Good Sunday morning, and welcome back to “Brunch,” a pop-up newsletter about the 2022 Legislative Session, football, and Valentine’s Day.
When the Super Bowl kicks off at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, it will symbolize a homecoming of sorts. Including tonight’s game, the Los Angeles area has hosted eight Super Bowls, behind only Miami (11) and New Orleans (10).
Notably, LA hosted Super Bowl I. A trio of friends who attended that game, and every Super Bowl since, will be in the stands.
For only the second time in NFL history — and the second time in two years — one of the contenders has home-field advantage. For those with short memories, the Tampa Bay Bucs were the first.
Many of our readers were hoping the Bucs could join the handful of teams to win back-to-back championships. The Rams ended those hopes, but there is a silver (plated) lining for Floridians: The official flip coin used before the start of the Super Bowl was struck at Melbourne’s Highland Mint.
The Los Angeles Rams’ path to the big game included the blockbuster trade that brought QB Matt Stafford from Detroit to La Land. It was a big bet, but it seems like landing, putting a 12-year NFL veteran behind center, and arming him with the tools for success was a good call. Who’d have thought?
Meanwhile, leading Cincinnati Bengals is Joe Burrow, who is only in his second season in the league. He’s hoping to prove the Heisman curse doesn’t apply to him, and if Sunday turns into a big-brained chess game, all the better.
The two QBs epitomize the youth-vs-experience storyline of this year’s matchup. The Rams’ roster features 38 Pro Bowlers and 20 first-team All-Pros compared to the Bengals’ seven and zero, respectively. The Bengals are also one of only three teams in Super Bowl history with an average age under 26.
Bettors, by and large, are backing youth.
An estimated 31 million Americans are expected to bet a combined $7.6 billion on the game. That’s a record, both in volume and amount. Of course, it also includes illegal sports betting, which is the only type available in Florida for the time being.
The American Gaming Association said 55% plan to bet on the Rams, with 45% backing the Bengals. FanDuel, meanwhile, says 59% of spread bets are on Cincinnati to cover the 4-point spread as an underdog. Among non-spread bets, 76% are on the Bengals to win outright.
For what it’s worth, Cynthia Frelund‘s mathematical model gives the Rams a 53% chance to win and the Bengals a 56% chance to cover the spread with a projected final score of 26-25.
Bettors may be banking on a big payout to afford their party spread. According to Wells Fargo, inflation has taken an especially large toll this year; it estimates the average Super Bowl shopping list will cost 8% to 14% percent more than a year ago.
Sadly, there are no betting lines on whether 2026’s Super Bowl LX will be hosted by London, although Tottenham has made an offer that’s hard to refuse — £1 billion. If currency calculations aren’t your forte, that’s nearly $1.4 billion.
Bettors aren’t the best barometer. Neither are statisticians. And superfans are, by definition, homers.
Still, the Rams aren’t looking to invite bad mojo to visit SoFi, so expect the broadcast to feature several cutaways to occupational therapist Fernando Vasco, better known as “Ramses.” After he was snubbed in the ticket lottery, viral online posts — or “divine intervention,” depending on who you ask — led the Rams’ front office to do the right thing and offer him a pair of tickets.
As ever, the game itself is only half the fun. The other half? Commercials. There will be plenty of spots from Super Bowl staples such as Budweiser and Pepsi Co., but plenty of new players are entering the field as well.
— MAKE MONDAY A HOLIDAY —
Ed. note — Brunch asked Republican strategist David Johnson to make a case for why the Monday after the Super Bowl (tomorrow for all of you non-pigskin fans) should be a national holiday. Take it away, D.J.
Nearly 20 million people are not going to work tomorrow, and a similar number will be there in body but not in spirit. They’re zooming at too low an altitude. Performance in America will be down. It’s the Monday After the Super Bowl.
— Shift to Saturday night? The NFL owners and broadcast partners are never going to yield an inch on scheduling the Super Bowl on Sunday night. It’s the highest-viewership night of the week and that means ratings. NBC has sold out all ad inventory. A 30-second spot will cost $7 million this year, up 27% over last year’s $5.6 million. The owners and networks are not giving that up. They are not moving the game to Saturday despite well-intended calls for action from deserving students.
