While some students might be hoping to get back to their studies during the first week of school, the National Football League will provide an alternative activity with a weeklong season kickoff festival on the National Mall.
The NFL’s second annual season kickoff bonanza began Monday and will conclude Thursday with a concert on the National Mall featuring Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Good Charlotte. The Washington Redskins will then host the New York Jets at 9 p.m. in the first game of the 2003 season.
The NFL and D.C. collaborated on this sequel to last year’s tribute bash in New York’s Times Square. The interactive NFL Experience is running from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Wednesday, and the Kickoff Live concert will be held Thursday with gates opening at 4 p.m. Tickets are required to enter the Mall, but they can be picked up for free on 14th Street between Madison and Jefferson avenues.
The NFL Experience consists of football clinics, where people of all ages can test their skills at kicking field goals, throwing passes and several other activities. Former football players such as Joe Theisman, Deacon Jones and Sterling Sharpe will also be on hand to sign autographs during the week.
The main event will be Thursday night’s concert, where each of the groups will play some of their own repertoires as well as collaborating with each other.
The concert begins at 5:30 p.m. with DJ Scribble and DJ Riz, after which D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams will welcome the crowd. Good Charlotte will be the first main act to perform at 6:25 p.m., followed by Blige, Spears and Aerosmith. The concert will be televised live on ABC from 8 to 9 p.m. and Aretha Franklin will perform the national anthem from the Mall right before the Jets and Redskins kick off the season at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Md.
“We got a little something for everyone,” NFL Director of Corporate Communications Brian McCarthy said of the talent at the show.
In addition to marking the start of football season, the event will focus on saluting the U.S. military, McCarthy said, as some 25,000 members of the armed forces and their families will be in attendance.
“The commissioner wanted to have a comparable event (to last year’s kickoff), since Washington, D.C. was also hit hard by September 11 and is home to many public servants and the military,” he said.
The NFL is trying to raise national awareness that troops are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. To achieve this goal, the NFL will be including troops in events each day as well as introducing them to the performers and bringing some up on stage.
The event should also benefit the city, which has been anything but discreet about its desire to make this a successful event numbers-wise for the long-term goal of Washington hosting the 2008 Super Bowl. Past doubts about D.C.’s ability to handle large-scale events have hindered its ability to land big-ticket attractions such as the 2012 Summer Olympics and a Grand Prix auto race. But the D.C. area is currently amongst four finalists for the 2008 Super Bowl.
McCarthy said he expects a turnout of at least 100,000 people, about one fifth of the crowd the league drew in New York last year.
“Anticipation is peaking,” McCarthy said. “The indication is that there is a lot of buzz about the event.”
But some GW students said they were unaware of or uninterested in attending the festivities.
“I’m not really looking forward to the event,” sophomore Timothy Lucas said. “I just can’t wait for the games to start, but I won’t be going.”
Junior Darcy Fleischer agreed, saying, “I like football, but I’m not attending the events.”
But sophomore Daniel Someck, an avid football fan, said he is looking forward to attending.
“I’m down with the festivities and it’s a good cause,” he said. “And Aretha, well let me tell you, I’m from Bridgeport and I got soul, so I love her.”