ESPN party highlights Super Bowl festivities in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — Somehow, the Worldwide Leader in Sports has become the Worldwide Leader in Super Bowl Parties.

ESPN has earned a reputation for throwing the most opulent, exclusive bash of the year, and for good reason. People starting lining up outside Tad Gormley Stadium 90 minutes before the doors opened Friday night. Two thousand people were expected. Even ESPN employees struggled to get a ticket.

The red carpet was chock full of athletes, from Brad Keselowski to Donovan McNabb to the true party boy himself, Rob Gronkowski. Jeremy Piven was there, without the entourage.

Victoria’s Secret model Candice Swanspoel’s date must have offered her the moon and the stars. He was the AXE astronaut, in a full space suit.

Inside, it was a mob scene. Packed. Bud Light, a title sponsor, was handing out beers. Old Spice distributed body wash. And the menu was local — shrimp and grits beignets, among others.

Cee-Lo Green was the featured act, and tore through his biggest hits: Crazy, Bright Lights Bigger City and covered David Bowie’s Let’s Dance before closing with Forget You. As he dropped his last F-bomb, confetti exploded in the air.