— Logical solution: Nielsen ratings show 170 million Americans will watch at least six minutes of the Super Bowl tonight. It’s the most shared experience crossing all demographics this country knows. The solution is so close now: Move the Presidents Day holiday.
— Path forward: With the addition of the 18-week season, we are only a week off from syncing the nation. Next Monday is the artificially placed holiday, and it only takes an act of Congress to move it. Write your Congressman, call your Senators. They’re wrapped up in Daylight Saving Time/Standard Time issues. This is far less divisive and easily accomplished. It’s a positive move for American students, American workers and American fans.
And then we can work on syncing Labor Day to occur the Monday after the first Sunday of the NFL season.
— FUN FACTS —
At the Super Bowl party, you can amaze your friends with your proficiency in some obscure and bizarre things listed here that surround the Big Game.
— We got balls: Boy, do they ever. But where do they come from? The answer: the Wilson factory in Ada, Ohio — population, 5,311. As the conference championship games end, the Wilson team starts to work, making all 216 official Super Bowl footballs by hand. Wilson makes all the footballs for the NFL, by the way.
— It looks like grass: Maybe so, but players at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles today will play on Hellas Construction’s synthetic Matrix® Turf. The company says the Helix technology is similar to the memory of a muscle fiber, allowing the turf to “bounce back after repeated use.” It also says the turf doesn’t reflect light, allowing it to have a uniform look that resembles grass throughout the game. The system allows for kinetic energy recovery and shock absorption. Best of all, they don’t have to mow it.
— You betcha: The American Gaming Association estimates gamblers will wager $7.61 billion on the Super Bowl, up 78% from last year. That’s largely due to legalized sports betting in 30 states, including 19 that offer online betting. Florida, alas, is not one of those states, but never fear. People will find a way, but the state won’t get a cut.
— No place like home: SoFi Stadium is the home for the Los Angeles Rams, even if they technically are the “visiting” team today. However, the original plan was for L.A. to host this game last year. However, it was scrubbed after construction delays put this futuristic stadium about a year behind schedule. The 2021 game then shifted to Tampa, where the hometown Buccaneers became the first team to play in a Super Bowl at their home stadium. The Rams are now the second, and it’s worth noting that the 2023 game is scheduled for Glendale, Arizona. The hometown Arizona Cardinals are pretty good too.
— ALZHEIMER’S AWARENESS —
The Florida Capitol was illuminated in purple Tuesday as part of an effort to raise Alzheimer’s awareness.
— Background: Purple is the Alzheimer’s Association’s signature color. The light-up ceremony came after a daylong event where advocates met with lawmakers and urged them to make Alzheimer’s legislation a priority.
— Facts: Florida has the second-most Alzheimer’s cases in America. An estimated 580,000 Floridians live with the disease, out of roughly 6.2 million Americans.
— What they’re saying: “By including support for Alzheimer’s disease research in his Freedom First Budget, Gov. Ron DeSantis ensures that Florida will continue its progress toward enhancing diagnosis and prevention strategies and helping fight this disease,” said Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Michelle Branham.
— FSU TAKES OVER THE CAPITOL —
On Wednesday, the Capitol was bathed in Florida State University garnet and gold.
— FSU Day: The daylong event gave the university’s colleges and departments an opportunity to highlight their achievements and contributions. It also provided students and alumni a platform to boast their Seminole pride.
— Hype: There was plenty of it. FSU held an outdoor rally in the plaza featuring university President Richard McCullough, the FSU pep band, cheerleaders and various legislative members who attended the university. They also touted members of FSU’s three-time national championship women’s soccer team.
— Facts: University leaders highlighted several stats about the university, including FSU’s graduation rate. It is among the highest in the nation, roughly 74%, ranking it among the Top 10 universities in the country.
— LORD STANLEY —
The Capitol will freeze over this week when the reigning NHL champs come to town, Stanley Cup in tow.
