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Opening Night for Super Bowl lacks its usual lunacy

Updated January 30, 2018 - 12:27 am

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Phillip Hajszan is a nut case, but in a way that his antics fit inside an acceptable bubble this time of year.

He’s the sportscaster from Austria who attends Super Bowls dressed in various costumes as a way to draw attention to himself and country.

He has arrived to an NFL season’s final game clothed as, among others, Mozart, The Terminator, a downhill skier and, last year, Saint Francis of Assisi.

Which might explain how New England rose from the dead against the Falcons.

On Monday, as the Bold North officially welcomed the world to Super Bowl LII week in preparation of the Patriots and Eagles clashing for the Lombardi Trophy, Hajszan attended Opening Night wearing an Austrian football jersey, helmet and lederhosen.

In other words, the only look Tony Sanchez hasn’t opted for his UNLV team.

“This event is not the same as it once was,” said Hajszan, this his eighth Super Bowl. “Very few people dressed up. Few fun and games with the players. I suppose it allows me to stand out more, but it has definitely become more of a … how do you say? … press conference.”

How horrific.

The NFL moved Super Bowl Media Day into Prime Time three years ago, further supporting the notion that the league embraces even the smallest of available sponsorship money. It would pretty much do anything for $20.

But while early indications are this could prove the most hospitable of Super Bowls — it’s cold outside, baby, but nobody seems to notice or care amid all the handshakes and assistance from pleasant Minnesotans— it began with the tamest of opening acts.

“Very professional,” said Patriots tackle Nate Solder. “Usually by now, I would see someone in a wedding dress or get asked a question by a guy wearing a sombrero.”

His point: More than 2,000 media members covered the event, and this year, there wasn’t one holding a 17-foot pole for vaulting in sight.

It wasn’t totally free of tomfoolery at Xcel Energy Center, where the Golden Knights meet the Wild on Friday night.

One reporter tried teaching players Chinese. The female personalities of TV Azteca again returned to the event that launched many of their careers. One guy dressed as a shark. Guillermo Rodriguez, the security guard Jimmy Kimmel made a star, was back to ask cheerleaders which of the game’s starting quarterbacks were better looking.

Guillermo, your Opening Night answer to Woodward and Bernstein.

That, and anything or anyone associated with the Eagles, was massively booed by the majority contingent of Vikings fans, who won’t soon forget that 38-7 thrashing in the NFC Championship.

Yes, the sound of Skol, Vikings broke out in the stands more than once.

But what craziness the week might deliver will likely be discovered in the biting temperatures outside, where you can zipline across the Mississippi River while suspended 100 feet in the air and cross-country ski across a 200-foot bridge and, for the real wackos, jump into a body of icy water to help raise money for charity.

Minnesota asked for 10,000 volunteers to work the Super Bowl, and 30,000 folks raised their hands.

People here smile more than Will Ferrell in “Elf.”

Opening Night was, mostly, talk of first downs and touchdowns, of how Philadelphia intends on denying the Patriots a sixth title, of the drama that immersed arguably the greatest quarterback in history earlier in the day.

Tom Brady cut short his weekly radio interview because a host at the Boston station called Brady’s 5-year-old daughter an “annoying little pissant” last week.

Monday night, Brady said he hoped the host, who was suspended for a week, isn’t fired.

“I would hate that,” Brady said. “I understand criticism is a part of sports. But I certainly don’t think that my children or any other children really deserve to be in that.”

It was one of the more compelling moments of Opening Night, which tells you how subdued things were compared to past years.

At least Bill Belichick didn’t disappoint, given the head coach’s answer when asked how his Patriots would defeat the Eagles on Sunday:

“Work hard,” the hoodie said with a straight face. “Prepare, attention to detail, be honest with people.

“If you’re good, you’re good. If you’re bad, you’re bad. Just do your job.”

It wouldn’t have been a terrible reply … if the person asking wasn’t 10.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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