In the lead up to Super Bowl 50 there were a number of articles about all of the great wines that you would find at Super Bowl 50 http://tinyurl.com/jququku http://tinyurl.com/gvbk6cl . As part of my dedication to making this the best blog that covers both wine & football. I figured that I had better check it out. A friend of mine who works for the NFL was able to hook me up with a ticket to the game & to the tailgate party. He also arranged for me to ride to Santa Clara from the Hilton Union Square on the NFL friends & family bus. Here are my random thoughts on the game & the game day experience.
Ready to start the big day, I got up at 5 AM to head to San Francisco. I was really worried that traffic would be crazy on the Bay Bridge. It turns out that even on Super Bowl Sunday, Sunday morning traffic is pretty light. I was able to park at the parking garage with plenty of time to spare.
I met my friend at the Hilton Union Square just before he went to work at the game. Then an hour or so later, his wife & her uncle & I hopped on the NFL friends & family bus to the stadium. That is definitely the way to get to the game. It beat the heck out of driving to Santa Clara & paying $250 to park at the stadium.
At the stadium we milled around for a bit & looked at the stadium & the huge images of all of the Super Bowl championship rings. Then they opened up the Tailgate party.
The great wine that they were talking about was not at the NFL’s Official Tailgate party. The tailgate was a huge event in a large building at the site that was divided into 3 rooms. There were 50 different food sections serving mostly cold or lukewarm food. There were also a number of bars that had beer & wine & a few that had spirits or one specific mixed drink. There were only 2 wines available. The first was a generic California Chardonnay. I looked at my pictures from the event & can’t identify the label. It was everything negative about California Chardonnay. It had plenty of buttery diacetyl, layered with oak and tropical fruit. I made it through about half the glass & then ditched it. The red wine was a Freemark Abbey Super Bowl 50 red blend. It was a decent red, but nothing special. I noticed that it is available now for $99. There are probably worse Super Bowl souvenirs that you could spend your money on, but I wouldn’t buy it thinking it was $100 worth of Napa juice. I switched over to Jameson’s, which didn’t have a special Super Bowl package, but still tasted great.
There was music in all three rooms. In the center room for the tailgate party there was a large stage. Two different acts played on that stage. The stages at the end of each of the other rooms had cover bands (although at one point they had a dance group of young cheerleaders up there). The center stage was for bigger acts. The first person up was Sam Hunt. For those who aren’t familiar with him, he is a country singer who played football in college. He signed with MCA Nashville when pro-football didn’t work out for him. Since then he has been nominated for CMA awards & Grammys, so I guess it worked out well for him. Despite my love of country music, I’m not a fan of his work. I did kind of like his cover of Love the Way You Lie by Rhianna & Eminem. There wasn’t much of a crowd for his performance. It was relatively early in the day, so that probably explained it. The good news for fans was that you could pretty much walk up to the stage.
The second act to perform on the large stage was Seal. Seal has been around quite a while & has sold over 30 million albums. He had a larger crowd. Part of that was because he is probably a bigger star & part of it was because the place was filling up by that point. Seal did some covers & did some of his own songs & the reaction seemed to be pretty good.
The tailgate wrapped up about an hour before the game was set to start. I headed off to find my seat. That also gave me time to check out some of the things at the stadium. They had some interactive games to play. They also had tons of concession stands with food & souvenirs. Since this was California, they even had vegan hot dogs. The lines were long. If you wanted something to drink though, you could just order it from your phone & have it delivered to your seat. That was pretty cool, although $7 for a coke & $13 for a Bud Light was kind of crazy. I passed on all of it though since I had enough at the tailgate party.
I watched the introduction of the former Super Bowl MVPs. It was actually pretty hard to see them since I was pretty high up & they didn’t have them really in a featured location. It was cool though. I know that there were people who booed Tom Brady, but the section I was in had mostly Panther fans & a few Patriot fans, so we all cheered wildly for Brady. I know that the boos were a story for a couple of days, but I think it was just some of the Broncos fans.
I was really impressed by the Broncos first drive. Even though it ended with just a field goal, it looked like their offense was on track. It turned out that was completely wrong. Denver put up some of the worst numbers for an offense in Super Bowl history…especially for a winning team.
The defenses for both teams were impressive, although poor quarterback play & some unimaginative play calling for the Panthers made them look even better than they actually were.
I should talk more about the game, but anyone who cares about it already knows what happened. The Panthers had special teams issues & gave up weird fluke plays & Denver made enough out of them to win by 10. I did have a few more thoughts on the first half.
Wow! That punt return was weird. I thought that Carolina might get a penalty for not allowing the returner room to make the catch. Instead, Jordan Norwood ran the ball back 61 yards. It looked like Carolina pulled up & didn’t go for the tackle at the point he caught it. If they had tried, perhaps they would have gotten a penalty, but a 15 yarder would have been worth it. Instead, it took a bit for them to really pursue. They caught him, but it was still a record punt return. That was the second worst example of the game of freezing in the moment instead of playing instinctively.