— It’s not déjà vu, the Tampa Bay Lightning struck twice. The squad joined the “Elite 8” last season when they became repeat Stanley Cup winners … and earned another chance to show off the 3-foot-tall trophy in Tallahassee.
— Their schedule is packed, so don’t expect to see all your favorites this week — the starting lineup will be in Newark on Tuesday night to face off against the New Jersey Devils.
— Still, a Tally contingent will drop in on the House session at 2:30 p.m. and spend the rest of the afternoon lugging their 35-pound-prize from one end of the Plaza level to the other.
— You can catch the game with Bolts bigwigs, though. The Lightning crew is holding a reception at Eve on Adams starting at 6 p.m., an hour before the puck drops. If you want a rink-side seat, you’ll need to shoot an email to RSA Consulting’s Kaitlyn Bailey Owen at [email protected]
— The morning after will see the Senate get the royal treatment. Details are still in the works, but expect to see a lot of black and blue at the Capitol between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
If you miss the Bolts this week, there’s a significant chance you’ll be able to catch them in 2023. They’re currently No. 2 in the Atlantic Division standings. If they don’t seal the deal, well, the Stanley Cup could still be in the 850 next year — the Florida Panthers are the only team ahead of the Lightning and bookies say they have the best odds of winning it all.
— KUDOS, SEAN —
Pittman Law Group Founder and Managing Partner Sean Pittman is the latest recipient of the Joe Lang Kershaw Award.
— The Meaning: Presented by the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators, the award is named after the first Black lawmaker in Florida after Reconstruction. Kershaw served 14 years in the House and spearheaded several civil rights initiatives.
— The Recipient: The Florida Conference of Black State Legislators credited Pittman with over 21 years of “ inspiring others to make a difference and create significant change with their legislative powers.”
— The Remarks: “I was shocked and surprised to be recognized as the recipient of this distinguished service award during this year’s Scholarship Gala,” Pittman said. “No recognition is necessary because I consider supporting this group of amazing leaders an honor and a privilege. Nonetheless, I am thankful!”
— NEW HIRE AT SACHS —
Sachs Media is adding a new team member in Cayden Ledford, who will serve as the organization’s senior graphic designer.
— Background: Ledford previously worked at Senior Life Insurance Company as director of marketing. There, he led a team of designers, videographers and web designers to create content. Ledford also worked as creative director at Restoration Place Tallahassee, a church in the capital, in addition to doing freelance creative print and digital work.
— Welcome to the team: “We’re thrilled to bring in such an experienced graphic-arts professional as Cayden,” said Sachs President and Partner Michelle Ubben. “With his creative mind and extensive experience in brand design and marketing, we know he will produce the kind of impactful, visual storytelling our clients expect from us.”
Sachs is in its 27th year and is one of the top public relations firms in the state.
— STATE FAIR REMEMBERS MSD —
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced Friday that the Florida State Fairgrounds and the Florida Department of Agriculture will be honoring the victims of the Parkland shooting on its fourth anniversary.
— Orange lights: The Midway at the Florida State Fairgrounds will be lit up on Monday night with orange lights in honor of the Parkland shooting victims and their families. Orange is the color associated with the gun violence prevention movement.
— Three buildings: The Agriculture Department’s Mayo Building, Doyle Connor Building and Licensing Office also will be lit orange. The lights will go on Monday at sundown.
— CELEBRATE BHM —
Secretary of State Laurel Lee is encouraging Floridians to celebrate Black History Month by partaking in some of the multiple events hosted by the Florida Department of State to promote the contributions African Americans have made to Florida’s history and culture.
— Artist celebration: The Florida Division of Arts and Culture is hosting an evening celebrating Black artists at the historic Brokaw-McDougall House on Feb. 23. The event will feature musical artists Avis Berry Jazz Trio and singer/poet Dahliah Perryman as well as painter Richard Edwards, a second-generation Florida Highwaymen and historian. The FAMU Concert Choir will also perform.
— Capitol Gallery Exhibit: The Capitol’s 22nd Floor Gallery hosts works from artist Kelvin Hair through February. His father, Alfred Hair, was instrumental in founding the Florida Highwaymen artist movement. While his father died when he was 5, Kelvin carries on his dad’s Florida Highwaymen legacy.
