Benner/Sports and Super Bowl and Opinion and NFL and Sports Business

BENNER: Super Bowls Radio Row is a non-stop PR machine

February 5, 2011

DALLAS—The excess of the Super Bowl—or, to be more precise, the super of the Super Bowl—is perhaps best exemplified by Radio Row.

This year, it is in a ballroom of the Dallas Sheraton, which is part of the Motorola Super Bowl Media Center, and it is where hundreds of sports talk radio yakkers assemble to break down and analyze every aspect of the Big Game.

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, it is safe to say there is nowhere in America you cannot pick up a transmission of a show emanating from Radio Row.

The National Football League has created this monster and couldn’t be happier about it. It is wall-to-wall, wire-to-wire free publicity for the league and its climactic clash.

Celebrity guests—current and former players and coaches, actors, comedians—bounce from table to table for interviews. The bigger the celebrity, the bigger his or her entourage. But you’re nobody if you don’t have “people” it seems. Even the Campbell Soup Mom has people. And, yes, she is on Radio Row, doing interviews.

As I look up, there’s former quarterback and current network analyst Phil Simms. There’s former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith. There’s actor Jay Mohr. There’s former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann. There’s former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George. Word has it that Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco is on his way.

From before sunup to well after sundown, the Super Gabfest continues unabated.

This circus, of course, comes to our town next year. A couple of days after this edition of IBJ hits the newsstands, the Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and Green Bay will be history, North Texas will be cleaning up the mess, and Indianapolis will be on the clock. Next city up.

Some in our local media have advanced the “how can we possibly be worthy?” question. In part, I believe, that’s a result of our innate humility. We don’t like to brag. But it’s also a leftover from our “Indy-feriority” days tracing back to our Naptown and India-no-place roots.

Never mind all those Final Fours and international events and the annual staples like the Indy 500, but can we possibly pull off a Super Bowl?

My answer is, of course we can, though in the interest of full disclosure, I am a volunteer member of our Host Committee. That is why as I write this column, I am in Dallas helping staff our Indianapolis 2012 booth in the Media Center.

It’s funny, but the national media seem to have a more positive perception of Indy’s ability to host a Super Bowl than our local media do. The overwhelming sentiment they express is enthusiasm for coming to Indianapolis, even in the dead of winter.

And as an aside, let the record show that if inclement weather hits—as it did in both Dallas and Indy—I am confident in our ability to get the streets and sidewalks cleared quickly.

More than 24 hours after the storm exited Dallas, you could still play pickup hockey on most of the downtown streets.

Most of the national media remind us they’ve been to Indy for Colts and playoff games, for the NFL Scouting Combine, or the other national and international events they’ve hosted. They’re well aware of the compactness and convenience our city has to offer.

And those who have been to Lucas Oil Stadium love it.

What they are less aware of is our Dream Team of Super Bowl organizers. Host Committee President and CEO Allison Melangton is internationally recognized as an event planner. Mel Raines has organized Republican national conventions. Connie Israel had oversight for the Goodwill Games—in Russia. Susan Baughman just wrapped up what most considered to be the best Men’s Final Four ever last April. Tony Mason ran the Circle City Classics. I could go on, but it’s an all-star lineup.

I sincerely believe that when Radio Row rolls into Indy, the talk of our town will be positive. I also believe this won’t be our only Super Bowl.

Now, a quick word about the Pacers’ termination of Jim O’Brien. About time. More than losing his team, he’d lost our town. As for interim coach Frank Vogel, my first thought was that since he came from the University of Kentucky, he has experience with professional players.

Just kidding. Sort of.•

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Benner is senior associate commissioner for external affairs for the Horizon League college athletic conference and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. He also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.

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