It's a fact, Jax

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:24 AM ET

Finding 39 interesting things to do in Jackonville would be a tall order on a normal early February week. Finding 39 reasons why the NFL put the game in this north Florida city would be next to impossible.

The Super Bowl ship is anchored in town, however, with the usual array of interesting sideshows. What follows, in honour of tonight's 39th playing are XXXIX observations, quotations and items of interest from the hype week that was:

I - NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said with a straight face that the Super Bowl could return to Jacksonville some day. He also said the NFL will come to Toronto in his lifetime. It's hard to imagine either happening for a long time.

II - In honour of halftime show performer Paul McCartney, Eagles linebacker Ike Reese was asked to name all four Beatles. "Let's see, McCartney, Lennon, Ringo Star and, uh, um, uh, some guy named George," Reese said.

III - Eagles receiver Greg Lewis said with a sad face: "Being in the Super Bowl is fun. Being in Jacksonville isn't what I have expected. It doesn't look like the brochures."

IV - The scene: A rough biker bar in Jacksonville Beach. The entertainment: Colleague Terry Jones of The Edmonton Sun crooning '60s song Rama Lama Ding Dong at karaoke night.

V - Radio Row. The NFL reports that some 90 all-sports radio stations are accredited for this Super Bowl. Most are housed in a chatter-congested section of the press centre and parade any number of ex-NFLers to feed the hype machine.

VI - Cruisin' on the river. To make up for the shortage of hotel rooms in the area, the Jacksonville organizing committee arranged to have three massive cruise ships anchored on the St. John's River.

VII - Former Eagles quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski is living large this week. Jaws, who was seen hugging Eagles players after the NFC Championship win, was both an interviewer and intervieweree all week.

VIII - Only the Los Angeles Lakers (eight) and New York Yankees (seven) have advanced in more consecutive playoff series than the Eagles who are currently at five. This is their first trip to the Bowl in that run, of course.

IX - Former Chicago Bears great Mike Ditka knows what he would have done to Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell for questioning the Patriots secondary. "Freddie Mitchell doesn't know how hard he would have been hit, if he would ever had said that in the '60s," Ditka said. "He'd still be looking for his head."

X - At the Super Bowl media party at the Tournament Player's Club in Sawgrass, guests were invited to take a shot at the famous island green. Floodlit and playing 142 yards into a stiff wind, yours truly splashed a 7-iron just short.

XI - The PGA Tour, which oversaw the party (and the litany of awful shots), reports that of the 1,650 attempts, only 101 finished on the green for a percentage of .061.

In an attempt to drum up some interest for their Super Bowl next year, Detroit organizers are handing out free scarves this week. Little did they know how handy they would be this week.

XII -Two-time Super Bowl-winning punter Josh Miller of the Patriots is also a one-time Grey Cup winner. Miller was with the Baltimore Stallions in 1994-95 and led the CFL in punting both years.

XIII - With a straight face, Tagliabue said he didn't want the league to be associated with gambling, which is why the NFL will not allow the city of Las Vegas to buy an ad on the Super Bowl telecast.

XIV - Here is betting that Tags doesn't do well in the NFL office pool and that his league doesn't plan to let on-line gambling sites advertise on the field any time soon. Here is betting Tags also knows what today's spread is.

XV - The biggest legal bet in Super Bowl history was reported to be the $4.8 million U.S., a guy put down on the Rams three years ago. The Pats and the Mirage were the big winners that day.

XVI - The sun made its first sustained appearance of the week yesterday. Visitors were still waiting to see temperatures inch into the 60sF. Maybe Detroit doesn't look so bad.

XVII - Two more things you didn't see here this week: Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't smile once and Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb couldn't stop.

XVIII - Emmit Smith was a great running, back but has an ego to match. By announcing his retirement in Jacksonville days before the Super Bowl -- a blubbery display at that -- shows how seriously the former Cowboys great takes himself.

XIX - The Patriots will become the fifth team to play in a fifth Super Bowl joining San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Washington and Miami. Only two teams have played in more, Dallas (eight) and San Francisco (six).

XX - Eagles centre Jon Runyan on his personal joys of the Super Bowl: "I've got lots of sleep. No kids waking you up at midnight. I go to bed at 10 and wake up at seven. It's great.

XXI - Eagles owner Bob Lurie's first choice for franchise ownership was the Patriots. But when his friend, Bob Kraft, won that battle, Lurie went shopping elsewhere and now meets the team he wanted in the Super Bowl.

XII - The Eagles' mascot is named Swoop. The mascot of the Super Bowl XXXIX welcoming committee is a pelican called Scoop. Its favourite book is The Pelican Brief by John Grisham, according to the official website.

XXIII - The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that it has been 7,921 days since a sports team from the City of Borther Love won a major sports title. That would be the Sixers in 1983.

XXIV - The Eagles are the home team today at Alltel Stadium, which has a capacity of 76,877. The record Super Bowl attendendance was 103,985 for SB XXIV in Pasadena. The "home team" is 17-21.

XXV - The winner's share for today's Super Bowl is $68,000 and the loser's $36,500. Bowls I-XI were $15,000 and $7,500.

XXVI - Iis this, the NHL playoffs? Feb. 6 is the latest in the calendar that the NFL championship has ever been played. Then again, it would be nice to have NHL playoffs again.

XXVII - What a race! Eagles receiver Terrell Owens likened himself to Smarty Jones, the Philadelphia-based thoroughbred who won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. "I'm going to get re-shod on Thursday and Friday and I'll be ready for the big race," T.O. said.

XXVIII - It's called Beli-speak. The Pats coach is matched by his quarterback, Tom Brady, in his ability to string cliches together and completely dodge the essence of a reporter's question. And they probably laugh about it afterwards.

XXIX - Former NFL and CFL star turned broadcaster Joe Theismann on Donovan McNabb: "I've never seen a Super Bowl where the burden of winning or losing fell so much on the shoulders of one man."

XXX - The Patriots (12%) and Eagles (9%) are the third and fifth most popular NFL teams in the U.S., according to a Harris Poll. The Packers (18%) and Cowboys (14%) were the top two ranked.

XXXI - Toronto's Mike Labinjo showed up at a gathering of Canadian media types on Thursday night. He could have been hanging at any number of parties, but the Eagles' special teams player landed here. Consider it his first rookie mistake.

XXXII - The Patriots are favoured by seven points, the seventh time the spread has been at a converted touchdown. The faves have won three of those, the dogs two with two pushes.

XXXIII - In case you miss them, the NFL Network (available now in Canada) plans to air some of the much-anticipated Super Bowl commercials in a 30-minute reel immediately following the game.

XXXIV - Though it doesn't feel like the Sunshine State here this week, this is the 12th time the Super Bowl has been played in Florida. The AFC holds a 7-4 edge in previous visits.

XXXV - Outside one Jacksonville hotel, no less than four people were holding signs saying: 'Will pay $4,000 for a pair.'

XXXVI - The Patriots have won eight consecutive playoff games, second longest in league history. The record is held by the Packers, who won nine in a row from 1961-67.

XXXVII - Good news for the Patriots that Fox will telecast today's game, even though it is the official network of the NFC. When ABC has been the official broadcaster, the NFC is 7-0.

XXXVIII - With three greyhound racetracks in the area, Jacksonville is the unofficial Dog Capital of America.

XXXIX - Today will be the final match played to capacity at Alltell. The Jaguars plan to put tarps over some 10,000 seats next season.


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