The Olympic Games kick off with the arrival of the flame. Super Bowl week officially gets going with the arrival of the Lombardi Trophy ... via a FedEx delivery truck.
That occurred Saturday morning at the NFL Experience opening in downtown San Francisco. In typical NFL fashion, it was a loud, colorful and sponsor-laden ceremony that included a band, cheerleaders, mascots and former 49ers running back Roger Craig who, donning white gloves, received the shiny, silver trophy from the back of the delivery van.
“It’s old news to me now,” said Craig, who 31 years ago scored three touchdowns in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium. “But it still felt good to hold that trophy knowing that this is the one the two teams are playing for, Carolina and Denver.”
Craig, 55, said he remembers trying his best not to be distracted in the run-up to the 1984 season’s Super Bowl. He was 24 at the time and finishing his second season in the league.
The buildup to the Super Bowl was becoming big back then. This year it’s a monster.
A block of Howard Street at the Moscone Center has been cordoned off for the festivities, which run through 2 p.m. next Sunday. The NFL Experience takes up 850,000 square feet of convention center space. A separate, weeklong outdoor event, Super Bowl City, is taking place at the foot of Market Street, 10 blocks away.
At the NFL Experience, fans can have their pictures taken next to the trophy Craig helped deliver. They can have an image of their heads made into a Pro Football Hall of Fame-like bust. Or they can put on a virtual-reality headset and see what it’s like to be on the field for an NFL game. A half-hour after the event opened Saturday morning, a long line already had formed for close-up looks of the previous 49 Super Bowl rings.
Tickets for adults are $35; kids get in for $25.
A wax replica of Joe Montana, sandy haired and with white a towel draped over his right shoulder, is on loan from Madame Tussauds in New York. The real Montana arrived for an autograph session Saturday at noon, a long, serpentine line forming two hours before his arrival. About 400 NFL players, both former and current, will be on hand for autograph sessions during the week.
Last year in Phoenix, the NFL Experience attracted 150,000 visitors. Two attending this year were Dan Harlan and his son. They were wearing Detroit Lions and New York Giants jerseys, respectively, and because of that, stood out in a crowd of 49ers and Raiders backers on Saturday.
“My dad moved from Detroit (to San Francisco) in 1957,” Harlan said. “He visited when he was in the Navy and said, ‘This is where we’re going.’ I loved the Lions as a kid.”
This year, the Super Bowl winner not only will get the Lombardi Trophy. The victors also will be presented with a golden “50,” which also will be on display during the week.
Craig said it was appropriate that the Bay Area is hosting the 50th Super Bowl considering that the 49ers have won five Super Bowl titles and the Raiders three.
“It’s going to be fun for all the people in the Bay Area,” he said. “I hope they embrace it well and not be too irritated by a lot of traffic. It’s OK to have a lot of traffic because that traffic is bringing revenue to the city.”
Super Bowl 50
- Who: Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers
- When: Sunday, Feb. 7, 3:30 p.m.
- Where: Levi’s Stadium
- TV/radio: Ch. 13, 1140