins.

Sure, I’d just as soon not see Payton Manning and Wes Welker swanning around amidst the confetti.

But mostly it would be hard for me to care any less than I do.


Pretty much the only thing I find interesting about this year’s SB is that it’s being played under cold-weather conditions.

Playoff games in days of yore used to be played on the home turf of one team or the other, and as often as not – especially in days of yore – home turf was the frozen tundra of some field like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Real football for real people!

But nowadays, Super Bowl is mostly played in a warm weather destination, or at least in a covered stadium. None of this nasty, chancy outdoors stuff, thank you.

Not all the Super Bowls are in “glamorous” tourist destinations like New Orleans, where there’s plenty of stuff to do, or places like Phoenix where fans can chill by warming up and playing golf. Some of them have been in zones that can at best be characterized as lesser-fun venues. Places like Indianapolis and Detroit, which get to host because they have domed, neutral-climate stadiums.

This year, however, the NFL decided to come in from the warm, and awarded the game to the Meadowlands in New Jersey, the home field to both the New York Giants and the New York Jets. Neither of which team came within a the length of a football field to making the playoffs, let alone getting to Super Bowl.

Other than being home to the NY Giants and the NY Jets, the Meadowlands is perhaps best known as the supposed burial site of Jimmy Hoffa.

Anyway, the big attractions of playing in New Jersey are not, for the most part, in New Jersey.

Let’s face it, most of the fun stuff will be happenin’ in New York City – hotels, restaurants, shopping, shows. After all, there has to be something for the several hundred thousand fans who show up for Super Bowl but don’t attend the game. (Most stadiums have a capacity of about 80,000.)

But New Jersey is not without its own enticements and charms.

Atlantic City will undoubtedly attract plenty of the sorts that are drawn to events like Super Bowl, but other than that…

Pretty much the only time New Jersey makes the news is when it’s wiped out by a hurricane, or when Chris Christie gets caught up in a GW Bridge closing scandal. 

And now, the Super Bowl – THE SUPER BOWL! – is heading to New Jersey. And New Jersey, understandably, wants to cash a bit in:

As football's Super Bowl comes to East Rutherford, N.J., Feb. 2, officials in nearby Secaucus and other north Jersey towns have a message: Why not party and sightsee in the Garden State? Secaucus—a town whose name is subject to debate over its pronunciation—is touting its first-ever beer garden. Country music will blare through the speakers of a tent stretching several blocks. A mobile museum, part of the New Jersey Hall of Fame, will include photos, videos and pieces of state history inside a 53-foot trailer that expands…

"I don't think you'd want to vacation in Secaucus by itself," Mayor Michael Gonnelli said. "But you are certainly close to New York. And you can get anywhere on the East Coast from the train station here."(Source: WSJ Online.)

Even some Jersey Girls who left the Garden State for the garden of earthly delights that is Manhattan are heading home for Super Bowl.

These ranks include Cindy Fox:

…known as "The Naked Cowgirl," [she] usually wears her red, white and blue bikini and a brimmed hat to sing and play guitar in Times Square, one of the world's busiest intersections.

Come Super Bowl weekend, she is performing in Secaucus, N.J. "For me, it's going to be a little strange," Ms. Fox, 47 years old, said. "I grew up here, and I've always tried to keep my Times Square life separate. I really have a lot of pressure to look awesome and perform great. It's the Super Bowl."

Secaucus isn’t the only town in New Jersey going all out.

Hoboken is setting up a curling center, and is “bringing national curlers in to teach the winter sport to anyone who comes by.”

Just as the mayor of Secaucus wasn’t all that certain why someone would want to visit his city, when asked why someone would choose Hoboken over Manhattan,

…a city spokesman paused and said, "That's a good question." He later added that Frank Sinatra was born there, though his home has since burned. A star marks where it once stood.

East Rutherford – home of the Meadowlands – is getting in on the act as well, with a tailgate party replete with a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. Ridgewood is hosting a chili cook-off cum marching band performance.

None have outdone Secaucus, where the planned festivities stretch three days and include dozens of activities. Highlights include a "hoedown" with line dancing lessons; an inflatable snow globe that people can climb inside for pictures; and 500 pounds of cheese, which officials hope to fashion into the world's largest mozzarella ball. There will be some three dozen food trucks, hockey tournaments and inflatable dinosaurs.

Forget the Super Bowl, what I love about all these New Jersey initiatives is that they’re exactly the sorts of events that my home town of Worcester would stage.

Oh, Worcester might not try to build the world’s largest mozzarella ball, but I can see them closing down Shrewsbury Street and going for the world’s longest grinder record.

Maybe they wouldn’t set up curling, but I can see them bringing in candlepin bowlers to show visitors the splendors of small-ball bowling.

Maybe Worcester wouldn’t have a marching band to march, but I’ll bet the Heart of the Commonwealth could muster a drum and bugle corps or two.

And the Naked Cowgirl would definitely not be Worcester style.

Still, there’s plenty of New Jersey in Worcester.

So I hope that they have a wonderful time hosting Super Bowl.

Who cares whether Denver or Seattle wins when East Rutherford might beat the world record for the size of their mozzarella ball.

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