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Time to shake the hand of the commish

PHOENIX - We arrived in Phoenix around 7:30 p.m. Thursday and took a cab downtown to the Hyatt Regency. I asked the driver if he had been busy, and he surprisingly said, "Not at all." According to this morning's news, 125,000 people are expected ...

PHOENIX - We arrived in Phoenix around 7:30 p.m. Thursday and took a cab downtown to the Hyatt Regency.

I asked the driver if he had been busy, and he surprisingly said, "Not at all." According to this morning's news, 125,000 people are expected to come through Sky Harbor Airport this weekend, so I suspect that things will be picking up shortly.

The NFL headquarters are located in the hotel, so security is tight. Barricades are up, and vehicles are only allowed to get within a block of the building. Guests are required to show room ID before even using the elevators (my travel accommodations usually open right on to the parking lot). There seems to be a lot of testosterone in this place - cops and football players!

Here's a story for folks who get all giddy when they run into someone from the homeland. On our way up to the room, a man wearing media credentials held the elevator door open. He asked who we were cheering for, and when I said that we were just hoping for a good game, he asked where we were from to not have a favorite team in the game.

When I said North Dakota, he said that his mom lives in Grand Forks. A bit later, after eating dinner, we stopped into a shop to check out the Super Bowl gear. As I showed my driver's license during a purchase, the clerk blurted out, "North Dakota, my wife's from Rugby!" Go figure.

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The commissioner's press conference was held Friday morning at the convention center across the street from the hotel. Three very helpful and friendly ladies from the NFL - Alexia, Vida and Clare - have been our hosts for the trip, and they led us up front shortly before the start.

Following the press conference, the finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award - Jason Taylor, Dolphins; Hines Ward, Steelers; Brian Waters, Chiefs; and Jason Witten, Cowboys - posed with Roger Goodell for a photo.

Then this guy from North Dakota was sent up to receive the NFL High School Coach of the Year award. The commissioner was very gracious, thanked me for many years of service to young people and said that he thinks of his high school coach often.

I was presented with a wonderful bronze sculpture. However, since it weighs 30 pounds, they're shipping it to Grand Forks. That's fortunate, since it's one carry-on that I'd just as soon not deal with.

Before leaving for Arizona, I was asked to report on celebrity sightings. I guess "celebrity" is a relative term, but in regard to football or sports media, I think they're all here. From Mike Ditka playing cards in the lobby to the regulars from ESPN and Fox, and players from the past such as Tony Dorsett, Lynn Swann and Deacon Jones. Andy Rooney from "60 Minutes" sat next to my wife, Lorna, throughout the press conference. Does he count?

We're off to the NFL Friday Night Party.

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