Wide-eyed Saturday into Super Sunday Shacharis

Patriots owner Robert Kraft takes time from perhaps the biggest moment of his professional career to give thanks.

Tom Brady 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tom Brady 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Please note that by the time you read this report, the game will be over and the champion determined. Due to the seven-hour time difference, there is no way to cover the actual game in time for our midnight press deadline.
INDIANAPOLIS – The circus is in town. And with his three-ring legacy already on-hand, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been there, done that. This time, he’s making sure to enjoy the moment.
Saturday night at the swanky Conrad Hotel was the scene of a private, 150-person intimate dinner party hosted by the “Massachusetts Mensch” himself.
It’s easy to see why the Patriots are regarded as one of the classiest operations in pro sports.
On the eve of perhaps the biggest moment of his professional career, Mr. Kraft has made it a priority to, as he said from the podium “welcome and thank the people who have been a part of this journey, this extended family.
You all being here is what makes these moments the most special.” (Hit- Home Highlight of the night: Israel women’s national team QB Shana Sprung being called up on stage by Mr. Kraft – at the freakin’ Super Bowl – to be presented with a No. 18 jersey in recognition of the special relationship between the late Myra Kraft and football in Israel.) Forget The NFL Experience, a downtown interactive football theme park offering games, displays, entertainment attractions, kids’ clinics, free autograph sessions and the largest football memorabilia show ever.
THIS was my real NFL experience. Talk about sports hob-knobbing.
I quickly found out that trying to insert oneself into a conversation of dual-sport Hall of Famers Pat Riley and Cal Ripken Jr. is a bit like asking Giselle Bunchen for her phone number. Not likely to happen, but points awarded just for trying. No matter, plenty of other big fish in this sea.
It turns out DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, has a soft spot for Israel and “would love to bring 15 of our players out there to help boost the growth of football in the Holy Land.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell concurred.
“That would be a special trip that I’d love to take part in,” he remarked, likely without realizing that he was going to be held to this “promise.”
Cocktails were followed by dinner, during which Mr. Kraft called up a panel of former Patriots – Troy Brown, Rodney Harrison, Teddy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri and Ty Law – to speak about their experiences as teammates on multiple Super Bowl-winning clubs.
The overarching theme of the discussion was how much work, yet how much fun, it is to be a part of successful football team.
These guys were like brothers, making fun of each other, chiding each other, but expressing deep love for the each other and the bond built over championships.
“People think that luck is big part of the reason this franchise won three Super Bowls in four years,” exclaimed Harrison. “Maybe luck played a tiny role but, man, the amount of work and dedication it takes by players, coaches, management and ownership to reach the pinnacle of this sport not once, but time and again, is something that goes far beyond anything I can describe.”
With Chris Berman – and then Super Bowl broadcaster Al Michaels – moderating the events, the laughter flowed freely.
Former Monday Night Football commentator and comedian Dennis Miller finished off the night with his usual off-color, oft-confusing, but always on-the-effing- point, routine.
Steve Leibowitz, Robert Kraft, Roger Goodell and Uriel Sturm.
Steve Leibowitz, Robert Kraft, Roger Goodell and Uriel Sturm.
“Not many people in the world could be going for their fourth Super Bowl ring and it be far from the best thing that’s happened to them in life. What you and your wife Myra had was something that you rarely see in this world.”
There were some very pro-Israel, pro-cursing, anti-Arab jokes, however the obscurity factor with Miller makes them somewhat difficult to recall with accuracy.
I’m beginning to ramble here at 5:30 a.m. I have to get to sleep. I have to make it on time for minyan with the Krafts – Robert has to say Kaddish – at 9 a.m. to kick off what will surely be a truly unforgettable day! I’m back…just three hours until kickoff and about to enter the stadium with a quick stopover at the NFL’s official tailgate.
Mr. Kraft somehow never fails to impress. (“It’s not that I’m such a religious or observant person, and I am not so strict on saying Kaddish for my sweetheart every day, but I want to demonstrate to my children and my grandchildren that even on day as big as this, the things that are important in life take priority.”) Meanwhile, I gave up a ticket to the Playboy pre-game party to attend the Chabad all-you-can-eat kosher BBQ bash. (And if you believe that, then maybe you’ll also believe that I got a call from Bill Belichick this morning asking me to step in for Tom Brady.) The festival of football is in full-swing, the streets packed with revelers from all over the country (and world) whose excitement level is rising with each passing minute.
The beer-infused smells of both pig and pigskin fill the air as footballs fly through the streets in spontaneous pick-up games sprouting up on every street corner.
The Big Blue Giants’ pre-game shindig was as to be expected, with appearances from Rodney Hampton, Harry Carson, David Tyree and a host of former G-men.
Alas, amid all the unbridled gluttony, finally the need for meat was too strong, and I headed over to the Chabad event, where I caught a quick Mincha minyan and, of course, ran into four or five people that I knew from New York, Toronto, Jerusalem and Indianapolis. The power of Jewish geography at its best.
With a belly full of ribs, chili, sliders and brats, and my hand-packed dinner in hand, I am ready to tackle the main event.
Whatever happens, I will be satisfied knowing that I am squeezing every last bit of enjoyment out of this weekend.
Disneyworld has nothing on this. I’m sure I will be back again, but as everyone knows, you never forget your first.