There are Super Bowl parties and there are Super Bowl parties. But Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is redefining the notion by paying to bring every Panthers employee and one guest from Charlotte to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
More than 550 Panthers employees and their guests are here, from secretaries to grounds crew workers to security people. Every employee and a guest was provided with an airline ticket, a hotel room, access to all team parties, a trip to NASA and, of course, tickets to the game against the New England Patriots. The entourage arrived Thursday and will leave Monday. The Panthers weren't saying how much it all cost, but the total expense is clearly well over seven figures for the man behind Hardee's.
"I had been out sick when somebody at work called," security guard Reginald Ramseur told the Charlotte Observer. "That's one of the best calls I ever got."
According to the NFL, the 1996 Green Bay Packers were the only other team to do such a thing, and the Packers beat the Patriots, 35-21, in Super Bowl XXXI.
With a forecast calling for only a chance of rain and temperatures in the 60s, the retractable roof at Reliant Stadium is expected to be open for the game, but there will be no blimps or airplanes dragging advertising banners overhead. Beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing for the next 11 hours, there will be a no-fly zone over the stadium that covers a seven-mile radius, with an 18,000-foot ceiling.
Security, as usual since Sept. 11, 2001, will be tight. More than 5,000 security personnel, including 500 members of the Houston Police Department, will be deployed at the stadium and at Super Bowl-related activities downtown. There are 25 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies involved in the security operation, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ninety metal detectors will be used outside the stadium to screen fans before they will be allowed inside a chain-link fence that surrounds the perimeter of the facility. Several other checkpoints will also have to be cleared before fans can get to their seats. They're being asked to arrive early, with gates opening at 1 p.m. local time, almost five hours before kickoff.
Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington has been a busy man this weekend, attending various social events and appearing on a number of local and national radio and television stations. Friday afternoon, he straddled a chopper-style motorcycle just behind the NFL Network's set in the media center, and startled hundreds nearby when he started the engine with a roar.
Arrington also is one of several NFL players who will appear in a commercial during the game for the NFL Network, all of them singing "Tomorrow," the signature song from the musical "Annie."
Three Patriots remained probable for the game on the injury list -- linebacker Tedy Bruschi (leg), tight end Christian Fauria (leg) and running back Patrick Pass (ankle). The Panthers had no injuries to report.
An interactive Super Bowl trivia quiz can be found online at www.washingtonpost.com/ sports.