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The scene in Glendale ahead of the Super Bowl

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

It is the most wonderful time of the year for football fans. The Kansas City Chiefs are about to square off against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. The game is on Sunday, but the awkward press scrums and corporate-branded parties have been going on all week in and around Glendale, Ariz. We're joined now by Mike Sando of The Athletic, who has been in Glendale covering all of the action. Welcome.

MIKE SANDO: It is great to be here. Always love going to the Super Bowl. Always feels like a privilege to get to go, so - we don't have rainy skies or any calamities. It's been good so far.

SUMMERS: Even among those of us who are tried-and-true football fans, many probably haven't been to a Super Bowl. I mean, I was just scrolling through StubHub. And if I wanted to go today, it'd be what, thousands of dollars? And it kind of makes...

SANDO: Yeah.

SUMMERS: ...Me wonder - what is the crowd like? What kind of people are around this early?

SANDO: Well, the Philly fans bring their own style and flavor, certainly. There's a reason they grease those lampposts in Philadelphia, so the fans can't climb them when they celebrate, right?

SUMMERS: (Laughter).

SANDO: And then the Chiefs' fans, obviously, is going to be a little bit more of a midwestern flavor. And so you see all these different people. And then there's some people that, you know, are wearing stuff from other teams. They're just NFL fans, or they were able to get tickets. But you're right, the investment is substantial. And interestingly in this stadium, actually, the space allotted to the media - there's two different places; there's a press box, and there's in the stands - is smaller, because they're accommodating the demand for the game and serving the paying customers.

SUMMERS: All right. I want to get into the football of it all a little bit. This is going to be an incredible matchup for a number of reasons, including the fact that there are two, incredibly dynamic quarterbacks. You've got Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Jalen Hurts of the Eagles. I want to talk about them. They take two totally different approaches to football.

SANDO: Absolutely. The Eagles are much more of a running team on offense. The quarterback is a huge part of that. It makes them very difficult to defend, in their own way. And Patrick Mahomes is just a magician, you know? You - really, I think he has enhanced his legacy through these playoffs by having the ankle injury, still finding a way. I mean, he's hopping around out there half the time and still making incredible plays that almost no one else could make. So I really - I mean, he's well on his way to the Hall of Fame already. But if he could somehow get the Chiefs to win this game and get this thing done, I mean, he's really - goes from being an elite company to almost uncharted company. And I say that even in relation to Tom Brady because...

SUMMERS: Wow.

SANDO: ...While Tom Brady went and won three Super Bowls in his first six seasons, and Pat Mahomes is going to have three, with either one or two wins in his first six seasons, the big difference is the Chiefs are not what the Patriots were on defense.

SUMMERS: I have to say, as somebody who spends a lot of Sunday and Thursday and Monday nights watching football, one of the big things that I'm probably going to be watching is the officiating because I feel like fans have had a whole lot of questions about the quality of...

SANDO: Yeah.

SUMMERS: ...Some calls.

SANDO: Yeah, absolutely. Of course, Commissioner Roger Goodell assured us the officiating has never been better at his press conference the other day - kept a straight face while he said that. And really, you know, I think there's - I know this - there's always been complaints, for 50 years, that officiating has never been worse. OK? Everyone feels aggrieved. Everyone feels, you know, like it's just not going well. But I think the big difference now is the fan can almost see the game better than the referees and the officials because so many people have their 70-inch TV, with the highest HD resolution with - and especially in big games, playoffs, the networks have additional cameras there.

And so we all feel so smart watching the game. We can see everything. You could almost look at every play and say, that should have been this, that should have been that. And, you know, that's a level of scrutiny that probably hasn't always existed. If you try to watch a game the way it looked on TV in 1990, totally different deal. Even 2000, you know, we didn't really have the HD until, probably 2005 or '10, you know, before everybody had it.

SUMMERS: That's Mike Sando, NFL senior writer for The Athletic, covering Super Bowl LVII in Glendale. Mike, thanks and good luck on Sunday.

SANDO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gabe O'Connor
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.