Around Super Bowl XLVII and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the game:
JUDGE FOR YOURSELF: BEYONCE
Wondering about Beyonce and her response inauguration lip syncing flap?
Judge for yourself — here's her full rendition of the national anthem during a press conference Thursday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p2MTKCLNsY
QUICKQUOTE: JERSEYS AND DRUGS
Authorities say buying a cheap imitation NFL jersey may be more harmful than you think.
Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Mexico, said there's evidence that Mexican drug cartels are getting involved in the counterfeit NFL black market trade because they can make quick money.
"A lot of folks may think that there's nothing wrong with buying a knockoff Denver Broncos jersey, but in reality, the money is being used to fund the drug war in Mexico," Abar said.
— Michael Kunzelman — http://twitter.com/Kunzelman75
STAT OF THE DAY: 158M AVOCADOS
AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch has the stat of the day today: Americans are expected to consume 158 million avocados around the Super Bowl.
That's 79 million pounds of green goodness — up from 8 million pounds at the turn of the century.
So has the guacamole improved that much? Not really, it's just outstanding marketing and other factors.
— J.M. Hirsch — http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch
YUP, WE HEARD YOU, BEYONCE
Beyonce belted out the national anthem — for real — and America clearly heard.
Shortly after the singer's press conference on Thursday where she admitted singing to a backup track during President Barack Obama's inauguration, "National Anthem" became a trending topic in the United States on Twitter.
Millions of fans clearly approved of her impromptu performance, now reassured that her pipes are still fine.
— Oskar Garcia — http://twitter.com/oskargarcia .
NO TAPE NEEDED
Beyonce's version of the national anthem was worth the wait.
The superstar singer, roundly criticized for lip syncing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the inauguration 10 days ago, walked into Thursday's news conference for the Super Bowl halftime show and asked the ballroom filled with several hundred people to stand. She then belted out a spine-tingling version of the anthem, leaving no doubts about the power of her voice. Many in the room applauded when she finished.
"Thank you guys so much. Any questions?" Beyonce said, drawing laughs.
Beyonce admitted she sang along with a pre-recorded track at the inauguration, saying she hadn't had time to rehearse with the orchestra. This was too big of an occasion to have it be anything less than perfect, she said.
"I did not feel comfortable taking a risk," she said. "This was about the president and the inauguration and I wanted to make my country proud."
She did promise to sing live Sunday, however.
"I am well-rehearsed," she said. "This was what I was born to do."
That was about all Beyonce was willing to spill, though. She wouldn't say what she'll be singing, though she did say it was "not easy" to choose a few songs from her many hits.
"All of my songs are like my children," she said.
As for that rumored Destiny's Child reunion, Beyonce wouldn't confirm it.
She didn't deny it, though, either.
"I can't really give you any details," she said. "I'm sorry."
— Nancy Armour — http://twitter.com/nrarmour
The Baltimore Ravens don't like the artificial turf at Tulane's baseball field.
So they've moved to the Saints' facility instead.
The San Francisco 49ers were already training at the Saints' complex in nearby Metairie.
The AFC champions were forced to practice in the outfield of the baseball facility Wednesday because Tulane has broken ground on a new football stadium. Coach John Harbaugh, star linebacker Ray Lewis and several other players said it was "hard on the legs."
After the Ravens approached the league about practicing on grass, the NFL arranged for them to follow the 49ers at the Saints training fields.
— Barry Wilner
10 ADS TO WATCH
If you're a fan of Super Bowl ads, here are 10 to look out for during Sunday's game. With more than 111 million people expected to tune in, it's advertising's biggest showcase.
1. Samsung Mobile's 2-minute ad with "Knocked Up" actors Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, directed by Jon Favreau ("Iron Man"). The company has not released details about the ad's plot other than to say that it shows Rogen and Rudd on a "quest to become the next big thing." Teaser here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzfAdmAtYIY
2. Best Buy's 30-second ad in the first quarter stars Amy Poehler, star of NBC's "Parks and Recreation," asking a Best Buy employee "lots of questions." Teaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcmW8HCuLo8
3. Kraft enlists Tracy Morgan from NBC's "30 Rock" to introduce its new Mio Fit water enhancing drops in a 30-second ad during the third quarter. Teaser: http://www.youtube.com/user/makeitmio?feature=watch
4. Hyundai Motor Group's Kia invents a fanciful way that babies are made, blasting in from a baby planet in its "Space babies" ad for the 2014 Sorento crossover. Link: http://www.youtube.com/user/KiaMotorsAmerica?feature=watch
5. First-time advertiser Paramount Farms is touting its Wonderful Pistachios brand of nuts in a 30-second ad with Korean pop sensation Psy. The campaign: http://getcrackin.com/
6. First-time advertiser Axe shows a woman in the ocean getting rescued by a sexy lifeguard, but going for an astronaut instead. It promotes Axe's new cologne "Apollo" and its contest to send someone on the first suborbital space tour in 2014. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGoU3VH7He4
7. Audi's 60-second ad in the first quarter, with an ending voted on by viewers, shows a boy gaining confidence from driving his father's Audi to the prom, kissing the prom queen and getting decked by the prom king. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANhmS6QLd5Q
8. PepsiCo's Frito-Lay's Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" ads are back for the seventh straight year. Two 30-second commercials made by consumers will make it on the air. Fans voted for one winner and Doritos chose the other.
