A BIG TEXAS PARTY

David Gow: Re-celebrating Super Bowl week in Houston, and why this city will beat Minneapolis as a host

The Big Texas Party was better than anything Minneapolis will do. ABC13.com

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 travelled 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.  

Weather

Idyllic conditions vs. artic 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 60-75 degrees.  The forecast in Minneapolis: temperatures ranging from 10 degrees to 0 degrees – the coldest host city experience, ever.    

People

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.  

Food

Booya vs. Barbecue.  Minnesotans make stew in large vats and call it booya.  Other signature dishes include cheese curds or casserole.  MMM.  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.    

Parties

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!

Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

We all love football, especially the NFL. There is a reason it is the most popular sport in the country.

The other sports leagues need gimmicks. Baseball is weighing a really dumb playoff plan. The NBA looked at a possible tournament. Anything to try to be more relevant, to try to close the gap on the NFL.

So why is the one sport with the best postseason thinking about messing it up?

Last week, a report came out that the NFL was looking to add two more playoff teams for the 2021 season. Essentially, each league would have seven playoff teams. There would be byes for the top team in each conference. The second-best team would no longer get a bye. Last season, in the AFC, the Ravens would have had a bye. The Texans would have still faced the Bills, and the Patriots would have also faced the Titans. The Chiefs would have hosted the 8-8 Steelers.

In the NFC, San Francisco would have had the bye. The Saints would have played the Vikings, the Eagles would have faced the Seahawks and the Packers would have hosted the Rams. The results likely would have played out the same.

But did we really need to see a Steelers team with no quarterback? Are the extra games worth it?

On the surface, yes. more meaningful games. More to bet on. Could that really be a bad thing?

Yes. One of the things that makes the NFL unique is that it is not easy to make the playoffs. Basketball and hockey let in half the league or more. Letting in more than 12 out of 32 waters things down. Can the playoffs really improve by adding less quality?

The NFL already has it right. Why change it? More money? More teams staying in the race later in the season?

The NFL barely had enough quality teams last season. The playoffs featured upsets, including the Titans knocking off New England and Baltimore. In the end, we got two quality teams in the Super Bowl. Why mess with it?

Greed. Better TV deals. It is just two games, but that's two more high-profile TV games to sell.

Sometimes, sports leagues can outthink themselves. In this case, the NFL does not need to change. Why mess with something that is working? The NFL playoffs don't need improving. Is that Chiefs-Steelers matchup really worth it? Teams like the Colts, Jets, Broncos and Raiders would have been in the playoff mix until near the end of the season. On the surface, this all sounds great.

But at the risk of sounding like "get off my lawn" guy, sometimes the old ways are the best. The NFL has not changed its playoff format in 30 years. During that time, the sport has seen unprecedented growth and become the dominant sports league in America.

Why change what works just to add more money to a multi-billion dollar industry? Why reward more mediocrity in a league that welcomes too much of it as it is?

The playoff expansion appears inevitable, so complaining will do little good. Still, it is a bad idea. Messing with a playoff format that works can go two ways; it could improve the product, but the more likely result is more bad teams, and more mismatches.

At least it guarantees Bill O'Brien stays employed forever, as the 9-7 train will likely get you to the playoffs from here on out.

That is not a good thing, and this is a change that will not be for the better.

Messing with something that has worked for 30 years is a bad decision. But the NFL will make more money, and two average teams will get a chance to get rolled in the first round.

What could possibly go wrong?


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