NEW ORLEANS --- Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked early in the week what he learned from going to the Super Bowl eight years ago with the Eagles.

Harbaugh answered that he learned the whole week is a circus, but at the end of it, there is a game. And when it starts, it's just a game, like other games, with four downs and injuries and mistakes and an oblong football.

That's a simple but profound point, especially if you are in the Super Bowl city, with blimps motoring past and a guy on stilts throwing passes to bystanders, dressed in a Colin Kaepernick jersey (his followthrough needed work). On the banks of the Mississippi, outlined against the sky are those giant roman numerals -- XLVII -- that have an almost Stonehengelike aspect.

New Orleans is a city that encourages excess, and excess is almost the definition of Super Bowl week.

The entire sate of Maryland seems to be here, arrayed in purple. There is much less red. West Coast fans are not like East Coast fans, in their ardor, and as a Bay Area colleague pointed out, the Giants won the World Series just a few months ago; the citizenry there is still digesting that meal.

The most poignant sight I glimpsed Saturday was a gaggle of Broncos fans in full regalia, who obviously booked the trip a while back thinking there would be many others similarly attired.

Also prominent are the natives, who attended all the concerts and festivals dressed in Saints jerseys, figuring it's their town, they can celebrate on their terms, regardless.

But there will come a point late this afternoon when all the craziness fades into the background, and football will take the stage. It promises to be a sort of throwback football, at that -- two teams that play physical defense and run the ball, though you don't want to underestimate Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's arm, as those Broncos fans could attest.

I picked the 49ers by one point, but I really have no idea. I think I would take the 49ers' roster over the Ravens' roster, but I also think I might take the calmer, cooler John Harbaugh over Jim. The idea that Kaepernick is just going to drop out of the sky at midseason and coast to the Lombardi Trophy a few months later seems to me to be a little too Hollywoodish.

It's going to be fun to watch him try, though. Even more fun than watching that guy on stilts throw passes.