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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

New York area comes up big as Super Bowl host

The exterior of Metlife Stadium before the start

The exterior of Metlife Stadium before the start of Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Dave Lyons

It was a spectacle befitting its setting: crowded, complicated and just the right amount of crazy.

That's New York, and it's what the NFL asked for 44 months ago when it awarded the metropolitan area the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather region.

The point of it all finally arrived Sunday in the form of an actual game -- one played without actual cold weather -- that turned out to be a dud in competitive terms but served as the finale of a weeklong celebration that brought together three pillars of American culture: Gotham, football and unapologetic capitalism.

So how did it go? New Yorkers traditionally do not worry about such matters, given our shameless exceptionalism, but something about this event seemed to galvanize the area into genuinely caring how it all came off.

Most folks involved seemed to come away generally satisfied, and they had every right to be, given the magnitude of the undertaking and the multitude of things that could have gone wrong -- and often have in Super Bowls in quieter outposts.

John Mara said it made him proud, not only as the president of the Giants but as a lifelong New Yorker.

"Yes, I am,'' he said before the game. "To see how many people are in the city, enjoying themselves, seeing all the events going on. It went very smoothly. I couldn't be more pleased.''

Commissioner Roger Goodell shared the sentiment and lauded the "energy and excitement'' of the week.

Yeah, we do energy and excitement well around here, a vibe that extended to an unusually raucous atmosphere inside the stadium for a Super Bowl.

Fears of an even more corporate-oriented crowd than usual, given the proximity to Wall Street, soon evaporated; fans dressed in Seahawks and Broncos colors mixed with unaligned onlookers who quickly got into the spirit.

It was good to see MetLife Stadium, rightly criticized for its gray blandness, full and rocking for only the second playoff game in its four-year history -- at least until the Seahawks put away the game early in the second half.

Not that all was perfect. Far from it, especially the human gridlock that snarled pedestrian traffic on Super Bowl Boulevard in Manhattan, then hit New Jersey as fans braved hot, crowded platforms for game-day trains.

Those were but two glaring examples of a consistent theme: limited space. Everything was more compact than is customary for a Super Bowl, from the media center to team hotels.

The NFL Experience, where fans traditionally have enjoyed football-related activities, disappeared because there was no suitable space for it. (The Javits Center was booked by the time the NFL settled on the Feb. 2 date.)

Super Bowl Boulevard was a noble experiment but simply was too crowded for most purposes other than gawking at the Broadway scenery.

Come game day, fans who heeded the call to use mass transit showed up earlier than expected for trains, creating a massive bottleneck at the Secaucus train station. There were more problems after the game as fans overwhelmed New Jersey Transit's ability to keep up with them.

Yet the NFL said this was the earliest the majority of a Super Bowl crowd had arrived at the stadium and gotten through security in at least 30 years; New Jersey Transit said it delivered 28,000 fans to the site.

If there was a thematic negative to holding the event here, it was that like everything else in New York, it mostly was swallowed up amid the vast day-to-day bustle; most area citizens were not directly touched by it in any way. But that's life in the big city, and no one's fault.

So after a week in which the NHL visited the Bronx, Kevin Durant visited Brooklyn, LeBron James visited Manhattan and the Super Bowl visited the Meadowlands, the New York parade was set to move on to the next thing first thing Monday morning.

The glow will linger a bit, though. The NFL gambled and won, and opened the door for other places with real winters to demand their turn.

"I've just had so much positive feedback from different owners that I think we should do it again,'' Mara said of returning the game to the New York area. "It's exceeded my expectations.''

He's not the only one.


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