The Super Bowl is the undisputed leader among the major events of the sporting world. Yes, even a football World Cup has fan zones and an opening ceremony with superstars. But the opening night of the Hotweek before the Super Bowl already shows: This event is in a completely different league.
The lights go out in the Footprint Center, a basketball hall for 17,000 spectators. The home of the NBA team Phoenix Suns.
Thousands of fans crowd the stands, eagerly awaiting their idols. Inside, several hundred journalists from all over the world buzz around – as excited as a swarm of bees.
Then the loudspeakers play: “We welcome the reigning NFC champions – here are the Philadelphia Eagles.” The entire Eagles team comes on stage – led by head coach Nick Sirianni and quarterback Jalen Hurts.
The Eagles come out and the fans go wild
The fans go wild, the cameramen fight for the best spots, the flashbulbs reach their peak. What follows is familiar to die-hard NFL fans from years past: Coach and quarterback answer questions on a huge stage, then the entire team spreads out inside: the biggest stars each sit at a podium, in front of which so many media representatives crowd that it is almost impossible to get a seat. One question. One question at the most. That’s all that’s possible in this setting.
But the team members who are not among the absolute top stars mingle with the journalists inside. They simply walk around for 45 minutes and answer the questions – no matter whether it’s a TV crew from Mexico, Germany or the local radio station from Phoenix – everyone gets their answer here.
Andy Reid is looking forward to bratwurst and schnitzel
What comes of it? A Head Coach Andy Reid who, when asked about the upcoming game in Germany 2023, tells us he’s looking forward to bratwurst and schnitzel. Donna Kelce, the mother of Jason and Travis Kelce, comes onto the big stage and brings Tupperware boxes of cookies for her boys.
For the first time in NFL history, a pair of brothers meet in the Super Bowl – and the mum tells the media crowd who was better in school and who can dance better.
Jason Kelce: If he becomes a dad, no one will tell him
Jason Kelce reveals that his wife is 38 weeks pregnant. However, should the birth start during the final, no one will tell him. “I wouldn’t go off the field either, she’s in good hands,” Kelce says. It’s all a motley back-and-forth between media and stars, who are happy to play along with the whole thing.
With a short break in between, both teams come into the arena. Right into the thick of the action.
And that is the big difference to other sports. The idea seems absurd: just a week before the Champions League final, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain come to a big arena full of fans and reporters?
Mbappe, Neymar and Messi sit at a podium, the other players mingle with the crowd and answer questions? Toni Kroos’ mum brings biscuits? And then it goes on like that for a whole week?
NFL, Super Bowl and the piano of Lang Lang
This will never happen!
And that’s the point: other sports may be just as professional in the immediate environment of the sporting event. But the NFL plays to the interest of fans and media like Lang Lang plays to his piano. It just goes together.
It’s not even clear which came first: the demand or the supply. The fact is: the biggest difference is not the Super Bowl itself, i.e. the sporting finale. The big difference is that for one week the NFL cultivates a closeness to the fan that doesn’t exist elsewhere.
Yes, it is staged. Yes, it is a media spectacle. But it catches. And it makes the Super Bowl the undisputed leader among the world’s sporting events.
Many competitions have a final game – an Opening Night, a Hotweek, a Super Bowl only exists in the NFL.