FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- As a veteran of nine Super Bowls, I've seen a variety of host committee welcoming booths. I seem to recall the South Florida contingent featuring a woman in a bikini a few years back, which seemed to resonate with reporters from across the world.
But the North Texas Super Bowl committee outdid itself this past week by transforming one corner of a drab convention center into a replica of Cowboys Stadium, scoreboard and all. The folks from the 2012 Indianapolis committee appeared a little embarrassed as they put out a couple of chairs and distributed candy bars.
The North Texas group swung into town with a swagger and you never knew who might drop by next. Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman serve on the committee and they've been quite generous with their time. Aikman even co-hosted several reporters on a dinner cruise Thursday evening aboard a 91-foot yacht. I prepared for motion sickness based on a bad English Channel experience in sixth grade, but our coastal route was pretty tame.
Until last week, Super Bowl XLV still seemed like a distant date on the calendar. But now the Texas contingent is officially on the clock. On Friday, I spotted the mayors of Dallas, Irving, Fort Worth and Arlington making their rounds along radio row. The mayors and dozens of staffers flew into town for a briefing with south Florida organizers on everything from aviation to partying.
Much like last week's buildup in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, the Super Bowl XLV festivities will be spread out across a 40- to 50-mile radius. For those of you who didn't grow up in Kaufman County like Jamie Foxx and I did, Dallas and Fort Worth are about 40 miles apart. But they might as well be in different states because the two cities have carved out two distinct personalities.
Fort Worth features one of the most underrated downtown entertainment districts in the country with Sundance Square. And you'll certainly have to make the short drive from Sundance to the Stock Yards before heading over for some Tex-Mex at Joe T. Garcia's. The AFC champions will stay in Fort Worth and the NFC champs will be in Irving, where Texas Stadium stands until it's demolished this spring.
The media center will be in downtown Dallas at the Sheraton and the NFL Experience will be housed at the convention center a few blocks away. I've looked at where a lot of the events are taking place and you should be prepared to do quite a bit of driving.
Cowboys Stadium is located about halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth in Arlington. If you look hard enough, you can find some good restaurants in Arlington (Olenjack's shrimp and grits in Lincoln Square). I think one of the biggest challenges will be game-day traffic. The Cowboys have had 100,000 fans show up for a home game, but most of them sort of had a general idea of where they were going. The Super Bowl brings in fans from across the world and getting in and out of Cowboys Stadium can be an adventure.
Arlington happens to be one of the largest cities in the nation without mass transit, but officials plan to have a light rail train in operation for Super Bowl Sunday. Members of the Texas committee were encouraged to hear about an increase in parties last week in South Florida. They expect that trend to continue despite the fact that we don't have any beaches to offer.
The weather is as unpredictable as you'll find anywhere in the nation. The average high for Feb. 6 is 58 and the average low is 37. I think it's 42 outside right now. But trust me, it could be 72 degrees during Super Bowl week. In fact, Staubach is working on that as we speak.