Every year thousands of media members travel to cover the Super Bowl, leading to widespread reviews of the host city. This year will be no different. There will be stories about the weather, the logistics, the food, hotels, transportation, hospitality, etc. The point: The Super Bowl is so much more than the game; it is a week-long, deep-dive experience of learning the dynamics of the host city.
Last year, Houston truly shined. This year, we have Minneapolis. Minneapolis in February — a head-scratcher that has media members and fans from both sides grumbling. As a member of the media, I have traveled to the Super Bowl city each of the last eight years. Never has there been a back-to-back comparison of cities that is so one-sided. Allow me to offer my top five reasons why Houston is a superior host city to Minneapolis.
Idyllic conditions vs. arctic freeze. This one is stating the obvious. It is almost too easy, like telling everyone that Tom Brady is a better QB than Nick Foles. Of course. But, more than any other year, the weather will define the experience leading up to the game. Last year Houston weather ranged between 60 to 75 degrees. The forecast in Minneapolis: temperatures ranging from 10 degrees to 0 degrees — the coldest host city experience, ever.
Minnesota Nice vs. Texas Hospitality. Having visited Minneapolis many times, I will affirm the unofficial state motto: Minnesotans are, indeed, “nice.” But sometimes I feel this is stated merely due to context. Think: well, given that the winters they endure, they do a good job of being nice. It is hunkered-down, grit-your-teeth, survivalist “nice.” Last year one of the common themes I heard from visitors about Houston: the hospitality was over the top. From the moment visitors arrived at the airport, to the time they needed directions, when they wanted restaurant recommendations, etc., there was a pervasive spirit in the air: Texas-sized hospitality.
Nexus of Activity
Mall of America vs. Discovery Green. Every year there is a hub of all the week’s activities: the site for the NFL experience, radio row, restaurants/hotels, bands performing, etc. I don’t want to revisit the point about weather, but as I said, it defines the week. In Minnesota, the hub will be the Mall of America, a sprawling indoor monster mall. In Houston, guests strolled outdoors, sat on the lawn listening to bands, ate at covered patios. For the removal of doubt, ours was Discovery Green.
Booyah vs. Barbecue. Minnesotans make stew in large vats and call it booyah. Other signature dishes include cheese curds or casserole. (Mmmm.) Give me a plate of Pinkerton’s barbecue — please. I might have touted fresh walleye, a delicious fresh water fish found in Minnesota’s many lakes but, right now, those lakes are frozen – ugh! (and, no, I do not recommend ice fishing). Of course, what makes Houston’s restaurant scene world class is our incredible ethnic diversity. If Minnesota is “twin-cities,” we are about “10 cities” of different ethnic groups. Thus, the challenge for last year’s visitors was how to try it all: barbecue, Mexican, steak houses, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, etc., etc. You get the point.
The Big Texas Party vs. Anything. Every year there are large parties thrown by out-of-town entities: the Maxim Party, the Leather and Laces party, the Playboy party, etc. Those parties took place in Houston; they will take place in Minneapolis — same thing. But here is what is different. I am now revealing my ultimate “homer” status. The best party I have ever attended was last year: The Big Texas Party.
Thrown by CultureMap and ESPN 97.5, the party headline was beer, bourbon and barbecue. The Mayor came. A ton of former and current football players showed up — Mike Barber, Chris Dishman, Bubba McDowell and legendary Cowboys Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White. Even a few Patriots, who would play in the big game a few days later, snuck in to enjoy the festivities. Most Super Bowl parties are a bunch of men hanging around drinking beer, wishing there were more women or staring at the few models who have been paid to attend.
But, this party had the perfect balance: CultureMap turned out women; ESPN 97.5 turned out the men. When Bart Crow fired up his band, the dance floor was full. The event was such a success we had folks suggesting we do it again this year. Rather, we will cling to a great memory, a party that capped off a week where Houston put its best boot forward!