5 things we learned from attending Super Bowl LI

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

Steve O’Rourke reports from Houston*

1. All-Ireland final weekends could be a bigger deal

Chuck Burton / AP/Press Association Images Chuck Burton / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

I’M NOT IN any way suggesting that the GAA should start rebranding the winners of the All-Ireland hurling and football championships as ‘world champions’ but wandering around Houston this week shows they are probably underselling the first and third Sunday in September.

The NFL Fan Experience was a chance for fans to not only mingle with former and current greats of football, but also try their hand at the different skills involved in the game and catch gigs from the likes of Solange and ZZ Top.

Most of it was free and really added to the hype around the game itself.

2. Everything is bigger in Texas, even the bills

Super Bowl week is not cheap. From surge pricing on Uber to $12 bottles of ‘artesian’ water — which tastes pretty much the same as tap water if I’m honest — and match programs that get more expensive the closer you get to the stadium.

You have to have a lot of cash to purchase any memorabilia around the event too with relatively plain t-shirts starting around $45 right up to $1000 signed jerseys.

Still, the prices didn’t seem to bother the hundreds of thousands who made their way to Houston.

3. Houston fans deserve their own Super Bowl success

teven Senne / AP/Press Association Images teven Senne / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

Speaking of expensive, fans of the Texans know they made a costly mistake in giving quarterback Brock Osweiler such a big contract last year.

I know he’s not very good, they know he’s not very good and, yet, they take the fact that as long as he’s under centre they’ll never win their own Vince Lombardi Trophy in good spirits.

You have to admire that, especially as it’s obvious — with an elite defence — they missed a real opportunity to become the first home team to play in a Super Bowl this year.

4. The NFL’s relationship with the military remains an uncomfortable facet of the sport

If you’ve never read Jon Krakauer’s brilliant ‘Where Men Win Glory’ you really should add it to your list. It takes us through the life and death of Pat Tillman, who left a promising career with the Arizona Cardinals to join the US Army in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Tillman’s cause of death — and initial cover-up — by friendly fire means the NFL sponsoring ads for the military on their own network before the game leaves a bit of a taste in the mouth.

At the game itself, from the F16 flyover to a timeout which was called and used exclusively to applaud current and former members of the military, it’s difficult not to feel Super Bowl LI was as much a recruiting tool as it was a football game.

5. You have to go to a Super Bowl if you can

Gregory Payan / AP/Press Association Images Gregory Payan / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

Any gripes I had with Houston this week were minor.

I know I got lucky with possibly the greatest Super Bowl of all time as my first, but we’ve had a few really good ones in recent years as we achieve more parity at the top of the NFL (or, more correctly, teams keep up with the Patriots).

Before the game, I was chatting to two Irish guys there with a sponsor who had no real interest in the sport. That happens with every big sporting event by the way, not just the Super Bowl.

However, catching up with them afterwards and they were asking why the Falcons were throwing when they should have been running the ball late on and one said it was a shame the season was over as they’d love to catch another game.

At the other end of the spectrum, I know an Irish guy via Twitter who spent a fortune to travel from Australia to see his beloved Falcons in the Super Bowl. The result may not have been what he wanted, but I doubt he regrets doing everything he could to get there.

Bonus 6th lesson

I don’t know what it looked like on TV but Lady Gaga’s half-time show was out of this world.

*Half of this article was written from Newark Airport

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