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Thursday, February 2, 2006
Updated: February 3, 12:48 PM ET
Lost in America

By Chuck Klosterman
Page 2

Editor's Note: Columnist Chuck Klosterman has landed in the Motor City, and he's revved up to update Page 2's Super Blog multiple times each day for the next week. Check back later today for his next installment.

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One of the gimmicks of Super Bowl week is something called "The NFL Experience," a massive exhibit of interactive footballesque activities located in downtown Detroit's Cobo Hall. I did not have an intense urge to see The Experience, but I did want to visit Cobo Hall; while some people aspire to visit legendary sports stadiums, I intend to visit the location of every venue included in the 1987 documentary KISS Exposed (these venues include the Houston Astrodome, Rio de Janeiro, and at least one soccer stadium in Australia). The 1976 KISS performance from Cobo is especially moving, as Ace Frehley performed two autonomous solos during "Strutter" (one in the usual place, and then an abridged reprise at the conclusion). I sure do love football.

I went to the NFL Experience thinking it would be mildly ridiculous, but I was wrong; in reality, it was totally idiotic. I obviously assumed this kind of promotion would be primarily geared toward children (Note to readers: I loathe children), but it seems the NFL Experience is exclusively a twerp's domain: It's a bunch of miniature humans trying to kick footballs while simultaneously begging their parents to buy them overpriced Chad Johnson jerseys.

More alarmingly, I think a lot of these activities are fixed. They've built a little 40-yard FieldTurf runway (thanks again, Warren Moon!), and they let kids run the 40 and see what time they achieve. However, I think the clock is rigged, because everyone's time was way lower than logic would dictate. If Antwaan Randle El runs a 4.47, I highly doubt some chuberic 14-year-old wearing a "Family Guy" T-shirt is burning a 4.93.

Why does society insist on lying to our children? Whatever happened to reminding kids that sports were hard and soul-crushing and unfun? I feel an adversarial relationship toward our modern world; it seems to lack grit. And on a related note, I found myself disturbed by the NFL Experience's lax steroid policy.

As I walked through The Experience and gawked at the multitudes of tourists, I felt as though I had seen these people before; I think it was when I went to Graceland. I love America, but these people are AMERICA, if you get my drift.

Campbell's was giving away free samples of a new soup they just invented (Fajita Chicken with rice and beans, which is not bad), so there were all these people meandering around the complex while shoving spoonfuls of soup down their gullets; this was happening while Blink-182 was being played over the sound system, a band whose songs rarely include even one guitar solo.

There was a colossal line of autograph seekers waiting to get signatures from Eddie Drummond of the Detroit Lions, which either suggests (A.) there is an underrated degree of interest in kick return specialists, or (B.) people who want autographs are morons. There was also (surprise, surprise) a great deal of merchandise for sale, the weirdest item being a Super Bowl XL bat and baseball set; I almost purchased it, as this would be the perfect complement to the football I got at last year's Preakness Stakes.

One activity I almost tried was the "long toss," where any average patron could see how far he or she could throw pigskin. I have thrown a few footballs in my life; for a brief period, I was a terrible high school quarterback (sadly, I brought unorthodox skills to the table -- while some of my peers excelled at "completing passes to downfield receivers," I was only good at "memorizing the audible system we could never actually use"). By the looks of the people throwing the ball at NFL Experience, drinking 30 to 40 beers every night does not limit one's ability to go deep, so I was totally qualified to try this. Sadly, the line was just too long; I never learned how far I can chuck the leather spheroid. As such, I will just have to continue using my previous estimate: 85 yards.

In other news, the world is crazy: While riding the "People Mover" back to the media center (this is Detroit's version of an above-ground subway), two guys going to a Red Wings game started talking to me about this blog. "You should mention us in your next post," one of them said. "Write that you met two wild cats on the People Mover." This is ludicrous. Do these people really believe I will inexplicitly type, "Guess what? I just met 28-year-old Steve Milkiewicz and 28-year-old Nate Caladiao, and I decided to make this chance encounter public knowledge on ESPN's Web site." Have these wackmobiles never considered the integrity of blogging? People are insane.

Wednesday, 4:02 p.m. ET
One of the most enchanting factoids about Detroit is that you can get to Canada by driving south. For some godforsaken reason, metro Detroit is geographically north of Windsor, a quiet community in Ontario comprised of 390,000 strippers and 166,330 gambling addicts. Two hours ago, I almost drove into Canada by accident. This would have been a disaster, as I am not qualified to deal blackjack and/or blog about the Grey Cup.

Back here in America, people continue to discuss football as if it is more complicated than cold fusion. On the bottom level of the Renaissance Center there is an area called "radio row" -- this a collection of at least 50 sports-talk radio shows, all of which seem to be broadcasting simultaneously. This is so they can tell listeners, "Here we are, live at the Super Bowl" (which they could actually claim regardless of where they were, this being radio … they could claim they were broadcasting from a helicopter above an active volcano and no one could argue otherwise). There are a lot of shows talking about how Seattle will stop the run. There are also a lot of shows talking about how Seattle won't be able to run on Pittsburgh. There are also a lot of shows talking about how Pittsburgh's 3-4 alignment will stop Shaun Alexander from cutting back against the grain. There are also a lot of shows talking about how the perimeter blocking of the Steelers' wide receivers will provide potential upfield creases for Willie Parker. There was also one show talking to a very attractive black woman about nothing in particular (this was Jim Rome's show).

