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Volume 23 No. 28
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Helping the nation get back on track

JIM STEEG
Former NFL senior vice president of special events
Steeg was best known as the Super Bowl czar while serving as the NFL’s point person in organizing the event. He worked 27 Super Bowls and attended one other (Super Bowl X) as a spectator.

The Super Bowl evolved in stages. First, it was about trying to improve the game-day experience at the stadium — pregame, Jumbotron, sounds, concessions, whatever. Then it was understanding that it wasn’t a four-hour experience on game day; it was more like an eight-hour experience for many fans. So we ramped up hospitality and entertainment outside the game. The NFL Experience was originally designed close to the stadium for that reason.

Then we came to the conclusion that the Super Bowl experience wasn’t four hours or eight hours, it was three or four days. So we wanted to do more for locals and the NFL Experience got bigger and all these events sprang up. We had 107 sanctioned events. Then you had unsanctioned things like the Playboy and Maxim parties getting big.

Former President George H.W. Bush joins Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach for the coin toss.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Then we came to the conclusion that for the time we were there, we were one of the biggest businesses in the community, so we needed to give back. So we did Taste of the NFL and other programs to give back.

ONE THAT STOOD OUT: Super Bowl XXXVI, Patriots vs. Rams, Louisiana Superdome.

There will never be a more important moment, on a national and global scale. Ever. …

The Sept. 11th terrorist attacks caused the NFL not to play regular-season games the weekend of Sept. 16, thus putting the date and the site of Super Bowl XXXVI in limbo. Once New Orleans was reselected, it was just 122 days until the game. The entire experience was redesigned and reinvented with the underlying knowledge that the country needed to be shown that traveling on airplanes and attending events, public and private, were safe and without risk from terrorism or chemical attacks.

Super Bowl XXXVI redefined events for elements of security, credentialing, medical procedures, entertainment, stadium operations and much more, forever. …

George H.W. Bush was the first former president to perform the Super Bowl coin toss. All four living presidents plus Nancy Reagan participated in a stirring pregame performance of Aaron Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait” with the Boston Pops. Mariah Carey agreed to sing the national anthem, the first of her career. Sir Paul McCartney insisted on participating, phoning the NFL and asking to perform “Freedom.” U2’s cathartic halftime show built to a crescendo with “Where the Streets Have No Name” and a towering backdrop listing the names of those who lost their lives in the attacks. At the end, Bono opened his jacket to reveal the stars and stripes of the American flag inside. …

The power of the Super Bowl was shown that weekend in New Orleans. Because it came off without a hitch, it changed the psyche of the entire nation. Its security success, along with that of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics a few weeks later, helped inspire the entire nation to get back up on its feet. And most importantly, it helped make a statement to the world that the USA was not, and would not be, defeated by terrorism.