If you see a distracted Irish American around the weekend of February 1 outside his office in Giants Stadium in New Jersey peering intently at the sky chances are it is Al Kelly CEO for this year’s Super Bowl.
The historic event on Sunday February 2nd will take place in a cold weather venue for the first time ever and the nightmare of a superstorm sweeping up the Jersey coast that weekend is on everyone’s mind.
Al Kelly, 54, a former top executive with Pepsi, American Express and a former White House employee in the Reagan administration, is well used to pressure, just not watching out for low pressure systems.
“We have contingency plans,” he says in an interview, and the possibility of the Super Bowl being canceled and replayed later is among them.
Absurd? Remember the lights went out in New Orleans last year. Strange things do happen.
The possibility of a Monday night Super Bowl is remote but fans wouldn’t mind some falling snow and foot stomping cold when the game starts.
Old fashioned football like the legendary Ice Bowl game of 1967 when the Green Bay Packers were defeated by Dallas in temperatures of 5 degrees Fahrenheit have long been the stuff of legend.
Part of the appeal of the cold winter venue was football as it was meant to be, smashmouth, mano a mano in freezing conditions, not namby-pamby fare in indoor climate controlled stadiums or warm weather sites.
At stake is the greatest prize in American sport and a $600 million injection into the economy of the New York/New Jersey area. Already apartments in Manhattan are renting at $5,000 a night.
Kelly says it will be a week long carnival, with the teams arriving Monday, the media – in their droves – around the same time and the hoopla and hype that always attends the game.
Kelly is counting his Irish luck in one respect: he will have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning at the helm of the AFC champions.
Kelly says success at the Super Bowl looks like success at every other company he has worked with. ”Good talent, execution and high quality product.“
His grandfather Jerome O’Neill, who came to America from Cork as a child, would doubtless be very proud of his grandson and what he has achieved.
His Kelly relatives came over five generations ago, but Al has kept the Irish faith.
He was named to the Irish America Magazine Business 100 ten times when working with American Express and he has been a frequent visitor to Ireland.
He’s Irish enough to knock on wood when talking about the weather prospects and to laugh at the absurdity of so much being predicated on decent conditions in late winter in New York.
He says he will finally relax around 6.30 on Sunday, February 2 when the Super Bowl kicks off.
Until then he just needs the rub of the green from the weather gods.