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Reflections from the Super Bowl XLVIII experience

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's been a long, circuitous journey from delivering mail in Covington, Ky., in the 1990s to covering my first Super Bowl for Around The League in 2014.

After a thorough but essentially painless jaunt through the security checkpoint, I got my first in-person glimpse of an NFL field in nearly two decades. What a gorgeous view from the press box!

Because Super Bowl XLVIII is played in a different state than the media hotels, we arrived on the scene with seven hours to spare before game time -- a much longer window than in previous years.

It was immediately apparent that skipping breakfast to sleep off a long but entertaining Saturday night was a rookie mistake. Marc Sessler, Dan Hanzus and I came up empty-handed after foraging for food in the main press box.

On the bright side, we ran into former Jets general manager and supporting star of "Collision Low Crossers," Mike Tannenbaum, who was exceptionally friendly.

Likewise, it was a pleasure to hear "The Godfather" Gil Brandt, legendary former Cowboys VP of player personnel and current NFL encyclopedia, regaling the press box with glorious football minutiae.

Once the concession stands opened at 2 p.m. ET, we tracked down $14 orders of tree-bark quality chicken tenders and soggy french fries.

"I have seen the pinnacle and the depth of chicken preparation this week," quipped Gregg Rosenthal, who dined on a delectable course of pasture-raised chicken and sausage polenta, salsify, bitter greens and cranberries at the world-renowned Gramercy Tavern on Friday night.

Sessler, a french-fry connoisseur, deemed this lot a "sloppy, undercooked travesty." Super cold fries fit for a super football game.

If the early-afternoon food situation was bleak, the weather more than made up for it. For all of the hand-wringing over the potentially adverse effects of the elements in the "first cold-weather Super Bowl," it is nearly as warm outside MetLife Stadium as it is at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Well played, Mother Nature.

I can't remember a Super Bowl matchup I've anticipated to this extent. Peyton Manning leading the highest-scoring offense in NFL history against two Defensive Player of the Year candidates on a Seattle defense that is perhaps the league's best since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

With time to reflect on a long two weeks during which my father passed away, I fully realize the blessing it is to be here. Family and friends have sent dozens of messages urging me to "soak it all in" and "enjoy every moment."

Mission accomplished. Thanks, NFL Network.

Let's all settle in for an epic football showdown.

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