Super Bowl Spotlight on Santa Clara Reveals How Its Changed

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara hosting Super Bowl 50 is a miracle along the lines of the Catch. Before the 49ers moved their practice center here in 1988, it would have been hard to fathom the N.F.L. champion being crowned here, even for someone with an imagination like mine, which grew as wild as the cottontail plants along the Guadalupe River trail.

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Growing up in Santa Clara in the 1970s, when it was still populated by orchards, I felt at once fixed to the earth and rootless. Those were the years when the city produced bumper crops of fruit, Jesuit-educated college graduates and Olympic swimmers but somehow failed to register with outsiders.

No one knew the way to Santa Clara. I grew accustomed to identifying my hometown in relation to San Francisco, an hour’s drive north, and neighboring San Jose. I always did so through gritted teeth, of course, because the air in Santa Clara was perfumed with pride (and also with honeysuckle and apricots).

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