Youthful Spirit at Super Bowl XLIII Week
Tampa-The nation and the world's attention has its site on my
hometown/place of birth, after the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington D.C.
Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida is the site of Super Bowl XLIII between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.
The weather in Tampa is pleasant mid 70's.This a welcome respite from the freezing temperature of a week ago.
There is a mind boggling, dizzying variety of events throughout the city leading up to the big game. Current and former NFL Players are making appearances at various elementary schools and veterans hospital. There was an event to collect used sporting equipment, and house building with Habitat for Humanity just to name a few.
One of the main events that I attended was NFL Experience presented by Bank of America. This is an inter-active sporting event that kids and their parents can enjoy. The media were given an early peek at this event on Friday, January 23, hours after my over night flight from Los Angeles. The spokesperson was correct in stating "NFL Experience is under construction." It was amazing to see the transformation the skilled tradesmen and women performed to get the NFL Experience presented by Bank of America ready in time for tens of thousands of fans entering grounds on Saturday, January 24.
Kids and their parents were fully immersed in all of the events when I arrived Saturday morning. People were lined up to see and photograph the Vince Lombardi Trophy that will be presented to the winner of Super Bowl XLIII.Fans could try on helmets and shoulder pads in the Locker Room, purchase collectible football trading cards and get them autographs. You can also see how footballs are made in the Football factory, and see memorabilia from the past up to last years Super Bowl in the NFL Network Theatre and Hall of Fame Room. The Hall of Fame Room consisted of photos of Super Bowl Rings, giant posters of past Super Bowl tickets, helmets and jerseys from the early days of the NFL. The video "Road to The Super Bowl" was shown continuously in the NFL Network Theatre.
An added treat this year is a live auction of historical and modern era football items. The live auction at the NFL Experience will be held on Saturday, January 31, 2009.The auction will feature more than 300 lots of football related memorabilia spanning from the early days of the sport through the current era. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to charities designated by the NFL, NFL Players and participating NFL Teams. For more information visit www.nflauction.com and for a list of auction items visit www.huntauction.com.
Fans can also purchase Super Bowl XLIII memorabilia in the NFL Store on the grounds of the NFL Experience presented by Bank of America. Fans visiting the NFL Store will feel like a kid in a toy store. A variety of collectible items are on sale. You can also order a gift for a special someone at www.stadiumcollections.com
The NFL Experience presented by Bank of America have different tents set-up so that one can test their football skills. Fans could punt, pass and kick a football, kick a game winning field goal, be a running back and throw a football downfield like a quarterback and other events so that fans can go through some of the drills that professional football players in a fun-filled family environment.
The Clinic Field offered kids in the Youth Football Festival professional instructions from NFL players. The Youth Festival consisted of kids involved in the NFL Play 60-the NFL Movement for an active generation. Cheerleaders from the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered tips to young cheerleaders looking to improve their skills. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Players #11-Josh Johnson,#54-Geno Hayes and #60-Chris Bradwell taught kids football fundamentals and the above mentioned cheerleaders spoke about the importance of getting a good education, living drug-free and striving to achieve dreams. Race car driver Audrey Zavodsky and Shawn Johnson-Gymnast, 2008 Gold Medalist delivered inspirational speeches as well.
The kids participating in Play 60 received free autographed photographs from the NFL Players, cheerleaders and other special guest. Parents and teachers please visit www.nflrush.com for more information about NFL Play60.
Local band Breezin played classic rock, pop, r&b, and soul songs for a delightful audience in the Clinic area.
Also on Saturday, I went to the Children's Gasparilla Parade. The Children's Gasparilla Parade was an alcohol-free, family friendly event. The event kicks off a series of events for Tampa Bay residents and visitors to celebrate, from the NFL Experience, Super Bowl XLIII and concluding with the Gasparilla Pirate Parade and Festival on February 7.
I returned to the NFL Experience presented by Bank of America Sunday, January 25 briefly for the clinic for Special Olympians. This was the highlight for me for the weekend.BJ Askew of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Laurent Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons(see picture) taught the kids flag football fundamentals, sportmanship and teamwork. The clinic finishes with a scrimmage game of flag football.
You still have time to partake in the NFL Experience presented by Bank of America. The remaining schedule is Thursday, January 29 through Super Bowl Sunday on February 1.Please visit www.superbowl.com for a list of events in Tampa leading up to Super Bowl XLIII.
On a related note, Southwest Airlines is adding extra flights from Pittsburg and Phoenix to Tampa International Airport for fans attending Super Bowl XLIII. USA3000 and JetBlue’s Airways have extra flights between Pittsburg and Tampa International Airport.