PHOENIX -- Patriots win! Patriots win!
OK, maybe it was just the video game version of Sunday's Super Bowl, but still. Patriots running back Shane Vereen made it look easy in a Madden 15 matchup against Seahawks siren Richard Sherman, beating the tough-talking, ball-hawking defensive back 14-0.
Does Vereen's victory presage a Pats win in Super Bowl XLIX? Probably not, but to New England fans watching the game at the NFL Experience, the sprawling fan fest set up at the Phoenix Convention Center, it was pretty much ecstasy.
"Yeah, baby!" yelled Yehya and Mohammad Hamzeh, brothers from Phoenix who periodically high-fived Vereen. "That's the way we do it."
(Actually, because it's a video game, Vereen, sporting a diamond stud in each ear, didn't do much and the Hamzeh bros did even less.)
Before the game, Sherman had promised a "ground and pound" attack, but if that didn't work, "I'm gonna distract (Vereen) and grab his controller." For his part, Vereen alternated between runs and passes, mostly to Rob Gronkowski.
"Check the football, ref," Sherman said after Xbox Tom Brady tossed a TD to Xbox Julian Edelman. But from our vantage, the virtual ball looked properly inflated.
The game was emceed by "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, who clearly learned a thing or two about football from her father, Phillippi Sparks, a onetime member of the Giants and the Cowboys. A hardcore Cardinals fan, the singer said she didn't have a rooting interest in the game. But she did try to get Sherman and Vereen to engage in trash talk -- to no avail. The pair acted like a couple of kids playing in a basement, cheering and laughing.
Wednesday marked the unofficial kickoff of the Super Bowl's ballyhooed party scene, with a couple of events planned in Scottsdale. Moves Magazine billed its bash at the Hotel Valley Ho as an evening of 80s-style decadence with beats by DJ Grandmaster Flash and a performance by the Ting Tings.
The media girded for the long week ahead with a party of its own at TPC Scottsdale, a golf course that will host the Phoenix Open this weekend. It was not a terribly stylish affair, but then most sportswriters didn't just step out of the pages of GQ.
The turkey roulade and spaghetti squash with pesto were tasty, but the band, four brothers calling themselves Kongos, were forgettable. A special thank you to the party organizer whose idea it was to have a heavily tattooed woman dancing with fire as guests arrived. A nice touch.
Some parties we've managed to wrangle invites to. Others we haven't — yet. One of those is the "Big Game Big Give" party, co-hosted by Mark Wahlberg and "Transformers" director Michael Bay, at the enormous Paradise Valley home of former Major League Baseball player Matt Williams and his wife, Erika. We're told both of Arizona's senators -- John McCain and Jeff Flake -- are on the guest list, as is Walmart heir Rob Walton and his wife, Melani. But we want to go because Bay is bringing Transformer Optimus Prime with him.
Mark Shanahan can be reached at email@example.com