9. Ford Motor Co. enlisted late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon to choose road trip stories submitted by Twitter with the hashtag (hash)steerthescript to base its Super Bowl commercial for Lincoln. The ad features rapper Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons, Wil Wheaton, who acted in the iconic science-fiction series "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
10. The Milk Processor Education Program, known as MilkPep and popular for its "Got Milk?" print ads, is featuring actor and professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in a 30-second ad in the second quarter that is directed by Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights.")
— Mae Anderson
BEYONCE, BUT WHO ELSE?
There's lots of hype for Beyonce's halftime performance at the Super Bowl, but she's far from the only A-list act in New Orleans this week.
The NFL has announced Jennifer Hudson is planning to sing "America the Beautiful" before the game with the chorus from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Just add her to the already packed list. It also includes:
— Justin Timberlake, in his first major musical performance in four years (hosting Saturday Night Live doesn't count — he hasn't been an official musical guest on the show since 2006).
— Stevie Wonder
— CeeLo Green with his old hip-hop clique, Goodie Mob.
—Rascal Flatts with Journey.
And then there's the parties. Lil Wayne is throwing a bash. Jay-Z will host another event the night before his wife, Beyonce, takes stage. Jamie Foxx and Santigold are also performing, while DJs including Diplo and Questlove from The Roots are spinning.
Not that it's ever difficult, but it's extra easy to find a party in New Orleans the next few days.
— Stacey Plaisance
PUTTING POLITICS ASIDE FOR NEW ORLEANS
Long working on opposite sides of the American political spectrum, James Carville and Mary Matalin are pulling in the same direction when it comes to promoting their adopted home of New Orleans as a Super Bowl host.
Carville, a longtime Democratic strategist, and Matalin, a Republican pundit, are the co-chairs of the Super Bowl host committee. They're also married.
They've been making the rounds together from one event to the next in the convention center, which houses both the NFL Experience theme park and work stations for several thousand international media.
Carville is from Louisiana and the couple married in New Orleans. Then in 2008, they decided to move here from Washington, D.C. Now living in a stately home just two blocks off of historic St. Charles Avenue, they've been among the biggest boosters of the Big Easy's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, lending their support to a variety of community projects with goals ranging from restoration of fragile coastal wetlands to education and economic development.
The pair agree that while organizing a Super Bowl doesn't cost as much as a presidential campaign, it's just as hard because it's a multiyear project with a lot of moving parts.
Carville says he's always been a sports fan so the transition was natural for him. Matalin says one obvious goal is to get New Orleans back in the regular rotation as a Super Bowl host, but the larger goal is to help the city's future by demonstrating how successfully it can host one of the biggest single events in the sports world. While New Orleans is hosting its 10th Super Bowl, the NFL championship has not been played there since 2002.
Says Carville: "If it goes the way we hope it does, it'll go beyond economic impact. It'll go beyond who won the game. It think there's something significant that's coming to a point here in the city."
— Brett Martel — http://twitter.com/brettmartel
ZOO VS ZOO
File this in the quirky Super Bowl wager department: Zoos in Baltimore and San Francisco are gambling with the homes of two ravens and a rhino.
Leaders of The Maryland Zoo and The San Francisco Zoological Gardens have wagered naming rights to their respective exhibits with ties to their hometown football teams.
The zoo in Baltimore is home to official Ravens mascots, Rise and Conquer. If 49ers win, it will rename the ravens' enclosure the "San Francisco 49ers exhibit."
If the Ravens win, the San Francisco zoo has agreed to re-name the enclosure of its black rhino "Boone," who is named after the 49ers offensive tackle Alex Boone, in honor of the Ravens.
The new name would last one month, starting Feb. 11.
CATCHING THE COUNTERFEITERS
Shop wisely when looking for those Super Bowl souvenirs.
Federal officials have seized more than 163,000 counterfeit items worth more than $13.6 million over the last five months as part of Operation Red Zone, John Morton, director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, said. That's a "significant" increase from last year, when about $5 million worth of merchandise was seized.
"Everything from hats to jerseys to Nike shoes. My personal favorite is this counterfeit Super Bowl ring from Super Bowl XLIV," Morton said, holding up a massive gold ring. "It's actually quite heavy and a better counterfeit than most. Just goes to show you the lengths people will go in this business."
Equally troubling are websites selling counterfeit merchandise, some so sophisticated they include anti-virus logos and the seal of the Better Business Bureau — making them almost impossible to tell them apart from legitimate vendors.
Morton said federal officials have already seized domain names of 313 web sites, almost all of which originated overseas.
"Imagine what's going on when you're putting your credit card through this site. Really think about that," Morton said. "The site is being run by overseas criminals in Asia.... You can imagine what the result is, and sadly many, many of these sites come with malware and other unfortunate ornaments on the Christmas tree."
The easiest way to make sure fans are buying legitimate merchandise is to buy from an official vendor, Morton said. Each team has one, as does the NFL.
