The first thing I did upon stepping outside Sky Harbor Airport was remove my down jacket.
The second thing I did was remove the windbreaker underneath the down jacket.
The third thing I did was remove the hoodie underneath the windbreaker.
What was I thinking when I prepared to spend a week in Phoenix, where the temperature Sunday approached 80 degrees? I think I was thinking that if the Seattle Seahawks are on their way to a game so momentous the NFL refers to it in Roman numerals, I might regret not packing moon boots.
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The 49th Super Bowl — or Super Bowl XLIX, to put it not very simply — will be the Valley of the Sun’s third chance at rolling out the red carpet for the calendar year’s ultimate sporting event. But it will be the first chance for the Seahawks, and their traveling 12s, to enjoy a Super Bowl as envisioned by Pete Rozelle.
The late NFL commissioner supported the idea, realized in 1967, of the two champions of pro football’s newly merged leagues facing each other for the right to claim one trophy. No image is more indelible than a first image, and the inaugural Super Bowl — played under a cloudless sky at the Los Angeles Coliseum — became a model for every subsequent Super Bowl.
It’s all about that climate, boss.
Which brings us to Phoenix, a Super Bowl site that finally feels like the real deal for the Seahawks.
A year ago, New York City, which has some experience at putting on shows, put on a show during the days (and nights, and early mornings) preceding the Hawks’ 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos. A portion of Times Square was converted into a toboggan run — an inspired concept, but one that made it difficult for tourists to tell whether they were participating in festivities related to the Super Bowl or the Winter Olympics.
The neon lights were bright on Broadway, and there was magic in the air. But the neon lights and the magic air couldn’t change forecasts calling for snow later in the week. Sure enough, some 12 hours after the Seahawks hoisted the Lombardi Trophy amid a confetti blizzard, an authentic blizzard shut down the local airports.
Detroit did what little Detroit could to offer tourists a hot time during the Hawks’ inaugural Super Bowl trip, in 2006. A mass shuttering of formerly elegant downtown hotels required most visitors to find lodging in the suburbs, and while the week wasn’t the trip into post-apocalyptic surrealism cranky naysayers feared, it did little to cement Detroit’s place in the cycle of future Super Bowl destinations.
After two trips to Super Bowl sites associated with gray winter days and frigid evenings, the Seahawks stepped off their plane Sunday looking like guys who’d been here before. By an unofficial ratio of about 30-0, sunglasses outnumbered overcoats.
Fans following them to Arizona might be surprised to find Phoenix, that once frumpy town known for turning its lights off before midnight, attempting to replicate the almost-anything-goes atmosphere of the Las Vegas Strip.
An “open campus,” beginning Wednesday, will allow adult beverages to be consumed on the sidewalks of an enclosed nine-block area in Phoenix. Some hurdles had to be cleared — specifically, obtaining the largest special-event liquor license ever issued for downtown — but the idea appealed to a Phoenix tourism industry determined to keep tourists in Phoenix.
“It shows that we’re progressing,” City Councilman Michael Nowakowski recently told the Arizona Republic. “Before, we were kind of dead. We didn’t have art galleries. We didn’t have cultural centers. We didn’t have these amenities. Now, we’re trying to show off.”
Street parties, of course, aren’t everybody’s cup of Long Island tea. Visitors inclined to spend their afternoons in a rowdier environment this week can go to Scottsdale for the Waste Management Open, where the bleachers surrounding the 16th green have gained fame as the PGA Tour’s version of a mosh pit.
Fans at No. 16 cheer the good shots of their favorite players and jeer the less successful shots of their not-so-favorite players. In other words, the fans behave with the irreverence of normal spectators.
It’s not for everybody, but after the interminable controversy over the deflated footballs New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady used during the first half of the AFC Championship Game, the din some might find strident at No. 16 will sound like it came out of a harpsichord.
As for the game that concludes the weeklong gala, the NFL hopes the retractable roof at Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium can remain open. It’s supposed to be 77 degrees and partly cloudy, not exceptional for Phoenicians but paradise for the rest of us.
One last detail related to the weather: The blimps will return. Concerns about freezing rain and snow kept the helium-filled airships on the ground last year.
I trust there will be no brouhaha about whether they were properly inflated.