— Museum Exhibits: The Museum of Florida History is bringing two exhibits to honor Black History month. The first, Spirits of the Passage: The Story of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, explores the origins of the slave trade and its lasting impact on American history. It is coming to the museum on Feb. 18. The second, History at High Noon: The History of Prospect Bluff, the site of a fort made by the British in the War of 1812 that was controlled by a group of soldiers, was primarily made up of free Blacks and fugitive slaves. It comes on Feb. 22.
— Civil Rights Leaders Remembered —
The Florida State Park Foundation is partnering with Athletic Brewing Company to honor two civil rights leaders who helped desegregate South Florida beaches — Dr. Von D. Mizell and Eula Johnson.
— The Doctor: A Black physician in Fort Lauderdale, Johnson helped establish the first NAACP chapter in South Florida. In 1946, he petitioned to create a beach for the area’s Black community — where public beaches at the time were restricted to White people only.
— Madam President: Johnson served as the Fort Lauderdale NAACP’s first woman president. She fought segregation and led “wade-ins” at White-only beaches, among other efforts.
— Recognition: In 2016, officials renamed a state park in Dania Beach after the pair. It is now known as the Dr. Von D. Mizell — Eula Johnson State Park.
— The Foundation: “It is essential that Dr. Mizell and Ms. Johnson’s legacies are remembered and that their courageous contributions to the advancement of civil rights in Broward County are honored,” said Julia Gill Woodward, Foundation CEO.
— WORD OF SOUTH RETURNS —
Word of South, a literature and music festival, is heading back to Tallahassee in early April with a lineup featuring more than 100 authors and musicians.
— Details: The festival will be held at Cascades Park and runs April 8-10. Eleven-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson will kick off the event at the Capital City Amphitheater on April 8. You’ll need tickets for that show, but the remainder of the festival will be free.
— Lineup details: In addition to Johnson, the festival will also feature artists such as Rickie Lee Jones, Mike Donehey, Allison Russell, Son Little, and the Dedicated Men of Zion.
— Get hyped: “We are so excited to announce the talented performers who will be joining us at Cascades Park this spring for our 2022 festival,” said Sara Marchessault, Word of South director. “We are extremely grateful for the support of our sponsors and the community that helps us continue to be able to bring such unique artists to Tallahassee. This year’s lineup features more than 100 incredible authors and musicians, and we look forward to showcasing the dynamic power of words across all genres of music and literature.”
— Family-friendly: The festival will also include a children’s event on April 9. At the “Literacy Lane” event, children can participate in hands-on reading activities and also receive a free book.
— BENGALS IN THE BIG GAME —
Joe Henderson, a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals since they were formed in 1968, is here to give the low-down on what that means and what to expect today when they play the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl.
— Climb on board: There’s plenty of room on the Bengals bandwagon. There’s some room over there by big Bengals fans like George Clooney, Carmen Electra, Woody Harrelson, Nick Lachey and, of course, former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer. Hey, all you fans from Louisiana are welcome too. You sent us quarterback Joe Burrow, and we’ll never forget that. He led LSU to a national championship before my team made him the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick two years ago, and now thousands of Tigers fans also became Bengals backers. Like they say, Geaux Bengals.
— Fan favorites: Even if it’s just for today because you need a team to root for in the Super Bowl, this should be your team. The Bengals are fun, explosive, exasperating and deserving of their chance today to play for the Vince Lombardi trophy. Besides, who outside of some Hollywood elites could possibly pull for the Rams over this bunch from Cincinnati?
— It’s in the bag: If (when) the Rams lose, L.A. fans will shrug — after heading for the parking lots in the third quarter — and tune in to the Lakers. They’ll also want the coach fired, but I guess that happens everywhere. If the Bengals lose (which won’t happen) … well, let’s not talk about that. We might not have won a playoff game in 31 years before this run, but we don’t live in the past. This year, the Bengals have won all three playoff games on the final play, so you might want to stick around to the end. They fall behind, but Burrow brings ‘em back.