As I was walking around radio row, I saw this red-haired guy frantically waving at me; this would not have seemed strange were it not for the fact that he was wearing a headset and talking into a microphone. It turns out this man is named "Boog," and he is the host of an AM radio show based out of Miami. I assumed he just wanted to say hello, but his assistant immediately threw a headset over my ears and put me on the air. The very first time I spoke to Boog, we were live. We talked for roughly 12 minutes, and then I said good-bye and removed my headphones while we were still on the air; I think we spoke for maybe 15 seconds during the ensuing commercial break, and I can't remember anything that was said. Since I will probably never see this man again, my entire relationship with Mr. Boog was within the context of a public media event. In the future, we will all live like this, all the time.

It's interesting: I've been getting numerous e-mails from people while I've been here in Detroit, and most of these e-mails include a few questions about what things are like here. Strangely, the vast majority of these queries focus on the media itself. As one might expect, the Renaissance Center is super-saturated with big-time broadcasters from ESPN and Fox and ABC and everywhere else, and readers keep asking me what these people are really like. "Have you seen ______," the messages inevitably inquire. "What is he really like?"

Well, here's the thing: I can't tell you. For one thing, ESPN sort of has a policy about reporters reporting on other reporters (their policy being, "Don't do it," which strikes me as wholly reasonable). For another thing, I am only seeing fleeting glimpses of these high-profile people, so I haven't learned anything of value. But I will say this: I have been shocked by how many of these guys appear to act exactly the same way as they do on television. It's semi-spooky: Many of them speak with the exact same cadence and syntax. They make the same kind of obvious jokes, and they deliver the same type of clichés about how certain coaches are great and about how certain players love to play the game and about how exhilarating it feels to be in a Super Bowl atmosphere. A lot of these people talk as if they are on television all the time.

And I suppose this is a positive thing, because it proves that those particular individuals are authentic. But it still strikes me as alien; it would be no different than if I spoke in precisely the same manner that I write. Which I don't -- in real life, I always talk like the main characters from "A Clockwork Orange."

It's a real horror show here in Detroit, my droogs.

Wednesday, 9:20 a.m. ET
Everyone knows this is the first Super Bowl in the history of the Seahawks' franchise, and everyone knows Pittsburgh was the most dominant team of the 1970s. This being the case, it would seem as though history is on the Steelers' side. Which, of course, means absolutely nothing; it's not as if this game is going to be played by accredited historians (although that would be intriguing).

Moreover, history is more elastic than we think: This morning, I got an e-mail from a guy I knew in college; this is a person I haven't seen since at least 1997. His message was about former Seahawks QB Dave Krieg, which didn't surprise me at all: For reasons that were never clearly explained, this guy (who grew up in the town of Casselton, N.D.) was the biggest Dave Krieg supporter I've ever known; although I can't prove it, I've always suspected he might have built this Web page under a pseudonym.

Dave Krieg
Before you mock Dave Krieg: He played in three Pro Bowls and has the 11th-most passing yards in NFL history.

This acquaintance used to argue that Krieg had "borderline Hall of Fame numbers," although part of his statistical contention inevitably included the fact Krieg is the NFL's all-time leader in fumbles ("That's part of the game's magical lore!" he would sometimes insist). And now he has sent me an e-mail. And this -- after almost a decade of silence -- was the message: "What is the over/under on Dave Krieg references this week?" And I'm pretty sure he was not referring to this blog; I'm pretty sure he was referring to the world at large.

I have no doubt this fellow sincerely believes the Seahawks' appearance in Super Bowl XL will somehow shift the nation's eyes back to the legacy of Krieg, and his own personal iconography as a Krieg Apologist will finally be validated. And I'm sure someone else is having an identical experience with the memory of Jim Zorn. This is why men love talking about the history of pro sports (as opposed to the history of, say, physics): We all get to personally decide what mattered.

Other thoughts on this semi-crisp morning:

1. Here's something I failed to mention about media day: There was a news conference about the playing surface. This will be the first Super Bowl ever played on FieldTurf (and people must be reporting on this around the country because I noticed a handful of photographers on their knees, shooting close-up pictures of fabricated grass blades).

This particular news conference included Warren Moon, a man who once delivered this stirring testimonial: "I've seen how the company operates from a business perspective, and their attention to detail on projects, from NFL to elementary school fields is really incredible. That, combined with a fantastic product, puts them way ahead of the competition. I'm really pleased that my alma mater, the University of Washington, plays their home games on FieldTurf." Wow! That's the kind of statesmanship I would usually expect from the likes of Dave Krieg.

2. I had my first brush with Super Bowl security Tuesday; all the journalists at media day had to walk through a labyrinth of barriers and metal detectors before entering Ford Field. It was surprisingly efficient, mostly because the Ford Field security staff yelled at everybody from point-blank range, ushering in a strange atmosphere of fear among U.S. citizens who just wanted to ask Joey Porter whether he enjoyed hitting people.

This yelling -- combined with the staff's overwhelming, omnipresent politeness -- created many curious verbal exchanges: "WALK OVER HERE! PUT DOWN YOUR LAPTOP COMPUTER! WELCOME TO DETROIT! GET IN THE LINE THAT IS NEXT TO THE LINE YOU ARE CURRENTLY STANDING IN! WALK THROUGH THIS GATE! PICK UP YOUR LAPTOP! WELCOME TO FORD FIELD!"

There were also some very cool bomb-sniffing dogs on site, although they always make me vaguely nervous; somehow, I inevitably find myself thinking things that make no sense whatsoever, such as, "What if I accidentally have some C-4 plastic explosive in my coat pocket?" I get the same feeling in airports; I'm always afraid I might have opium inside my Nikes.

3. TV weather experts claim it might snow here Sunday. This could be a problem. If there is more than 4 inches of powder, I predict citywide looting.

Chuck Klosterman is the author of "Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story" and is a senior writer for Spin magazine and a columnist for Esquire. Sound off to Page 2 here.