TAMPA — Okay, so let me get this straight …
We're going to try to do this again in a few years?
The traffic, the crowds, the high prices, the parking problems, the perpetuation of the strip-club-capital stereotype, the breathless around-the-clock celebrity coverage and incessant blogging, the weeklong hype, the mess left behind (and that's beyond the 1,312,403 beer cans emptied by Steelers fans), and the Tampa Bay host committee folks are already talking about bidding for the 2014 game.
Then again, if you can promise another game as exciting as Sunday's, why not?
Dry county: As opposed to the wet and wild champagne celebrations in a baseball clubhouse, the Steelers scene was relatively tame (though they were rolling in coolers of Gatorade). "Just as well,'' cornerback Bryant McFadden said. "I didn't want to get anything on my new suit.''
Had to be the happiest to be here: 1. Pilot Chesley Sullenberger and the crew from the US Airways plane that landed safely in New York's Hudson River (or as someone said in the press box, "The only longer shots to be here than the Cardinals.") 2. Cardinals tight end Ben Patrick, whose first touchdown catch of the season came Sunday. 3. Steelers tight end Sean McHugh, who was cut by the Lions and ended up a champ.
Bad planning award (besides Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor's coverage on Larry Fitzgerald's fourth-quarter touchdown): To accommodate NBC's crew on the pirate ship, two trailers and an all-important Porta-John were installed, creating a ridiculous and dangerous bottleneck for fans. Then again, would you want to be behind Matt Millen in the bathroom line?
Three most inspired performances: 1. Jennifer Hudson, whose national anthem may replace Whitney Houston's as the gold (record)-standard for sporting event serenades. 2. Steelers linebacker James Harrison, for his rumbling, stumbling Super Bowl-record 100-yard, 100-year interception return for a touchdown. 3. Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes, who told Ben Roethlisberger on the final drive, "I want to be the guy,'' and was.
On the other hand: Referee Terry McAulay and his crew didn't have much of a night, reversed twice by instant replay, questioned a few other times and generally too involved.
Thanks, but no thanks: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was always appreciative and humbled when asked about being considered the football version of the Rays. He just didn't want to end up that much like them, losing at the end.
Three odd things we saw on the stadium concourses and could have lived without:
1. The Bill Bidwill fan club. Instead of dressing like their favorite Cardinals players, these four guys instead modeled themselves after the owner and wore blazers and bow ties.
2. Muhammad Ali's shorts. As if the regular souvenirs weren't enough, booths were set up to sell team autographed footballs ($2,250), jerseys ($2,750) and helmets ($2,950), and other random memorabilia, including a pair of Ali's shorts for $3,999.
3. The Tampa double-wide. A cheesesteak sandwich 2 feet long, so big it came with a carrier, and selling for $24.
Up in smoke award: With Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg around, who knew the biggest partier story would involve Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps, who quickly left town after publication of a months-old photo showing him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.
It's a Tampa thing: The Cardinals' fourth-quarter safety was the first since Super Bowl XXV (Giants-Bills), which was played here in January 1991.
He must have meant starting today: Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talked about the impact of the economic woes and expressed concern about whether fans "can continue to afford to go to an NFL game."
Sunday, his league sold $5 bottles of water, $9 slices of pizza, $10 beers at the concessions, and $30 T-shirts, $95 hoodies and $180 jackets at the stands.
Where's that Verizon guy? Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't get much out of his phone call from President Obama: "Actually I couldn't hear him.''