It’s usually a time for frivolity, the bizarre and silly questions, but Super Bowl Opening Night had a more somber tone.
When members of the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers took the stage at Marlin Park in Miami in the official media kickoff for Super Bowl LIV, Kobe Bryant was on their minds.
The event began with a moment of silence to honor Bryant, 41, his daughter Gianna and the seven other people who died in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, California.
Fans at the stadium reacted by chanting the name of the 18-time NBA all-star, who played 20 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I wasn’t lucky enough to meet Kobe, but the impact he made in my life, I mean, it was huge,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said.
“You can’t say enough about who he was and his impact,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. “I just feel bad for the Bryant family and everybody involved. My heart’s with you, as well as everyone here in America.”
Richard Sherman, the 49ers’ defensive back who is returning to the Super Bowl, said he was always impressed by Bryant’s intensity.
“I saw him make two free throws and walk off with a torn Achilles, and once I tore mine, I knew I had to walk off," Sherman told reporters. "Like he said before, we’re different animals but the same beast.”
The event did have entertainment, with live singers, special appearances and autographs by NFL players, legends and even mascots, WFOR reported.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid sported a casual look in a Hawaiian shirt, joking, “I like dress codes, as long as it’s part Tommy Bahama."
Football, after all, is a game, and some reporters brought games to show the players. One gave Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill the game, Let’s Go Fishing and asked him to pick a question out of a bowl, WFOR reported. Another reporter carried around the vintage game, Rock’em Sock’em Robots.
And, football also took center stage. Chiefs rookie Mecole Hardman was asked if he was faster than Hill:
Mostly, though, there was little bulletin board material, no “I guarantee it,” proclamations a la Joe Namath when Super Bowl III was held in Miami. Opposing quarterbacks Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo had nothing but admiration for one another.
Opposing tight ends Kelce and George Kittle were also effusive in their praise.
Kittle was also a bit starstruck.
“Well, yeah, I just met the Rock, which is cool, and Travis Kelce’s here, so yeah, I’m like living my best life,” he said.
Finally, Chiefs defensive tackle was asked to choose his preference for a potential date between the Super Bowl halftime co-performers -- Shakira or Jennifer Lopez? Jones turned in a stellar defensive play.
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