In taking a swing through downtown Saturday to pick up my Super Bowl media pass, I had a chance to take in all of downtown Houston, which has been magically transformed into some sort of Disneyland for American football. The NFL Experience, Radio Row, a few rides and lots of overpriced food — the city of Houston is ready to go!
Seriously, the Super Bowl committee has done an incredible job getting our town ready for this week. I think folks from out of town will be impressed. There will be plenty of time to talk about the game this week, but for now let's discuss some of the stories that will take place outside the lines:
Will Tom Brady or Bill Belichick be asked about their support for Donald Trump?
On my Twitter feed, I follow virtually ZERO politically charged personalities. I follow mostly experts in sports, WWE, gambling and several friends, which is about 97 percent of what I'm all about. I'm a simple man. So even with no political follows, it seems like every other tweet on my timeline is someone complaining, praying about or defending Trump's immigration freeze. It's almost too much, but I get that it's a big deal. So with that in mind, should we expect Brady and Belichick to have to answer questions about this at Monday night's Media Day...
If it were a regular season game or press conference, I'd say "no way," only because local, traditional NFL media would steer clear of that line of questioning, concerned with somehow losing access. However, the Super Bowl attracts media from sports, politics and entertainment who have no fear of asking questions that create a grudge toward Belichick or Brady because this will probably be the only time they ever cover them. It should be fascinating to see what happens.
What topics are we most hoping are asked about in Roger Goodell's press conference?
In previous years, Goodell's "state of the union" press conference normally took place on Friday, but with a high likelihood of Deflate-Gate questions, what with Tom Brady favored to win his fifth Super Bowl on Sunday, the commissioner moved the press conference to Wednesday, reportedly so that any attention-grabbing headlines would die down by Sunday and not distract from the game. On the short list of topics that I'd love to hear Goodell comment on:
1. Any evaluation of the league's stance on marijuana use for pain management. In a league where player safety and health is an issue, the owners may need to loosen up on this.
2. The reception for the Chargers in Los Angeles, a degree of unwelcome that is begging for a joke about Trump's immigration freeze, but I don't need the hassle of riling up the political folk.
3. How's the domestic violence policy going...you know, what with Josh Brown and all...
Who will be named to this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class?
We will find out Saturday evening. Here are the finalists for enshrinement this year —
LaDainian Tomlinson (running back for the Chargers and Jets)
Brian Dawkins (safety for the Eagles and Broncos)
Jason Taylor (defensive end for the Dolphins, Jets, and Redskins)
Morten Andersen (kicker for the Saints, Falcons, Chiefs, Vikings, and Giants)
Kurt Warner (quarterback for the Rams, Cardinals, and Giants)
Don Coryell (coach of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chargers)
Tony Boselli (tackle for the Jaguars)
Isaac Bruce (receiver for the Rams and 49ers)
Terrell Davis (running back for the Broncos)
Alan Faneca (guard for the Steelers, Jets, and Cardinals)
Joe Jacoby (tackle for the Redskins)
Ty Law (cornerback for the Patriots, Jets, Chiefs, and Broncos)
John Lynch (safety for the Buccaneers and Broncos)
Kevin Mawae (center and guard for the Seahawks, Jets, and Titans)
Terrell Owens (receiver for the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, and Bengals)
These candidates are in addition to veteran's committee nominee Kenny Easley (former Seahawks safety) and contributor nominees Paul Tagliabue and Jerry Jones. For the record, from the list above, I'll go with Tomlinson (lock), Owens (virtual lock who should have got in last year), Faneca (one of the best guards of this era) and Davis (a wild card who seems to be getting more support, despite his injury-shortened career).
How long will Luke Bryan's national anthem rendition last?
This is a big degenerate play every year — how long will the national anthem last? Bovada has set the Over/Under for Luke Bryan's performance on Sunday at two minutes and nine seconds. This is where it's great to live in an era when not only can we gamble on degenerate stuff like the length of a rendition of our country's anthem, but also scout previous performances in YouTube. For example, here is Luke Bryan at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game...
That one was cut off slightly at the beginning, but still a few seconds comfortably below 2:09. Now, how about this one from a 2008 Titans game...
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That one is easily under two minutes! I don't know what to make of 2:09 as a betting line! It almost looks too easy! Perhaps it won't be like last year, when Lady Gaga's anthem caused all sorts of controversy that had some sports books paying on the over and some on the under because of how she handled the last few notes of the song. Hey, speaking of Gaga...
Will Lady Gaga do her halftime show from the roof of NRG Stadium?
That appears to be the rumor. Obviously, some of that may depend on the weather, since the roof will be open if all parties involved agree that the weather is suitable for outdoor football. I honestly have a hard time envisioning exactly how this gets executed, both logistically and legally, as the insurance costs are rumored to be well into six figures to cover a stunt like this. It would certainly give some juice to a halftime show that is following last year's somewhat panned Coldplay show, with a politically charged appearance by Beyoncé. That also raises another interesting wrinkle — in a week when political tension is at an all-time high, will Lady Gaga get political in her performance? The NFL has reportedly demanded that she not delve into that realm, but this is a person who is pondering doing her show from several hundred yards up from the ground, so she doesn't appear to be afraid.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.