Gridiron’s grand caravan rumbled away from the neon of the Strip this week and headed 20 miles east, through the splurge of colonies that they have been building in the desert here since the 1940s, up into the hills to the strange and opulent oasis where the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers are staying in the build-up to the Super Bowl.
It is called Lake Las Vegas, this gilded 3000-acre development, with its ersatz suburbs and its retirement homes and its gated communities and its haughty mansions and its luxury hotels and its quaint Italian street names and its reservoir and its golf course that runs like a broad brush stroke of violent green through an arid land.
One day, a local news outlet carried a story that an unnamed player had been attacked by one of the family of coyotes that has been coming down out of the mountains to scavenge for food outside the new delicatessen on the waterfront. A resident said the coyotes had since been ‘euthanised’.
Every day, the NFL’s caravan made the journey out to the oasis in the desert, that monument to the idea that big is beautiful, and brash is beautiful, and it felt like a statement that not even the wild can stand in the way of Vegas and its hosting of the greatest occasion in American sport.
And every day, the players stood at lecterns in their hotels and talked about their hopes and dreams, and television crews fought for space to point their cameras at them, and reporters shouted questions to Travis Kelce about his romance with Taylor Swift, and listened to 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, a committed Christian besieged in Sin City, recite lines from Psalm 23 and speak of his quest for solitude amid this frenzy of attention
And every day, Patrick Mahomes, who is bidding to become only the fifth quarterback to win three Super Bowls, was asked whether he could overhaul Tom Brady, who won seven. And every day, Kyle Shanahan, the quiet, cerebral 49ers coach, spoke about his OCD and his mania for planning. And no one mentioned the coyotes again.
The Super Bowl is sport’s greatest cabaret and so it feels like the strangest thing that there have been 57 of them, 57 festivals of excess, 57 paeans to consumerism, 57 entertainment extravaganzas, 57 juggernaut collisions of the best of the USA’s sporting youth and 57 celebrations of Americana, and not one of them has been in Las Vegas, the neon temple of the American dream. Not until now.