Eyes of the world are on North Texas

As extravagent as it is normally, Cowboys Stadium is getting even more prettied up for Super Bowl XLV. The game's economic impact could pump more than $800 million into the local economy with more than 700,000 people expected to visit North Texas. AP Photo/Morry Gash

ARLINGTON, Texas -- We have become a nation of numbers. We love our statistics. Maybe that's because most of us grew up on baseball, which measures everything by the numbers.

We love our numbers right up until the moment that's what we are reduced to: a number in a system. And then we're indignant because we want personal service and to be called by our names.

That's my problem with trying to measure the impact of next week's Super Bowl in our area simply by numbers.

It's going to mean $800 million-plus to the local economy, the experts tell us. We'll have more than 700,000 visitors. There will be almost 5,000 credentialed media folks here, examining us through a magnifying glass.

Local tax revenues will be burgeoned by more than $10 million, and state taxes will get a $36 million bump.

Countless thousands of hotel rooms will be filled, some at exorbitant rates -- did you hear about the Super 8 that was demanding $700 a night? -- and our restaurants' cups will runneth over.

And with all these numbers flying around, I can't help but think we're really missing the point.

It's not about numbers. As usual, it's about people. It's about pride. It's about putting our best foot forward with the eyes of the world upon us. It's about making the most of an incredible opportunity.

It's about coming together as a real Metroplex. I like what Bill Lively, CEO of the Super Bowl XLV Host Committee, has repeated like a mantra lately.

"The Super Bowl is a very, very significant event in that it serves as the catalyst to unite the region unlike any other event in North Texas history," Lively told the Plano Star Courier when he was in that city to speak to the chamber of commerce there last week. "There has not been, in my opinion, a unifying event like this in the area since DFW airport was built 35 years ago."

He's probably right, and forgive me if that brings back memories of our recently departed friend Tom Vandergriff, who spent much of his public life trying to unite the cities in our region, understanding better than any of us what a force we could be if we worked together instead of separately.

It was Vandergriff, many believe, who first coined the term "Metroplex" for our region, because he believed so heartily that together we could accomplish anything.

He was right then and he is right now, and it's wonderful to hear people such as Lively taking up Vandergriff's cause with such passion and fervor. It's uplifting to watch Troy Aikman in TV ads asking us to be gracious and hospitable hosts to our visitors. Who knows, maybe if we act nice throughout this week we can make it a habit and continue that behavior even after the Super Bowl furor has faded and the Cheeseheads and Terrible Towels have all gone home. Hey, it's a thought, anyway.

What we have for sure is a growing sense of pride that, for a week at least, we are the center of the sports universe. There is nothing quite like a Super Bowl, and coming on the heels of a World Series, it's as if the whole region just won the Powerball lottery.

"It starts with all of the different cities and municipalities coming together in a bid to host something of this magnitude," said Jay Burress, president and CEO of the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau. "That's where it all started, and we've been able to keep this unified front to this point. That says a lot for a region that hasn't always historically had that.

"In Arlington, it's been neat to see all these groups of action teams doing what they're doing in preparation for an event like this. The campaign slogan was 'Company is Coming,' and we've been doing cleanup, repair, whatever the city could do to help fix up the community. Everything is aimed at showing a pride and being the best host we can be."

In a sense, the party started with the World Series and really hasn't stopped.

"I've been seeing a town that is really pumped up," Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said. "We got pumped up for the World Series and we've really never come down from that high. It's even higher now. I haven't seen anyone in a bad mood. And it's not unique to Arlington."

Whatever misgivings some had about the Cowboys moving to Arlington and the city helping to build Cowboys Stadium have mostly faded into the background.

"We had a fairly close election for the stadium five years ago, and there was some bad blood after that," Cluck said. "But I hear nothing about that now. Every time I see someone, they come up to congratulate us on what we've done with the stadium and then the Rangers on top of that. By and large, people are really happy about it.

"The attitude I'm seeing now I'm hoping will be at least semipermanent. I think after the Super Bowl, people around here are going to remain proud and happy."

Not even the Packers and Steelers coaches and players who kept saying, "See you in Dallas," after their weekend victories in the two conference championship games can dim the joy that spreads from east to west, across all county lines.

"We're used to that anyway, and many are certainly coming to Dallas," Burress said. "The game won't be there, but lots of events are taking place there, in Fort Worth, in Arlington and all over the region.

"I just think there's a pride that we can be on the biggest stage like this. By performing under pressure on this stage, [it] will open the door for future events. We're about to show we're a 'Can Do' city."

And in this case, Burress was speaking not just about Arlington, but about all of us in Vandergriff's Metroplex.

Lively predicts that more than a billion people will watch the Super Bowl before all is said and done. Now that's a big number. For a week, the eyes of the world will be on us.

Be sure to wave and, best of all, to smile.

Jim Reeves, a former columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is a regular contributor to ESPNDallas.com.