Hands went up down at the front, at the back, and off to the speaker’s right. Very often this week, though, the questions have come from left field.
By the time the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers make the half-hour drive across the Strip to Allegiant Stadium, few recesses of their players’ lives will have remained untapped: Their favourite taco. Their preferred Bible passage. In the case of 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, even their resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald.
For San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan, however, the toughest questions arrived before either team landed in Sin City for Sunday’s Super Bowl. When ticket requests flooded in. ‘You never realised you had this many people like you,’ he smirked. ‘Unfortunately,’ Shanahan insisted, ‘the reality is, it isn’t everyone’s event.’
Who was he kidding? This is America’s Game. This is America’s day, when a nation’s favourite pastimes – sport, celebrity, glamour and greed – all squeeze on to 100 yards of turf. This might be the biggest and most brash of all: nothing draws eyeballs like American football and nowhere preys on desire quite like Las Vegas.
It has taken them 57 years to tie the knot. The NFL won’t wait so long to return.
Taylor Swift will cheer on boyfriend Travis Kelce in person as the Super Bowl hits Las Vegas
Kansas City Chiefs are led by the brilliance of both Kelce (right) and Patrick Mahomes (left)
Parking spaces for private jets have run out. Prince Harry flew in for the NFL’s awards night on Wednesday. Come game day, the Strip will resemble a four-mile-long red carpet.
Briefly on Wednesday evening, however, the skies over Las Vegas were cleared of traffic: Donald Trump was heading into town. Really, though, the only flight on everyone’s lips is inbound from Tokyo.
The Japan leg of Taylor Swift’s world tour concluded on Saturday. Her first show in Singapore is Monday. That leaves just enough time to see her boyfriend.
The singer’s relationship with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has dominated this NFL season. The couple have faced accusations that this is a PR ploy and a political plot. But Swift has sent TV audiences soaring, with one study estimating that she has added $330m in brand value to the Chiefs and the NFL.
Swift actually turned down the chance to play this year’s half-time show. Now that honour – or poisoned chalice? – falls to R&B legend Usher.
The 49ers have reached their first Super Bowl since 2019, when they lost to Kansas City
All eyes will now turn to Sin City’s Allegiant Stadium for sport’s greatest cabaret on Sunday
The Chiefs are in their fourth Super Bowl in five years. They are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Vince Lombardi trophies in two decades. The 49ers, meanwhile, have not won a championship since 1994.
This is their first Super Bowl since 2019 – when they were beaten by… Kansas City.
At quarterback, the battle between Patrick Mahomes and Purdy could hardly be better scripted. Mahomes has already led Kansas City to two Super Bowls. His reward? A 10-year, $450m contract that guarantees him a record $210.6m between 2023 and 2026.
As for Purdy’s base salary this season? $870,000. The 24-year-old earned the nickname ‘Mr Irrelevant’ after being the final pick of the 2022 draft in Las Vegas. Two years on, Purdy returns, having led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in his first full season as a starter.
He is surrounded by brilliance in the likes of tight end George Kittle, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and standout running back Christian McCaffrey. The Niners are slight favourites but reached Las Vegas only after two desperate post-season comebacks.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, led by the brilliance of Mahomes and Kelce, appear to be coming to the boil just in time.
To think that, for so long, Vegas was a sporting backwater.
Sure, it was the home of boxing but the major leagues always stayed away. Then the Vegas Golden Knights arrived in 2017 and the dominos have kept on falling. They are reigning Stanley Cup champions.
The Raiders (NFL) have played at Allegiant Stadium since 2020. Formula One planted its chequered flag here last year; LIV Golf landed this week. The A’s (baseball) are due to arrive soon. LeBron James wants to bring an NBA franchise here. David Beckham hopes an MLS team will land in Vegas, too.
Now, in the words of NFL chief Roger Goodell, Vegas is ‘Sports Town USA’. And Sunday’s game brings the biggest pay-out of all.