The Moscone Center Fan Gallery, aka land of the $69.99 Super Bowl sweatshirt, finally surged with fans Friday.
There were Panthers fans, there were Broncos fans, there were 49ers fans, there was ... a Dolphins fan.
They stared at Radio Row through a clear plastic barrier as interviews by CBS Sports and other stations were under way on small stages.
They rifled through hanger after hanger of overpriced sports paraphernalia, from simple black Super Bowl hoodies priced at $69.99 to elaborately embroidered Super Bowl jackets priced at $249.99.
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They strolled through the crowds hugging footballs like cherished stuffed animals. They chattered excitedly, words drowned out by a thumping sound stage with a DJ.
It seemed as though the party in San Francisco was finally starting.
Matt Kenseth: NASCAR driver for Joe Gibbs Racing likes the Panthers big. “I say they win by at least 17 because they are a way better team,” he said. “When they play to their potential, nobody can beat them.”
Webb Simpson: The former U.S. Open golf champion and Charlotte resident is going with his hometown team. “I think the Panthers will win 31-21,” Simpson said. “It’s their year to do it and they have looked good so far. Cam is ready for this moment.”
Walt Weiss: Weiss, a former North Carolina baseball player who now manages the Colorado Rockies, is conflicted. “I’m kind of torn, because being a Tar Heel is part of my roots. But I want Peyton to go out on top. And I think the Denver defense is the real deal. It will be close, but I’ll take the Broncos, 27-24.”
▪ Bruno Mars has finally officially confirmed he will perform at the halftime show with Coldplay and Beyoncé. The pop singer posted a photo on Instagram on Friday of himself at Levi’s Stadium.
Mars wrote, “It ain’t a party if Mr $how Up & $how out doesn’t show up,” along with the hashtag “confirmed.”
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-producer had a show-stopping performance at the 2014 Super Bowl in East Rutherford, New Jersey. His hits include “Locked Out of Heaven,” “Just the Way You Are” and “Uptown Funk” with Mark Ronson.
▪ Harold Varner III drew the ire of the rowdy fans on the 16th hole Friday in the Waste Management Phoenix Open when he put on a Carolina Panthers jersey and dabbed his way to the green.
After hitting his tee shot through the green on the stadium par-3 hole, Varner -- a Gastonia native -- donned Cam Newton’s No. 1 jersey and repeatedly egged on the jeering crowd with dab moves mimicking Newton’s celebrations. The Panthers routed the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago to reach the Super Bowl.
▪ An Observer reporter found himself walking behind Brian Billick – who once won a Super Bowl as a coach for Baltimore and is now a TV analyst – for a couple of blocks in San Francisco on Friday. Talk about a constant case of mistaken identity. On three different occasions, fans yelled at Billick: “Yo! It’s Bill Belichick!”
Varner saved par on 16, celebrating his 7-foot putt with more dab moves. He bogeyed the next three holes and was in danger of missing the 36-hole cut.