In the weeks and months leading up to this moment as I contemplated how I might end up feeling about, and how I would review, the NFL's 46th world championship game between the AFC and NFC in Indianapolis, one word I really never envisioned myself using was "super." But "super," in fact, is the best way to describe Indianapolis' effort in putting on its first Super Bowl. If you'd like a grade, let's give it an A-minus. There is very little I can imagine that could have been done better.
As bad as Dallas was last year, and it was awful, that's how good Indianapolis was this year, and I'm not accounting for weather in either of those reviews. But how ironic is it that we arrived in Indianapolis the Monday before the game to discover the temperature was about 35 degrees warmer than it had been in Dallas a year earlier? And for the most part, it stayed that way all week long. That was the only great thing about Indy that appeared to have anything to do with luck.
The facilities in Indianapolis are tailor-made for Super Bowl week. Normally a great deal of Super Bowl week is spent listening to a majority of the media bitching about one thing or another, but this year I didn't hear a single complaint. The four hotels that housed the media were all relatively new, right next to each other, and connected to each other and the media center, so you never had to go outside unless you wanted to. Of course, thanks to the weather surprise, I, for one, chose to go outside whenever possible. Yet, it was exceptionally convenient, and that was just the beginning.
The media complex was a five-minute walk from the Giants' hotel, 15-20 minutes from the Pats' and no more than a 10-minute hike to Lucas Oil Stadium. It was also a five-minute walk to the heart of downtown Indianapolis, which the city transformed for the week into a Super Bowl Village patterned after a typical Olympic Village. There was music, food, shopping, activities and events all week long right outside our doors, but far enough away so that sleep and rest were achievable when desired.
OK, I know most of you are saying, "Who cares about the media?" I get it, I even agree. But for the uninitiated, as the fans roll into town during Super Bowl week, everybody gravitates toward and tends to gather around the media center or complex, on the assumption that's where the action is, which usually isn't true. But in Indianapolis it was, and all that worked for the media was equally convenient and entertaining for the fans, and that is what really matters.
Lucas Oil Stadium is fine, nothing special, but more than comfortable. The amenities include everything you need, and the access was 1,000 percent better than the fiasco in Texas a year ago.
I'm sure the NFL is less than thrilled it had 30,000-or-so fewer seats than it had in Dallas to sell at an average of about $900 a pop, leaving $27 million on the table. But there was an intimacy that is sometimes missing from the Super Bowl, which made this game much more exciting than last year's.
Most importantly, the people of Indianapolis were spectacular. This was the 33rd consecutive Super Bowl I've covered, and never have I felt more welcomed or met more pleasant folks, including just about every person I came across, both the volunteers and the natives on the streets and in the shops.
So, why is there a minus behind the "A" grade? The one negative all week was reports of serious price gouging on hotel rooms, with any rooms that weren't blocked by the NFL being sold at 10-20 times their normal rates and more. It did leave a very bad taste for folks who struggled to find rooms at all and then finally came across rooms normally sold at $50-$80 a night that were going for $1,000 a night and more.
We should all hope that one serious bit of greed and breach of trust doesn't cause the league to balk at coming back to Indianapolis for the big game again, because it was a Super week, and Indianapolis really did put on a great Super Bowl.