Super Bowl Runup: 'Living the Dream' in Miami

There's the game, and then there's the game before the game — the Hyper Bowl. One intrepid reporter offers a journal of the events leading up to Sunday's NFL title game in Miami.

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NPR's Tom Goldman has been in Miami all week covering the run-up to the big game and he's been taking notes on the often surreal journey through America's biggest spectacle. Here's his Super Bowl Journal.

TOM GOLDMAN: One game. One dream. The snappy motto for Super Bowl 41 was plastered everywhere when I flew into Miami Monday. I must admit, I was feeling the spirit right up until the two-hour traffic jam leading to Miami Beach. I got to my hotel, ordered some Cuban food, and two hours later a deliveryman brought my meal with no utensils and a water bottle that had been opened and drunk from.

I put the water aside, ate the steak with my hands and the rice and beans with a scoop I fashioned out of a Styrofoam coffee cup. The dream was underway.

Tuesday, media day, a chance to meet the players. Even though most of them could kill me with one legal hit, I found them friendly and engaging, even Chicago's appropriately named Tank Johnson, who's facing weapons possession charges and is only at the Super Bowl because a judge gave him permission to travel to Miami.

Peyton Manning? No guns, just lots of aw-shucks charm. The star of this Super Bowl, he graciously answered hundreds of questions, many of them silly. Like when ESPN's otherwise top-notch reporter Sal Paolantonio brought up one of Manning's funny commercials in which the quarterback wears a fake mustache.

Mr. SAL PAOLANTONIO (ESPN Reporter): But one of them said that when you had that mustache on you looked like a porn star.

Mr. PEYTON MANNING (Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts): Wow. Can you say that word on ESPN, Sal? I don't have a comment on that.

GOLDMAN: Jumping ahead to Thursday I was back with the Colts, this time at their plush team hotel in Fort Lauderdale. They have a gorgeous view of the ocean, so I wasn't surprised to find them in a mellow mood. I had a short chat with Tarik Glenn, the 6'5", 330-pound left offensive tackle who protects Peyton Manning's blind side. I'm not sure what I was more impressed with - his self-effacing explanation about how he alone doesn't protect Manning, or his teeth. They looked great. A ringing endorsement for his mouth guard, his dentist, or both.

Kudos as well to Indianapolis running back Dominic Rhodes. I caught up with him in mid-cliché and was pleasantly surprised to hear the following self-correction.

Mr. DOMINIC RHODES (Running Back, Indianapolis Colts): I think my coaches like my intensity, the way I come out there and I lift my team up. And they know that I'm going to be playing 110, 100 percent at all times. They know...

GOLDMAN: You go, Dominic. Way to fight that urge to say what every athlete says about giving 110 percent. I mean I'm not mathematician, but is that even possible?

Move to Friday. Finally I will experience the Miami that every "Access Hollywood"-type TV show has been talking about all week. I head for Washington Avenue, one of the hot streets in Miami Beach. On my way, I see tons of Orthodox Jews heading for Friday night services. Feeling guilty, but not enough to turn back, I make a mental note. Become more observant when I get home.

Saturday, the religious thing dogs me. Outside my hotel window, a single-engine prop plane pulling a banner slowly flies by. The banner reads Super Bowl Champion is Jesus. That was pretty much the whole day right there.

Which brings us to Sunday, today, Super Bowl 41. The game will start this evening and end about four hours later. I'll remind myself this is the event of a lifetime for many people in Dolphins Stadium. And don't grumble, at least out loud, about how the zillions watching on TV will see the game much better. It's a spectacle to be sure, and here's hoping the Colts and Bears play a great game.

Will Peyton Manning, who's thrown only two touchdown passes in the playoffs, explode and throw five against the Bears? Will Chicago's rough and tumble defenders strip the game away, literally, with their penchant for causing fumbles? Questions to be answered soon.

As far as predictions, I usually shy away. But today it's easy: Colts win. Why? Because comedienne Phyllis Diller said so in a celebrity Super Bowl poll. After the week that was, that's good enough for me.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Miami.

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