But the best way fans can prevent being scammed is to use common sense, Morton said. Look closely at items, and there will be signs they're fakes. If there are extra words in a website address — com.us — or misspellings, that's almost always a dead giveaway.
"We're not letting up," Morton said. "We'll have teams out the next couple of days looking for counterfeit and scam artists."
— Nancy Armour — http://twitter.com/nrarmour
RENO: THE KAEPERNICK EFFECT
Casinos in the Biggest Little City in the World are expecting a bump in Super Bowl betting this year thanks to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, maybe enough to help Nevada set a record in wagering on the game.
Kaepernick played college football at Nevada, just down the street from casinos in Reno.
Now, most of those casinos are offering an especially large number of proposition bets on the quarterback.
Kaep-mania has run so rampant in Reno that sporting goods stores can't keep stocked in jerseys. More than 7,000 fans set what Nevada officials said was a world record when they all simultaneously kissed their arms "Kaepernicking style" during a break in last week's basketball game against San Diego State.
A Kaepernick viewing party is planned during Sunday's game at the student union.
— Scott Sonner
NO MORE TALKING
The players can focus on football now — they're officially done talking to the media.
Ravens safety Ed Reed was the last guy at the podium on Thursday. After he finished talking with reporters, he scooped up a blue placard with his name on it.
"I'm going to give it to my mother," he said.
He said he's very glad that his interviews are done for the week.
Players had three hourlong sessions during the week, and Reed had another press availability on Monday.
The coaches for the 49ers and Ravens will speak with reporters again on Friday morning.
— Paul Newberry — http://twitter.com/pnewberry1963
BROTHERLY ADVICE: BROOK LOPEZ
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh are hardly the only high-profile siblings who've squared off in their arena of expertise. The AP is asking some others who can relate how they'd handle going against a family member in the Super Bowl.
Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez said after scoring 21 points in a loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night that it's a combination of joy and competitiveness.
"I know they're just going to treat it as a game. That's how I treat it whenever I play Robin," Brook Lopez said. "I know they will enjoy it as well. But if I have any experience playing against Robin growing up, I know it's going to be competitive. I know they're going to want to beat each other."
Brook's brother, Robin, plays for the New Orleans Hornets.
— Brian Mahoney — http://twitter.com/briancmahoney
The way Jack Harbaugh tells the story, Jackie Harbaugh was so shocked by her eldest son's decision to choose coaching over a career in law or politics, she fell face-first into a dish of mashed potatoes.
See, Jackie Harbaugh loves political science and politics. And as a political science major at Bowling Green with a high grade-point, John Harbaugh seemed headed for law school.
"Jackie was so excited about it," Jack Harbaugh said.
But both of the Harbaugh boys had been bitten by the coaching bug early. The practice fields at Iowa and Michigan were their playground, and they knew more about coaching before they got out of grade school than some veteran assistants.
"He came home one day and we're sitting around the table and we're having dinner. Jackie says, 'John, what law school will it be?' John said, 'Mom, I think I want to try coaching,' Jack Harbaugh said. "To which Jackie went facedown into the mashed potatoes. She said, 'What? Coaching? You've got to reconsider!'"
That's not exactly what happened, Jackie Harbaugh said.
"May I tell the truth? There were no mashed potatoes," she said. "When he came home and talked about (coaching) and I saw that look in his eyes, my feeling was, you have to do what you want to do. If you want to try this and see where it takes you, that would be great."
Seems like he made the right choice. After making the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, John Harbaugh has the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl on Sunday, where they'll face his brother Jim's San Francisco 49ers.
— Nancy Armour — http://twitter.com/nrarmour
How about some home cookin' in the Big Easy — as in 150 plates of it to feed a football team? That's what Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones' mother, Emily, presented the Baltimore players for dinner this week at the team hotel to kick off Super Bowl prep New Orleans-style.
"Gumbo, jambalaya, potato salad, bread pudding, macaroni, the whole nine yards. She made 150 plates," Jones said. "All they kept saying is she put her foot in it. I love it."
That's a real compliment around here.
Now, Jones might give his mother a break.
"I'm going to let her be. I might buy me some crawfish or something."
And he knows all the best spots in New Orleans to get it.
— Janie McCauley — http://twitter.com/janieMcCAP
QUICKQUOTE: DRIVER RETIRES
Packers wide receiver Donald Driver has announced his retirement, ending a 14-year career as Green Bay's all-time leader in yards receiving and catches. Only quarterback Brett Favre has played more games in a Packers uniform.
In a team statement, Driver says: "I played my entire career in Green Bay and have always enjoyed a special bond with the fans. ... I can think of no better way to retire than to celebrate with them and the Packers organization."
Driver was slightly less formal on Twitter: "It's been an amazing journey, thank you for all of your love and support! (hash)Packer4Life"
Driver's key career statistics: 743 receptions, 10,137 yards, 61 touchdowns. He had seven seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards.
— Nancy Armour — http://twitter.com/nrarmour
EDITOR'S NOTE — "Super Bowl Watch" shows you the Super Bowl and the events surrounding the game through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across New Orleans and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.