By Rich Lord

I’m not going to lie; when I first learned that Super Bowl 48 would be played at Met Life Stadium and co-hosted by the city of New York and the state of New Jersey, I thought it was a bad idea for one reason: the possibility of bad winter weather impacting not only the game and everyone’s ability to get to the stadium, but the potential it had to wreak havoc on a week’s worth of special events. However, as the Texans rolled to 2 straight AFC South championships and I entered my 7th season traveling with the team as it’s sideline reporter on the radio broadcasts, I started warming up to the possibility that I might be on the field working the first-ever Super Bowl in my hometown. I even allowed myself to fantasize about the possibility that the Texans could face the team I grew up rooting for, the New York Giants, winners of 2 of the last 6 Super Bowls. Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans. The Texans’ season was a 2-14 train wreck and the Giants won just 7 games.

While I did not get my wish, I did get a pretty sweet consolation prize: the opportunity to spend a week in the city of my birth co-hosting the new show we launched in the new year featuring a true pro in my new co-host, Sean Pendergast. Not too bad. I came up a couple of days early in order to visit with family and friends in my old neighborhood of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Still the best neighborhood in the city. Still the best pizza on the planet. Vesuvio’s. Gino’s. Nino’s. Pizza Wagon. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in Bay Ridge. It was with some degree of reluctance that I shifted over to Manhattan on Sunday. Pizza in Manhattan is generally overrated. It’s the residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island where you will find the really good stuff. If it sounds like I am obsessed with pizza whenever I come home…guilty as charged. Have I dreamed about the sicilian pizza at Vesuvio’s or the grandma’s pizza at Nino’s? Yes, I have. I don’t have many vices. I don’t get to New York very often. Leave me alone, OK?

Anyway, I am truly thrilled to be here for many reasons beyond the pizza. Situated in midtown Manhattan, hometown bias aside, I feel as if we are truly living and working for a few days in the center of the universe. Consider the not-so-short list of places within walking distance of our hotel at 54th and Broadway: Rockefeller Center, the Ed Sullivan theater (home of, “Late Night with David Letterman”), Times Square, Central Park, the headquarters of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, the original Bloomingdale’s, Lincoln Center, the Empire State building, dozens of Broadway and off-Broadway shows, Grand Central Station, Radio City Music Hall, The United Nations, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Plaza Hotel, the Stage Deli, Madison Square Garden, the original Macy’s department store, and Super Bowl Boulevard, which has transformed a 12-block stretch of Broadway into an incredible experience for any football fan. Super Bowl Boulevard also features a 60-foot high toboggan run with artificial snow. I WILL go tobogganing and I WILL have video to document it. Can’t wait. And yes, I did say walking distance. All the walking has made me realize how little we are required to walk in Houston. Too bad.

It has truly been a surreal week for me. It seems as if every time I turn a corner a different memory from my time growing up here comes back to me. Obviously, you can’t go home again in terms of returning to everything you remember, but I found out that you can go home again to the people that helped you become who you are today and, in your mind at least, you can go home again to so many fond memories of the place that shaped you as a person.

Houston has been home for over 30 years, but New York will always be my hometown and I will always cherish the opportunity to return to the people, the sounds, the sights, the smells, and yes, the PIZZA! (John’s on 44th and 8th aint too bad). I guess I’m a two-timer; I love Houston but, as the slogan goes, I LOVE NEW YORK.

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