Wild photo sparks Super Bowl fear
Forget Tom Brady's Bucs or Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs, the real winner of today's Super Bowl is COVID and it could make America's crisis twice as bad.
Wild photos from the Ybor City district in Tampa, which is hosting the blockbuster game, have health experts fearing it will be a super-spreader event.
You can see the frightening images in our live coverage of Super Bowl 55, which begins at 10.30am AEDT.
Wild photos spark Super Bowl fears
Desperate warnings from health authorities to keep a lid on Super Bowl celebrations are being blatantly ignored in Tampa.
With more transmissible "mutant" variants of COVID-19 circulating, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, was blunt when asked if people should hold parties to celebrate the game.
"Absolutely not," he responded. "I mean, watch the Super Bowl on TV, enjoy it. Have a party in your house with your family with the people who are there.
"But you don't want parties with people that you haven't had much contact with, you just don't know if they're infected. So as difficult as that is, at least this time around, just lay low and cool it."
Obviously these people in Tampa's Ybor City district didn't get the memo.
America has had more than 26 million coronavirus cases and close to half a million deaths.
If residents again reject public health guidance - such as mask wearing and avoiding gatherings - like they did in late 2020, government officials have warned that in some areas, even with a decent vaccination strategy, daily cases could be twice as bad as they were at the peak of America's surge in autumn and winter.
Today's game brings the curtain down on an NFL season that has been completed successfully despite the nationwide pandemic that has surged out of control at different times.
While Covid-19 forced multiple games to be postponed, and in one case required a team to start a game without a recognised quarterback, the league's safety protocols have largely held firm.
While most games this season took place in empty stadiums, limited numbers of fans were allowed into some venues.
Sunday's game will host a socially distanced crowd of around 25,000 in a venue which normally holds around 65,000 spectators.
The crowd will include 7500 vaccinated frontline health workers who have been invited to attend by the NFL.
Brady v Mahomes like Jordan v LeBron
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes go head-to-head today in a potential Super Bowl classic that pits the greatest quarterback in NFL history against the pretender to his throne.
After an NFL season played out against the backdrop of Covid-19, Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on Mahomes and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.
The biggest event on the American sporting calendar kicks off at 10.30am AEDT, with a reduced capacity crowd of 25,000 and a US television audience of around 100 million expected to tune in.
A dream season finale sees the 43-year-old Brady attempting to win a seventh NFL championship against the 25-year-old Mahomes, who is hoping to lead the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Bowls.
A victory for Brady and the Buccaneers would etch another improbable chapter in a career that has spanned 21 seasons.
The veteran quarterback has advanced to the 10th Super Bowl of his career in his first season with the Buccaneers after ending his two-decade stay with the New England Patriots last March.
"It's been an incredible team effort throughout my life on and off the field," said Brady, who will become the oldest player ever to start in a Super Bowl. "I've tried to play my ass off every week - and I'm still trying to do it."
A win for Mahomes, however, would mark a symbolic passing of the torch from the most successful quarterback in NFL history to the man tipped by many as a potential successor.
The Chiefs meanwhile flew to Tampa on Saturday under a cloud after assistant coach Britt Reid was involved in a traffic accident on Thursday that left two children injured, one of them seriously.
Reid, the son of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, is being investigated for possible driving under the influence after telling police officers at the scene of the crash he had been drinking.
The Chiefs confirmed Britt Reid's involvement in the accident but have so far declined further comment.
Head coach Andy Reid showed no sign that the incident involving his son - who has a history of drug and driving offenses - was weighing on his team's Super Bowl preparations.
"Good energy," Andy Reid said after a final walkthrough on Saturday. "It's important to have that. This was just kind of a review day, so we go back through all the situations and make sure we have all those covered."
Originally published as Wild photo sparks Super Bowl fear