Philip Fisher tackles Times Square's NFL experience

Philip Fisher at NFL
NFL/Philip Fisher
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Superbowl is looming this weekend and even if you are not addicted to American football, the latest addition to Times Square’s entertainment extravaganza is an exciting chance to have some unique fun.

This columnist is generally very sceptical when it comes to “experiences”, finding too many of them merely tasteless and puerile. It is therefore saying something to enthuse about this venture from the team behind Cirque du Soleil alongside the National Football League.

Two months in, the product is not yet quite perfected but it still packs a mighty punch and will leave its guests with a smile on their faces, although in some cases also a large hole in their pockets.

The opening is gentle, allowing visitors to get a very basic understanding of the rudimentaries of a game that is so statistical that it should appeal to accountants. An introductory video is accompanied by a series of small presentations on each of the 32 teams currently playing, containing a mixture of memorabilia, arcane facts and tributes to great stars past and present, together with the trophies for winning the two divisions. This is the stuff of old-style museums, mildly interesting but hardly exciting.

Going down a floor, fans are seated in a large movie theatre with screens on three sides and even the ceiling. However, the major innovation is motion-geared seats. These are quite shocking, accompanying one-screen dramas with impacts and other sensations intended to replicate the problems that face players on the field. When some hulking defensive player sacks a quarterback head-on, you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.

This kind of technology will presumably be in homes before too long, enhancing the film-viewing experience to a terrifying degree.

A further floor down, punters get a chance to see what players wear and begin to live the dream. It is possible to try your skills as a blocker using real training devices, listen to a pep-talk from new LA Raiders head coach John Gruden and then put this into practice on a virtual reality machine that takes you to the training ground as an aspiring QB (quarterback).

Even better, visitors get to become a QB, so that your intrepid accountant turned multimillionaire football star threw a couple of touchdown passes to the great Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, current Super Bowl champs and favourites to retain their title this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The final floor is dedicated to the Super Bowl, giving visitors a chance to photograph the Vince Lombardi Trophy (their FA Cup and League Champions trophies rolled into one) and see a winner’s ring from every one of the 51 events held to date.

There is also a photo opportunity (see above) which is great until you realise that to release your moment of glory for posterity will set you back a further $15 on top of the $34 admission.

Inevitably, the parting floor contains the gift shop, with souvenirs galore, many silly such as cheeseheads from Green Bay (if this means nothing, search in Google images), representing relatively good value at $25 but some more practical: everything from drinks coolers and keyrings to clothing and, if you can whistle up a mortgage in New York, signed, framed shirts and other memorabilia from legendary superstars.

Having started out with a rather cynical attitude, this accountant was won over by an experience that will inevitably delight any kids with an interest in the sport but also as enough novelty to keep the adults happy at the same time.

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