HOUSTON — They’re here.
Well, at least one team playing in the Super Bowl has arrived in Houston.
The Atlanta Falcons, making their first appearance in the NFL championship game since 1999 and second overall, arrived Sunday afternoon to little fanfare at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
That was quite the contrast to the sendoff the NFC champs received when they left Atlanta, where thousands of fans lined the streets in midtown, chanting “A-T-L, A-T-L” and other slogans of encouragement. The Falcons’ motorcade had gone from the team’s facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, to the airport.
The Falcons beat the Green Bay Packers to qualify for their first Super Bowl since losing to Denver 18 years ago. AFC champion New England arrives Monday.
Football fans in the United States can listen to the Super Bowl in eight languages next Sunday.
SiriusXM will carry the Westwood One national feed in English, plus the local broadcasts of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. And if you speak Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin, German, Hungarian, even Flemish, there will be a channel on satellite radio for you.
Televisa is doing the Spanish-language broadcasts. W9 is handling French, SAT 1 German, GDTV Mandarin, NHK Japanese, AMC Hungarian, and Eleven in Flemish.
“It kind of reflects the international nature of the game as it continues to grow both home and abroad,” says Steve Cohen, SiriusXM’s senior vice president of sports programming. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to give our subscribers who want to hear people talk about the game in their own language.”
Since 2006, SiriusXM has carried broadcasts of the Super Bowl in up to 10 languages. Cohen will be sitting in the stadium on Sunday listening to each of them on the app just to hear how they sound.
One thing always stands out to him: the passion.
“To hear the styles of the broadcasters in the difference languages, I might not be able to understand what they are saying, but I can understand passion and understand excitement. With that excitement comes a cadence where you as the listener figure out when I should start getting excited. The broadcasters get excited before the listener/viewer does if they are doing their job properly.”
Lindsey Vonn’s new boyfriend, an NFL coach, knows what the skier feels like when she crashes.
Kenan Smith, who until recently was an assistant wide receivers coach with the Rams, has helped Vonn lately as she fights through a series of injuries.
“Definitely the injuries are very relatable. Just feeling stiff and hurting is very relatable,” Vonn said Sunday after finishing 12th in a World Cup super-G in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy.
Smith, looking to sign with a new NFL team, attended his first ski races in Cortina. He had to help out as a bodyguard when Vonn, the most successful female skier with 77 victories, waded through the crowd as she exited the athletes’ area.
“Here everyone is right on top of you. In the NFL we’re separated, we’re on the field and there’s boundaries there,” Smith said as he took in the majestic scene of jagged mountain peaks all around in the resort known as the “queen” of the Dolomites Range.
“She’s got to walk out through people. We never have to do that,” Smith added. “It’s different. But she can handle it.”
Tiger Woods, Vonn’s former boyfriend, concealed his face behind a mask when he surprised the skier by showing up in Cortina unannounced two years ago. Smith was decidedly more low profile.
He’s amazed at how light and flimsy skiers’ helmets are — even though racers reach speeds beyond 75 mph.
“When they fall one time they’re done with it,” Smith said. “We wear one (helmet) the whole year. So it’s a little different. There’s not much padding in there, so I’m shocked.”
Vonn recently returned to racing after nearly a year out with knee and arm injuries. She avoided more serious injuries when she crashed on the downhill course Friday and Saturday.
Smith was a two-sport star at Sacramento State from 1999-2003, where he was an all-conference wide receiver and a sprinter on the track team. He spent three seasons on the Rams’ staff.
Vonn resides in Vail, Colorado and is a Denver Broncos fan.
“I think Denver is out. They already hired everyone, unfortunately,” Vonn said. “But he’s got some good options. We’ll see after the Super Bowl when they kind of make more moves.”