Caruso: South Florida is great stage for greatest game

Note: The following story is an excerpt from the official Super Bowl XLIV game program, which is available now on NFLShop.com.

I grew up in Queens as a devout New York Jets fan. But Miami has always been in my soul.

It started when I was 14 years old and watched the Jets triumph over the Colts in Super Bowl III at the Orange Bowl. To me, it's one of the greatest games ever played.

Then, in 2007, I had the good fortune to attend Super Bowl XLI, held at Dolphin Stadium, when the Colts beat the Bears.

This year marks the 10th Super Bowl in Miami, and it's with good reason the game keeps coming back. The weather, the scenery, the culture, and the nightlife create an electric setting that's perfect for such a big event. In this humble taxpayer's opinion, the Super Bowl belongs in South Florida.

From John Elway and Steve Young lighting up defensive secondaries, to Jerry Rice's clutch performance against the Bengals, to Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann leading the Steelers to victories over the Cowboys twice in a span of four years, Miami has hosted its share of truly "super" championships.

Football is a way of life down here, starting with the blistering high school grid rivalries, to the always explosive University of Miami Hurricanes and, of course, the legendary Miami Dolphins, winners of two Super Bowl titles.

You might reasonably ask, "So how does a freckle-faced Jets fan fit into all of this?"

Two reasons: I'm fortunate to be part of the CBS family that's broadcasting this year's game. And, number two, I'm blessed to now call myself a South Florida resident.

Sometimes, people in television have surreal opportunities. Not too long ago, I had the privilege of doing a photo shoot with the amazing Dan Marino. Gracious as you would expect, he listened as I recalled my sub-zero history at Shea Stadium and (at the risk of dating myself) Joe Namath and the aforementioned Super Bowl III victory over the Colts.

It wasn't just Namath's famous guarantee that struck me. It was the wild confidence he displayed and maybe even the arrogance of his prediction: that he and his "expansion team" Jets would defeat the great Johnny Unitas and the mighty Baltimore Colts. And they did.

Marino and I agreed that Namath's triumph was, by any standard, a defining moment for pro football and quite possibly America.

No matter your age, I think we can all agree that the Super Bowl brings out the kid in us. So, with the sincere intent of embarrassing my good friend and CSI: Miami cast-mate Adam Rodriguez, I want to share with you a truly giddy, adolescent moment that I believe is the fantasy of all Americans.

The day after Indianapolis' spectacular victory in Super Bowl XLI, Adam and I were driven back to Dolphin Stadium for an on-air interview with the gorgeous Julie Chen for The Early Show. As fate would have it, the location for our interview was right on the field in one of the end zones.

While waiting to go on the air, Adam and I embarrassed ourselves by publicly reenacting moments from the game. Equipped with an invisible football and our imaginations, we became 6-year-olds all over again.

After some nervous looks from the crew, we finally settled down and returned to reality. But it had happened -- a small miracle, a tiny sliver of the great tradition was beneath our feet and now in our souls. We had been on the field where the Super Bowl had just been played, astride on the same turf where the great gridiron masters perform and where history is carved out.

To say the moment was life-changing would be a vast understatement at best. Not unlike the exhilaration of election night returns, one's first view of the U.S. Capitol (which, for me, comes with the added memory of JFK's acceptance speech), or Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon, we, too, had been on the big stage.

Certain slices of American heritage bond all of us, and you don't need to be a football fan to realize that the Super Bowl stands tall among these foundational cornerstones.

Which is why we strive, why we reach, and why we play the game. Or why we just try to get on the field whenever we can.

Thank you, CBS. And to all of you, have a great Super Bowl.

A Golden Globe recipient and Emmy Award nominee, David Caruso has played the role of Horatio Caine on CBS' CSI: Miami since 2002.

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