— BURROW BELIEVER —
Via Scott Powers: They’re awfully excited back in the state where I grew up. There’s a small Ohio town named Hillsboro, except this week it renamed itself HillsBurrow. What you may not understand, though, is why Bengals fans inhale deeply, make the sign of the cross, and watch with one eye covered whenever Burrow drops back to pass. He gets sacked a lot, but he keeps getting up, making us want to shout. “Who Dey!”
— Who Dey! Bengals fans don’t say “hello” to each other; they say, “Who Dey!” That’s the official/unofficial Bengals cheer: “Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals? Nooooooooobody!” It’s more of a statement than a question. The origin of the chant isn’t clear. Many believe it’s in honor of a local Cincinnati beer named Hudepohl, or Hudy for short. Hudepohl, by the way, released a limited-edition Hu-Dey beer as part of the buildup to the game. Lines stretched around the block as fans sought to buy a taste of history.
— He remembers his roots: Burrow is more than just an elite quarterback. When he won the Heisman Trophy, he used his speech to make a difference for his hometown of Athens, Ohio. He talked about food insecurity in the area, and donations for the Athens Food Pantry subsequently went through the roof. How can you not root for this guy? The Bengals have made it to the Super Bowl twice, but both times lost to San Francisco and quarterback Joe Montana. Today, though, the Bengals have Joe Cool 2.0. They’ve got the coolest uniforms, the coolest chant, and the coolest postgame victory celebration when Joe Cool lights up a victory cigar. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. Who Dey!
— HOMETOWN HERO —
A Super Bowl in Los Angeles: it doesn’t get any bigger. Game tickets average a record $7,500. TV spots go for a record $7 million. L.A., of course, is the world’s leading manufacturer of hype. Yet there will be this down-to-earth tie between Burrow and the hometown he famously shouted out in his 2019 Heisman speech.
— Back home: Athens is a modest college town in hardscrabble Appalachian Ohio, where the good jobs used to be mining coal or making bricks, but are mostly gone now. Even with a state university, the county’s unemployment is over 8%, and its poverty rate is 52%.
— Shoutout: “I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that, you know, go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too,” he said in his Heisman speech. Since then, the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund has raised more than $1.3 million.
— Athens loves him back: There’s a “Let’s Go Joe!” banner hanging across uptown’s main drag. “Just a Kid from Athens” T-shirts (quoting his speech) are the rage. Businesses all over town pledged Athens County Food Pantry donations for his milestones in the game.
— SUPER FOOD —
Why wait for the game for the fun to start? Here are Super Brunch items to absorb.
— Think of the chickens: According to the National Chicken Council, 1.42 billion chicken wings will be eaten by the time the confetti flows at the end of the game. But that’s not the only food item we’ll consume.
— Pizza, pizza: The United Food and Commercial Workers union says Super Sunday is the second-biggest eating day of the year, trailing only Thanksgiving. It’s a big day for pizza sales, too. Dominoes said it sells about 2 million pizzas on Super Sunday, about 30% more than normal. In 2020, the company said it sold enough pizza to stretch across 6,000 football fields.
— BRUNCHING OUT —
Liberty Bar & Restaurant is truly both of these. Yes, it’s a popular place to grab a beer, a classic cocktail or a house concoction. But the food is also a draw whether you’re here for dinner, the late-night menu or brunch, our choice this visit.
— Backstory: Liberty Bar & Restaurant is owned by the Seven Hills Hospitality Group, founded by chef Jesse Edmunds, which also operates the local restaurants El Cocinero, The Hawthorn Bistro, and Bakery and Bar 1903.
— Setting: There’s seating inside and outside on the covered patio. We sat inside because of the cooler weather and thought tables were spaced out enough for us to feel comfortable. Best to arrive early before the crowd.
