In Super Corporate Bowl Experience, There's No Place Like Home -- Depot?

Sports Writer Gary Ralston of the Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail Limited discusses the differences between American athletes and British athletes, talks about the relevance of the Super Bowl in the U.K. and even describes his kilt. Ralston is in town to cover Giants Kicker Lawrence Tynes, who is Scottish.Reporter: Dan Steinberg/The Washington PostVideo: Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.com
Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hundreds of kids were corralled in pens around 11 yesterday morning, waiting to be allowed to experience the NFL via the NFL Experience Built by The Home Depot. The kids had been conditioned not to bite the hand that leads them into corporate-sponsored punt, pass and kick competitions, and so they responded appropriately. "N-F-L!, N-F-L!, N-F-L!" they chanted in the pens, while wearing their Home Depot T-shirts.

(And then the kids were given complimentary packets of Soma, taken for a brief tour of the Ministry of Truth and granted an audience with the Great Benefactor. If you missed any of that, sign up for Dystopian Novels 101.)

But I've already been accused of being too negative this week, and so I'll say it was great fun, experiencing the NFL through corporate America. You could take a spin through the Gatorade Training Camp obstacle course, learning about proper Gatorade-approved hydration techniques at the beginning and having a small pour of a recent neon vintage at the end.

You could participate in the Sprint Run to Daylight or struggle against bungee harnesses in SNICKERS The Drive; show off your passing accuracy at the EA Sports Big Quarterback Challenge; or, if you were a smaller tyke, stop by the 3-a-Day of Dairy Kids Zone.

You could further demonstrate your skills at the Xerox Touch Pass, the VISA Field Goal Kick, the Topps Quick Release, the Chevy Roll Out, or the Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick. Even the dying newspaper industry got involved in the most appropriate way possible; the Arizona Republic was, I swear, sponsoring the "Down-and-Out" exhibit.

Sadly, some of these games permitted visitors to have fun without necessarily thinking about consumer goods, but just in case things went too far in that direction there was also the Home Depot House, where the entire family could play interactive games involving plywood and screwdrivers.

But I'm being too cynical, especially on kids day, with NFL superstars like David Garrard, Troy Vincent, Tony Richardson, Christian Fauria, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Eric Ghiaciuc happily leading the kids through some drills.

Ferguson was handing out dap to the kids who could push a tackling dummy the fastest, which is not typically what gets done at theme parks.

"This is a trench war, this is where it starts," he said, between heats. And Ghiaciuc, a center on crutches, was helping the kids with their passing skills. "Hey, I'm an athlete," he said, when I questioned his aptitude for leading such lessons.

None of them were much interested in talking about their social plans this week, and some, like Vincent, said they had none. He said he'd go back to his hotel room and work on PowerPoint presentations. "My mom always told me nothing good happens after 11," he said. Why, you're wondering, did the NFL Experience Built by The Home Depot rely so heavily on such goody-goodies?

"All the other guys are still hung over," Richardson explained.

But I did enjoy successfully kicking 17-yard field goals and posing with headless mannequins from every NFL team and losing in a sprint against four elementary-aged children, and it was certainly fun seeing the giant Lombardi Trophy and the hundreds of decorative cactuses and the SpongeBob SquarePants mascot and Spike the Super Bowl mascot and some other mascots I didn't recognize and, what's this, a giant bronze horse-like sculpture being unloaded from a truck?

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company