Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024 | 2 a.m.
Count Mark Davis as an extremely grateful but somewhat reluctant host of Super Bowl 58.
The Raiders’ owner hasn’t paraded around to many of the NFL events this week looking for his share of the spotlight and praise. He showed up late to Monday’s Super Bowl Opening Night ceremonies at Allegiant Stadium, joking he was only briefing breaking out of a closet where he hides in the $2 billion venue to take in the scene.
Davis stayed tucked in a corner near the Raiders’ entrance tunnel, away from the spotlights shined on the players and coaches of his rival Chiefs and 49ers that will square off at 3:30 p.m. today for the Lombardi Trophy. He similarly shied when repeatedly asked about his role in bringing the big game to Las Vegas.
“It’s a culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people that put years of their life to make this building and this whole thing a reality,” Davis said.
Don’t cry for Davis as the 68-year-old has gotten a large amount of deserved pats on the back and plaudits for his role in pulling off the unthinkable and making Las Vegas an NFL city.
But he’s right — this isn’t about him. It’s not about the Raiders either. It’s about something much larger — the more than 2 million people that currently call Las Vegas home and those who came before them.
Everyone locally played a role in wooing the country’s biggest event of the year to town.
Super Bowl 58 belongs to Las Vegas as much as it belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers — if not more. Go back far enough, and the odds on Las Vegas being as much as involved in a Super Bowl in an official capacity were much longer than the probability that Kansas City or San Francisco would be participating.
The saga has been told ad nauseum by now — we were admonished, renounced and shunned by the NFL powers that be. But we also wouldn’t take no for an answer, even if it took decades of rejection.
A showing of the same steadfast spirit that Las Vegas was built on also ultimately brought us the Super Bowl more than 100 years later. It may feel like it’s been a long time coming, but what’s really stood out this week is how quickly attitudes have changed on the city.
Notable NFL figures have uttered so many pro-Las Vegas comments that longtime locals must have questioned if they needed to schedule a hearing check. The always-affable Chiefs coach Andy Reid chuckled in relative disbelief when a reporter asked him if he was worried about the distractions Las Vegas could provide to his players.
Of course he wasn’t.
The lazy cliches that made us roll our eyes for so many years are now eliciting similar responses from high-profile visitors.
“This is a great city and it’s growing,” Reid said. “I think it’s great for the National Football League.”
Everyone in Las Vegas should be happy to hear such endorsements, but more importantly, take great pride in hosting the Super Bowl.
It’s the final step in Las Vegas’ coronation as “the sports capital of the world,” as Davis called the city, and it never takes place without the contributions of so many different people.
It doesn’t happen without the thousands of construction workers who worked around the clock throughout a pandemic that shut down the rest of the world to finish Allegiant Stadium on time. It doesn’t happen without the hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers over the years who have worked tirelessly to show off Las Vegas’ unmatched strengths.
Heck, it probably doesn’t happen without the overwhelming, sell-out response to the NHL’s exploratory season-ticket drive a decade ago that showed the city’s insatiable desire for professional sports.
Davis noticed all the potential, so yes, it doesn’t happen without him envisioning the Super Bowl here and eagerly anticipating it just as much as watching his team play in its own, “Death Star,” stadium.
“Before Mark even got here, he was talking about a Super Bowl,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a news conference this week. “He thought this would be a great Super Bowl location so when he got the relocation approval, that was one of the first things he started talking about — ‘When are we going to get a Super Bowl?’ I said, ‘Mark, we’ve got to play a regular-season game first.’ But this stadium is extraordinary…That’s our stage. For us, the stadium is key. The city is key. This city really knows how to put on big events, and we’ve seen that.”
Those types of statements are commonplace from the heads of countless major gatherings that take place here annually, but it means more coming from a former unabashed adversary.
Let’s leave the past behind today though. Forget about the future for a day too, even though conversation has already inevitably drifted to when Las Vegas will host its next Super Bowl.
This moment is too massive, too improbable not to fully savor. Sports in Las Vegas have more than arrived; they’ve fully taken over.
Enjoy the show and rejoice having aided to the long-awaited spectacle.
“There’s nothing like the first,” Davis said, “but they’re going to want to come back.”