Super Bowl in super stadium

Published 1:32 am Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I earlier promised myself that I would not watch the Super Bowl, much less write about it. Nothing can be said that has not or will not be said about it.

The only thing most of my readers might not know about is the stadium itself. Known as the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., it is the site of the Fiesta Bowl and other college and National Football League games.

The unique thing about this stadium is not that the roof can be closed (which most newer stadiums can do) but that the actual playing field can be stored outside of the stadium. It is natural grass on dirt, all built on a platform that can be rolled into the stadium for games. This enables those who run the stadium to store the actual field outside, where it can get sun and rain. That means that, even if the roof must be closed because of bad weather, the grass will continue to be nourished by nature.

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Many schools, even high schools and small colleges, have installed an artificial turf that has the feel and texture of natural grass. Millsaps College in Jackson has such a field. It enables football games to be played during or after rain showers without damage to the turf.

Other than Eli Manning, four other participants in this year’s Super Bowl have Mississippi connections. New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski played at Madison Central High School (before kicking for the University of Memphis.) Kevin Dockery from Hernando and Mississippi State is a defensive back for New York. Patriot linebacker Adalius Thomas played at Southern Mississippi. New York Giant’s tight ends coach Mike Pope spent several years on Steve Sloan’s staff at Ole Miss. All together, Super Bowl 42 had enough Mississippi flair to whet my interest.

The first half of the Super Bowl game brings out one comment from me. I think there ought to be a separate interception category for passes that are first tipped or dropped by a receiver before being intercepted. The only pass interference call in the first half was the result of a ‘face guard’ by a Giant defender. Therein lies one major difference in college and professional football rules. In college ball, there must be actual contact for interference to be ruled.

I read the other day where a former Mississippi high school football coach is returning to Mississippi. He had taken his Mississippi retirement (to which he was entitled) and gone to an adjoining state to coach and teach. The double dipping is fine. Coaches and teachers often retire from the public schools and then work in a private school. In the case I am talking about, the coach has now returned to Mississippi and has taken a coaching job at another Mississippi high school. I am curious about the status of his Mississippi retirement. If any of you school types know, please let me know.

It seems to be harder now for a player to transfer between high schools. When I was younger, athletes moved from school to school quite often. I remember one boy who made All Big Eight at one school in North Mississippi, moved to Natchez and again made All Big Eight, then went to another school in North Mississippi and made All Big Eight a third time. The school I graduated from in Tennessee made that sort of thing a regular happening. The year after I graduated, three of the starting backs on the football team had been sent there by Georgia Tech, and only the fourth back was ‘home grown.’

And, That’s Official

Al Graning can be reached by e-mail at