SI Vault
February 11, 2008
When the Super Bowl, the football season's biggest game, was staged next door to the FBR Open, the best-attended golf tournament in history, seemingly disparate sports cultures coexisted quite nicely
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February 11, 2008

Xlii, Meet Lxx

When the Super Bowl, the football season's biggest game, was staged next door to the FBR Open, the best-attended golf tournament in history, seemingly disparate sports cultures coexisted quite nicely

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THE SILVER-AND-BLACK Rolls Royce curled out of Thursday-evening traffic and into the valet lot at Mastro's Ocean Club Fish House. Behind the wheel was a man who lives for cracking quarterbacks in the autumn and crushing tee shots in the spring. The door opened, and out stepped Jared Allen of the Kansas City Chiefs, who had spent the day six minutes away at the FBR Open. He walked into the busy seafood restaurant and squeezed into his seat at a table that included Von Hutchins of the Houston Texans, Nick Leckey of the St. Louis Rams and David Berganio Jr. of the PGA Tour. ¶ In a week in which it was hard to tell where the golf ended and the football began, the athletes had gathered to talk shop, break bread and bust chops.

"How tall are you?" the 5'11" Berganio asked.

"Six-six," said Allen, a 270-pound defensive end who plays to a nine handicap, prefers flip-flops to FootJoys, and commemorates his sacks by making a slash in his mullet haircut. He had 15 1/2 alterations to his 'do this season—eight on the left side of his scalp, 7 1/2 on the right. "My whole goal in life," added Allen, "was to grow up and get my butt kicked by Steven Seagal."

Everywhere you looked in Scottsdale, Ariz., football players had traded in shoulder pads for sand wedges, reveling in a week during which the NFL's biggest event shared the stage with the Tour's rowdiest. Separated by 30 miles and a looping freeway, Super Bowl XLII, won 17--14 by the New York Giants over the New England Patriots, and FBR Open LXX, won on the first playoff hole by J.B. Holmes over Phil Mickelson, seemed to grow larger in each other's presence as athletes from one sport made time for the pros in the other.

Emmitt Smith, the former Cowboys running back and ESPN commentator, sneaked away from pregame preparations to play 18 holes with Brandt Snedeker during the FBR pro-am. Tony Dorsett, a Cowboys Hall of Famer, hosted a celebrity golf tournament in nearby Glendale.

Then there was Ron Jaworski and a handful of other retired footballers who participated in a closest-to-the-pin contest at TPC Scottsdale's infamous 16th hole after the opening round of the FBR, only to lose out to a high draw off the club of a lowly sportswriter.

If the Super Bowl claimed top billing, the FBR Open at least enjoyed the spillover of sports fans looking for something to do before kickoff. The tournament set daily attendance records for the first three rounds, topped by a boisterous 170,802—the largest one-day crowd in the history of golf—on a gloriously warm and crystal-clear Saturday. "We always felt that maybe they fudged the [attendance] numbers," said Tour veteran Kevin Sutherland. "I don't think they fudged anything on this one."

As usual, the par-3 16th, ringed by bleachers and skyboxes to look like a stadium, was the place to be. More than 15,000 fans can fit on the 162-yard hole, and on Saturday every seat was filled, with the line to get into the boxes as long as a par-4. Inside, spectators joined in on the Tour's annual hazing ritual. Brilliant shots were cheered while loose ones were ridiculed, especially by the dozen fans wearing Randy Moss jerseys (vintage Vikings, not Patriots). When Anthony Kim popped out of the tunnel under the bleachers and approached the tee box, the crowd broke into a chant of "Adrian Peterson! Adrian Peterson!"—an acknowledgement that Kim and the Minnesota Vikings running back both attended Oklahoma. When it was Mike Weir's turn at the tee, several fans broke into O Canada, although they seemed to get lost after "our home and native land."

On Saturday, Presidents Cup hero Woody Austin pulled his tee shot long and left, and heard the kind of jeers usually aimed at the road team. "Go get your goggles!" one fan shouted, and the laughter followed Austin all the way to his bogey.

And when the crowd wasn't firing darts at the players, they tossed barbs at one another. The Randy Moss group targeted some fans sitting behind a Met Life sign by yelling, "Hey, Met Life! Chug! Chug! Chug!" When a silver-haired man took a small sip of his beer instead of a big gulp, the Mosses booed him too.

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