— The menu: You’ll find traditional breakfast items here but also some special options such as the tofu scramble, the shakshuka (two poached eggs in a warm African tomato sauce), or spicy fried chicken on a cathead biscuit and a cheese and charcuterie board. Liberty is known for its Scotch egg, not available on our outing. But it’s a novelty, a soft-boiled egg wrapped in housemade sausage and then fried. Our excellent picks included the salmon benedict — with a large slab of smoked salmon on ciabatta made at adjacent Hawthorn with tomatoes, arugula and buttery rich hollandaise sauce — and the croque madame, made with Hawthorn’s delicious milk bread, Black Forest ham, Gruyere cheese and grilled tomato chutney. It’s topped with a poached egg and silky Mornay sauce, with greens on the side.
— Beverages: Brunch drink specials are $5 bloody marys and mimosas, $7 drinks that include Irish coffee, a couple of drinks with Yulupa Cuvee Brut, and red or white sangria.
— Details: Liberty Bar & Restaurant, 1307 N. Monroe St.; 850-354-8277. Hours: Brunch 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 5 to midnight Sunday to Monday, 5 to 2 a.m. Tuesday to Saturday.
— VDAY OPTIONS —
Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, but there’s still hope for finding a special way to celebrate in Tallahassee. While a few places are booked, some are holding a few tables for walk-ins and there are even a few events. Whatever you decide, make a reservation pronto or call before you go. Here are some ideas for the big day.
— Bar 1903: Set in a historic building, this intimate space, owned by Seven Hills Hospitality Group, will be open for Valentine’s Day by reservation only for two-hour blocks. 209 E. Park Ave.; 850-354-9739.
— Cafe de Martin: Chef Martin Araujo Bohorquez is serving a Valentine’s dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. The cozy cafe, Tallahassee’s only Peruvian restaurant, has indoor and outdoor seating. 2743 Capital Circle NE; 850-900-5969. Reservations accepted.
— Chuck’s Fish: The downtown seafood restaurant is no longer accepting reservations for Valentine’s Day, but walk-ins will be accepted. Call first. Food and drink specials will be available. The restaurant will be open for its usual lunch hour on Monday. 224 E. College Ave.; 850-597-7506.
— Essence of India: The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner on Valentine’s Day, specializing in Northern Indian cuisine. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. 1105 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-656-7200.
— Food Glorious Food: The restaurant will open on Valentine’s Day for prix fixe dinner options from 5 to 9 p.m. Phone reservations only. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-9974.
— Kool Beanz: Have lunch or dinner at this iconic local restaurant, and don’t miss dessert by pastry chef Sylvia Gould. Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner is 5:30 to 10 p.m. Reservations are needed for eight or more. 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.
— Little Paris: French chef Herve Alcesilas and his brother, Loic, will be presenting a three-course meal for dining in or takeout from 4 to 9 p.m. for $59 per person. Entrees are either veal tenderloin or red snapper. 1355 Market St.; 850-765-7457.
— Lucilla: Owners chef Joe Richardson and partner Lara Hooper offer a four-course menu for $69. Entree options are blackened mahi-mahi, surf & turf (filet mignon and grilled Gulf shrimp), or andouille-crusted chicken. The regular menu will be available on Sunday evening. Both nights, hours are 5:30 to 9:15 p.m. 1241 E. Lafayette St.; 850-900-5117.
— Pineappetit: Sam Burgess, owner of the island-themed restaurant, Pineappetit, is hosting the 4th annual Lovers and Friends and Paint and Vibes at the Grand Ballroom at Florida A&M University on Valentine’s Day. The event will occur from 6 to 9 p.m. and feature dinner by Burgess, a DJ and artist, Vardyce Gaines, who will present a follow-along lesson painting on canvas. Grand Ballroom at Florida A&M University, 1628 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; 850-559-6911. Tickets $70 single, $125 couple. Get tickets here.
— Poco Vino: You can stop by the Valentine’s Chocolate and Wine Tasting at the downtown wine shop and event space between 5 and 8 p.m. The event: a tasting flight of four artisan chocolate bars paired with wine. 225 S. Adams St.; 850-320-4552; $35.
— Table 23: Set in a historic house in the heart of Midtown, the restaurant is a naturally romantic setting. Reservations are full for Valentine’s Day dinner, but walk-ins are accepted. 1215 Thomasville Rd.; (850) 329-2261.