There is a certain irony to the fact that the New York Giants and the New England Patriots -- two teams that, together with their fans, may be the perfect distillation of East Coast aggression -- are set to clash in Indianapolis, a city so singularly approachable and unpretentious that it goes by "Indy" lest it seem to be putting on airs. If Boston is Titletown, USA and New York is Gotham, Indianapolis may be America's capital of nice. The locals are, unsurprisingly, eager to live up to their reputation for hospitality by being as open to visitors as Peyton Manning is to paid endorsements.
"We are different from other cities that have hosted the Super Bowl because we're known for our hospitality and determined to give everyone a warm welcome," says Super Bowl Host Committee VP Susie Townsend, who organized many of the welcome initiatives surrounding the big game.
An example of Nap Towners determination to be neighborly: After Townsend helped organize a program to have children from across Indiana write 18,000 postcards welcoming game-goers that could be placed in every hotel room in the capital, she was inundated with 36,000 Crayon-ed valentines to the "Hoosier State." She has received more since, but stopped counting.
The cards detail the myriad perks of living in Indiana. The Indianapolis 500 is mentioned frequently as are the Colts (despite the glue factory jokes that plagued their season). "The people here are all so nice," brags one card and several children have pointed out that their families live here. Fair enough. The twelfth largest city in America, Indy is home to many even if it is a destination for few.
"We're eager to showcase our community because so few people have actually been here before," points out Townsend, who helped lobby for the 2011 Super Bowl but lost out to the Cajuns. "This is about more than sports."
Which isn't to say that sports aren't a very big deal in Indiana. This is the land of "Hoosiers," "Breaking Away" and "Rudy." Kids drew footballs and basketballs on their postcards and locals, like Brian Comes, the General Manager of the Hyatt Regency, are more than a little excited about the game.
Comes, who has managed hotels near three other Super Bowls, two in San Diego and one in New Orleans, says that his hotel is already 95 percent booked up by the N.F.L. and that he's particularly pumped to be playing host this year.
"It's a great experience to be able to invite people to this place you know is a wonderful place to live and work," says Comes.
He's already done Super Bowl specific training for his staff and the plans to set out the childrens' cards along with official Super Bowl guides. Everything is in place.
The eastern hordes may be on the horizon, but Indiana is all smiles.