Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 | 2 a.m.
Tom Brady displayed the full gamut of emotions in front of a gaggle of reporters, television personalities and fringe celebrities to start his Super Bowl week in 2017.
Brady first frowned and grew frustrated with repeated questions from national journalists about his relationship with then-President Donald Trump. But the notoriously health-obsessed quarterback was laughing in no time given the chance to turn down a cheeseburger from actor Kel Mitchell who was dressed in full attire from his 1997 film “Good Burger.”
Then, Brady started tearing up when a young child asked him who his hero was and he responded by describing his relationship with his father.
Welcome to the morass of Super Bowl Opening Night, the Big Game’s, well, biggest pregame event and only one publicly involving both teams in their entirety.
Las Vegas gets a chance to put its own stamp on the annual theatre of absurdity tonight at Allegiant Stadium. Doors open at 3 p.m. with the Kansas City Chiefs scheduled for an hour-long media session at 5 p.m. followed by the San Francisco 49ers at 7 p.m.
A “joint team moment” is set for 6:15 p.m. while live entertainment including DJs and surprises begins at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $30 and available through Ticketmaster for fans who want to take in the madness. The NFL One Pass app allows those in attendance to listen live to news conferences with all the biggest-name players who will be stationed at their own podiums.
The Super Bowl participants will not be available for autographs or meet-and-greets in the stands, but other former and current NFL players will be on hand.
“I think we’ll get a great crowd in there and great energy,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president for club business, international and league events.
Opening Night is a relatively new phenomenon with the NFL having only introduced it ahead of Super Bowl 50 eight years ago in Santa Clara, Calif. The event’s predecessor was Media Day, typically held on Tuesday morning of Super Bowl week as a way for reporters to access all the key players in the game.
But as Media Day grew bigger and stranger, the NFL, as it so often does, sought a way to monetize it. Opening Night was the answer, and it’s stuck.
Brady had already been to six Super Bowls before the aforementioned scene at Minute Maid Park in Houston seven years ago, but even he seemed a bit taken aback by the enormity of his first Opening Night.
Ahead of his fourth Super Bowl this year, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes should be more used to it. The two-time regular-season and Super Bowl MVP is likely to command the biggest crowd of Opening Night at Allegiant Stadium — much like his first Opening Night in 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla. — though his coach Andy Reid and top tight end Travis Kelce could draw a group that rivals him.
While the trio will give plenty of insight into the upcoming game and their season as a whole, it will be interspersed with fielding questions on things like Kansas City barbecue, Reid’s love for Tommy Bahama clothing, and yes, probably Taylor Swift.
In fairness, Opening Night has also grown less zany over the years. Last year’s event at the Footprint Center in Phoenix was an especially tame affair.
The most memorable moments were more of the uplifting variety.
Mahomes and Eagles counterpart Jalen Hurts had a brief roundtable conversation about being the first Black quarterbacks to square off in a Super Bowl. A ceremonial moment with Travis Kelce, his brother and Eagles center Jason Kelce and their mother, Donna Kelce, followed.
The NFL is trying to evolve the event, and part of that will be holding it in the venue where the Super Bowl is being played for the first time this year.
“The stadium will be dressed for Super Bowl and provide a true preview of Allegiant Stadium,” O’Reilly said.
The building may look the same Sunday, but the mood will feel like a 180 with the tense feeling of history being on the line. Opening Night gives the teams a chance for a more lighthearted experience as they begin a week-long stay in Las Vegas that will be mostly dominated by practice and preparation for one of the biggest games of their lives.