96 Days: Failure not an option for Christie

Christie is keeping a close eye on Super Bowl preparations. AP Photo/Joe Epstein

Each day from now until Feb. 2, ESPNNewYork.com will take you inside the challenge of staging the most unpredictable NFL title game ever. There are 96 days to the Super Bowl.

MOONACHIE, N.J. -- Don’t mess with Chris Christie’s Super Bowl.

There is an edge to the New Jersey governor's sense of humor, but it’s hard to imagine there also wasn’t an undercurrent of seriousness in a story Christie told Tuesday about the grim fate awaiting those who allow for any electrical disruption on Feb. 2, when the region is hosting the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl.

To prepare, Christie attended the most recent Super Bowl in New Orleans with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“At the last Super Bowl you’ll remember that there was a small glitch in the game?” Christie said. “When the lights went out? And the lights were out for a while as you’ll recall, and so I was with the commissioner, and it’s an awkward time. We were there in the dark and he’s on his BlackBerry trying to figure out what’s going on. Finally he turns to me and he said to me, ‘You know, Gov, when we come to New Jersey next year, the lights aren’t going to go out, are they?’

“And I said, ‘Listen, Roger, I can’t guarantee the lights aren’t going to go out,’ I said, ‘But if they do, there will be bodies strewn in the parking lot for the people who are responsible for the lights going out, because that’s the way we handle matters in New Jersey.’”

Christie told the story to an audience gathered at a church in Moonachie for an event to commemorate the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, attended by Goodell, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and Super Bowl Host Committee CEO Al Kelly.

The NFL Foundation and the committee have jointly donated $1 million to a series of projects to help New Jersey recover from the storm.

“That story is absolutely true,” Goodell said. “He was standing right here when the lights went out, right next to me. And I think he stepped out and he made a phone call to the head of the public utilities here and made sure that’s not going to happen this year.”

Christie and Goodell got big laughs from the crowd, but Kelly confirmed afterward that Gov. Christie was dead serious about preventing another blackout.

“The reality is that ever since we came back from New Orleans, power has moved up the list of things we’re paying attention to,” Kelly said. “And we’ve got a lot of experts in helping us, we’re doing reviews of equipment, we’re building in redundancy, we’re doing lots of testing, we’re trying to beef up security.”

In 2010, the lights went out in MetLife Stadium, then known as the New Meadowlands, during a game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, and the lights stayed out as the power system rebooted. There will be a briefing on the specific upgrades to the system as the Super Bowl approaches, but Kelly said the reason for that blackout has been addressed.

“When things go wrong it’s important not only that you fix it but you learn from it,” Kelly said.

In the New York region, which experienced the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has seen several more plots foiled in the years since, disruptions like that can evoke larger fears.

“I think that’s why certainly a big part of the security plan now is to make sure that our sources related to power are secure as well,” Kelly said. “And try to make sure anyone who wants to cause trouble on any aspect of the game, including power, isn’t able to do it.”

Kelly and Christie can’t do much to assure ticket-holders of sunshine on Feb. 2, but ensuring the reliability and security of the power grid is something that they can address.

And if not, now we know how they handle matters in New Jersey.

Come back daily for more on the issues, logistics and personalities surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII.