Throughout the week, Mike Tanier will be out and about and filing dispatches from the Super Bowl city.
Inside-out umbrella weather arrived in Indianapolis early on Saturday afternoon.
Rain is falling. Winds are gusting. This is not typical Indiana February weather –there are no ice pellets — but it is much more in line with expectations than the early-spring Shangri La the city enjoyed all week.
The rain arrived just as crowds began to reach critical mass in the Super Bowl Village and downtown. In monument circle, the bullhorn preachers have taken over one quadrant, the shampoo marketers (who are coaxing visitors into wearing increasingly grungy blonde wigs) another quadrant. The other half of the circle has been commandeered by food trucks offering everything from pulled pork po boys to gourmet mac and cheese.
Dining near the Super Bowl Village is nearly impossible, with crowds flowing out of every eatery. Crowds have even picked up on Massachusetts Avenue on the other side of downtown. As of 2 o’clock, there were still seats at some excellent restaurants. Bazbeaux offers deluxe pizzas and gourmet fare. Most choices are delicious, though smart diners steer clear of the pizza that “tastes just like a tuna melt,” because nothing should taste like a tuna melt but a tuna melt. Rathskeller offers German fare and a hot mustard made with horseradish extract that is only safe in homeopathic dilutions. Chatham Tap offers fish ‘n’ chips and soccer on the main television, allowing you to enjoy English ambience to match the weather.
Even these out-of-the-way haunts will soon fill. Ironically, a comic book shop was one of the few places of quiet normalcy downtown. Doug Stevenson, owner of Downtown Comics, sold out of bobbleheads and sports memorabilia early in the week. Still, business has been swift. “This has been the slowest day,” he said. “I think people are settling in.” That, and rain and mint condition do not mix.
Stevenson was happy to confirm my suspicions of what would happen if comic book cities hosted a Super Bowl: “In Gotham, there would be an attack by all the crazies. In Metropolis, Superman would protect it, so it would be fine.”
Even comic book shops are drawing an unusual element, as a fashionable woman walked in to look around. “Do you have any restrooms?” she asked. Figures.
As for the ice sculpture replica of New York at the far end of Massachusetts Avenue, it is missing and presumed melted, though perhaps Mr. Freeze should also be a suspect.
Mike Tanier writes about the N.F.L. for The Times, Football Outsiders and NBC Sports. If you are in Indianapolis, look for him out and about: he will be the one complaining about the lack of authentic cheese steaks.