I was actually surprised that 61 yards was the record. You would have thought that in 50 years someone would have taken one to the house from the end zone.
Owen Daniels had a solid game considering the quality of the quarterback play. I always liked him with the Texans & following Gary Kubiak from job to job has turned out well for him. I think that both the Texans & Ravens could have used him last year. Instead, he gets a championship ring.
The end of the half was indicative of the way the game went in general. The Panthers squandered multiple opportunities to put points on the board. The Broncos made great plays on defense & special teams & put points on the board despite their pathetic offense.
Thoughts on half-time.
It was kind of funny watching the groups of women (& a few men) released to run out to be the crowd for halftime. They did 4 groups. Each group sprinted for their corner to get the best view.
Those of us at the stadium watched part of the half time show through a slit in the cards we held up. I think we did an excellent job of holding up our cards. They talked to us at every commercial break about being in our seats for the half time performance & coached us on how to hold up a card with one color on one side & another color on the other. I guess they figured that we were really stupid or really drunk. There was probably some truth to that for some of the crowd.
I think Coldplay really blew their opportunity. Instead of taking the opportunity of the half time show & running with it, they turned over most of the performance to Beyonce & Bruno Mars, so they ended up as a supporting act in what should have been their big performance. Usually after the game there are people talking about the half time performance for better or worse. This time, people talked about Beyonce & Bruno Mars, but Coldplay vanished into the background. They probably should have talked to Katy Perry or Prince in advance.
Second half thoughts
Ron Rivera & his coaching staff didn’t seem to make many adjustments to the offense at half time. I was really expecting them to bring in another back to chip the pass rush & be available for screens. At least I thought that they would stop the dive up the middle on 1st down. I was wrong there. A guy in the row behind me said something along the lines of “If they run into the middle for 1 yard again on first down I’m god damn leaving!” They did & he didn’t. I felt his pain though.
Up until Newton’s fumble in the 4th quarter, I felt like the Panthers were a play away from winning the game. I kept expecting a broken play with Newton getting away & running for a score. Once he fumbled, it was over. Even the Broncos offense was going to be able to get 4 yards & make it a 2 score game with not much time left.
There has been a lot said & written about whether or not Newton should have dived on the fumble. Watching the replay, you can sort of see why he didn’t go for it. At the time though, it really looked like he stepped back from it instead of trying to save their chance at winning. In real time, it took so long that all of the Panthers fans were yelling at him to fall on it. It just seemed to take forever.
I headed for the bus after that. I have rooted against Manning for too long to watch him hoist the Lombardi trophy as if he had done much to win it. Trent Dilfer has always been held up as the example of a quarterback who got a ring despite playing badly in the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XXXV, Dilfer only completed 12 of 25 for 153 yards and 1 touchdown, with no interceptions. Manning was 14 of 23 for 141 yards, no touchdowns, 2 fumbles, & an interceptions. He was lucky that he only threw 1 interception.
The staff was awesome throughout the event. They were helpful in getting back to the bus. Everyone I passed thanked me for coming to the game & wished me a good evening. It was really impressive.
I passed the set up outside the stadium where Steve Mariucci & Kurt Warner were doing the post-game show. I was surprised it was as far outside as it was, but I guess they had to get it up & running right away.
The bus back to the hotel was great. It saved a bunch of time & I was happy someone else was driving through the traffic.
I picked up my car from the parking garage. Their posted sign said $28 for all day parking, but in the spirit of the Super Bowl, they charged me $45 anyway.
The drive home was easy. I don’t think I have ever had such an easy time getting out of San Francisco. Apparently the best time to get to the Bay Bridge is right after a Super Bowl is held in Santa Clara. It isn’t a situation that comes up too frequently, but now I know.
There was a lot of talk before & after the game about whether race played a role in the perception of Cam Newton. I thought his widely quoted comment “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.” was full of crap. Newton may have some abilities that make him different from other quarterbacks, but to pretend that people are racist because they have never seen an African-American quarterback in the Super Bowl, or haven’t seen an athletic quarterback is ludicrous. The previous 2 Super Bowls featured Russell Wilson, who is an athletic African -American quarterback. The first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl was Doug Williams back in 1988. There is plenty of racism out there. There is no need to make it up. In fact, if you are looking for racism, it is probably easier to find it in the post game coverage of the Broncos. Von Miller was named the MVP, which made sense. He was a dominant player on the field. He & Malik Jackson essentially won the game for the Broncos. Unfortunately most of the post-game coverage seemed to go to Peyton Manning. I know it was mostly because he will probably retire & he is going out a winner, but in the immediate aftermath of the game, it seemed like way too much of the coverage was about the guy who did the least to help the team win. Miller got some TV appearances later & he & Jackson will both get huge paychecks, so that probably makes up for it.
Overall, I had a good time going to the Super Bowl. It is definitely something that I wish every football fan could do at some point.