It's not every day a city achieves world prominence and takes a place among the world's household-name municipalities. But in 2005, Jacksonville, Fla., will go from being just another nice city with warm weather to the center of the world's attention, at least for a day. The Super Bowl will mean big things for Jacksonville. And Jacksonville's experience will prove once again that this most spectacular of events can bring all sides of the political aisle together for a moment of true magic.
You see, whenever a Super Bowl comes to a town, the stars of the political, entertainment, sports and media universes come right along as well. And the impact that day will have is likely to accelerate and amplify every aspect of a host city's future. I know this well because I've been a witness to its impact and inner workings in one city, and have a unique perspective on what it will do for the 2005 host.
By the time Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in 2000, the city had already experienced one prior Super Bowl, not to mention the Olympic Games. Some of my readers understand that I live in Atlanta, but that my column is based where our family's other home is located -- Jacksonville.
But in 2000, my wife and children had just moved into a brand-new home in an area of Atlanta known as Buckhead, and designed the place to entertain large groups without total destruction to the house. We felt pretty comfortable hosting the unofficial party for the state of Georgia's outreach to the entertainment community. We planned for perhaps 150 to 200 guests. But boy, did that change.
The morning of the day before the game, Atlanta was hit with a sudden and unexpected ice storm. A tractor-trailer jackknifed on the city's main downtown connector, blocking almost everybody from the official NFL events. With the roads so icy, I felt certain I would be donating all of the catered food to a shelter and scrapping the party. Then the phone rang.
Then-Congressman (soon to be U.S. Senator) Johnny Isakson was on the line -- he had all of the top GOP leadership from the U.S. House and their major donors in town for the Super Bowl -- with nowhere to go. ?Sure,? I said, ?bring them all.? Meanwhile, the invited guests arrived -- everyone from then-Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes to actress Jane Fonda. It was about then that the phone rang again. It was a top Democrat from D.C., ?The (Clinton) White House would really appreciate it if Dick Gephardt could bring the Democratic leadership and their donors over, as they can't get to the party they were supposed to attend.? Being a hospitable Southern gentleman, I readily invited the Democrats as well.