This might be remembered as the year the Love Boat docked at the Super Bowl.
The NFL took a risk by bringing the NFL title game to Jacksonville, Fla., a city of 1.2 million that doesn’t have enough hotel rooms to cram in all the fans flocking to the game.
Cynics howled. Jacksonville, meanwhile, got to work, giving its Alltel Stadium a $68 million facelift, cleaning up its downtown and bringing out hundreds of smiling volunteers in red shirts to greet visitors.
The lynchpin was the seven cruise ships – two of them private charters – that docked in various spots around town Thursday to host guests of the NFL, many of them high rollers who would normally stay in luxury hotels.
The ships are providing about 3,700 of the 17,500 four- or five-star rooms the NFL requires for Super Bowl week.
Super Bowl a marriage of parties
Links to places of worship are posted on the Web site of the Super Bowl Host Committee. Literature reading “Get on the Winning Team with Jesus” is passed out to football fans on the streets. Instead of partying with Playboy bunnies and hitting nightclubs, several NFL players professed their faith at churches.
In a town often called the buckle on the Bible belt, churches are taking unprecedented opportunities to get the gospel out to the 100,000 people in town for this afternoon’s important game.
The marriage of football and faith has created a religious fervor unmatched in the River City since a four-day Billy Graham Crusade brought a quarter of a million people to Alltel Stadium, site of this Super Bowl, in November 2000.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy called it the most religiously oriented Super Bowl venue and said the Jacksonville Host Committee proposed faith-based activities “to reflect the spirit of the community.”
However, the NFL has been strict in deciding which activities to endorse.
“They had to be inclusive, rather than exclusive, and not promote one faith over another, in an environment where everyone would be comfortable,” McCarthy said.
Owens held out of walk-through
As a precaution, Philadelphia Eagles receiver Terrell Owens was held out of a 25-minute walk-through at Alltel Stadium by coach Andy Reid.
Asked if Owens had any extra soreness, the coach said, “Not necessarily. No.”
Owens has said he will play in today’s Super Bowl against New England. However, Reid said Friday that he might not start.
Patriots skip final walk-through
The New England Patriots skipped their walk-through, the day before the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s been two weeks since our last game,” said coach Bill Belichick. “We’ve pretty much hit everything we needed.”
Marines given free Super Bowl trip
Fifty Marines received a special prize for their service from the NFL’s Cleveland Browns – a free trip to the Super Bowl.
The Browns donated 50 tickets to today’s game between Philadelphia and New England for Marines who have served or will serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Saints promote QB coach
The New Orleans Saints promoted Mike Sheppard from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, and added former NFL quarterback Turk Schonert to replace Sheppard as quarterbacks coach.
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