This weekend I finally sat my husband Bill down and asked him the details of his Super Bowl adventure. As promised, here is his story as dictated to his beautiful and talented wife.*
*Author reserves the right to use creative license.
When Sarah booked our flight to Dallas I was overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who helped out and felt relieved this was actually going to happen. Then my dad called. A representative with the company who ran the contest called and informed my dad he had to be in Dallas on Saturday in person to pick up the tickets. Panic started to set in; our non-refundable tickets were already booked for Sunday morning. The $423 we raised went toward the $422.80 airfare; we didn’t have the $150 required to make any changes. Aside from that we didn’t have money for a hotel room. So many people generously donated to the cause; if we couldn’t make this work how could we show our faces in public?
At first the company refused to allow anyone else to pick them up. My dad was in contact with them for two days explaining our plight, doing everything in his power to convince them to give us other options. Finally, they agreed to overnight release forms to my dad and allow him to authorize someone to pick up the tickets on his behalf.
But who could pick them up?
Neither my dad nor I know anyone personally that lives in Dallas. Then I remembered a friend I’ve known through an art forum – thegiant.org – for the past 5 years, Mack Simpson aka admonkey. With fingers crossed I reached out to him via private message on the forum. Not surprisingly (Mack has been a trustworthy contact regarding art sales in the past), he agreed whole-heartedly to pick up the tickets. Not only did he agree but he also provided me his driver’s license information and succumbed to the rigorous security procedures at the ticket pick up. Even though I trusted Mack, in the back of my mind a bit of doubt remained. I’ve never met this guy in person and I’m uneasy about not physically possessing the tickets before flying to Dallas. What if something comes up and Mack can’t make it? Will the ticket office be open? What about the weather? What if the flight gets delayed? My mind raced with a million unanswered questions.
Finally Super Bowl weekend arrives. My dad gets to Lawrence late Friday night so he could spend Saturday with his granddaughter (living 16 hours away in Gillette, WY visits are rare). Late Saturday afternoon Mack texts a picture of the tickets, we located our seats on the seating chart and everything starts to feel real. That night I went to bed at 10 but laid awake forever, my mind just wouldn’t shut off. Can all of the pieces really come together? I was dreading the thought of spending Sunday night in the airport. I finally drifted off, got maybe an hour of sleep before the alarm went off 3:00 Sunday morning.
Our short flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth went off without a hitch and we headed right to the car rental. While we filled out our rental paperwork, Steelers Hall Of Fame receiver Lynn Swan walked up behind us. It took all of my willpower to not freak out like a Bieber fan. I turned around, Lynn smiled at me and I smiled back. Everyone around us was falling over themselves to talk to him. After our paperwork was done I went up to shake his hand and wished him good luck on winning their 7th Super Bowl trophy. Lynn thanked me and shook my hand. I pointed out my orange John Elway jersey and said, “I’m wearing the wrong colors.” Lynn said, “doesn’t matter, you’re at the Super Bowl!” I immediately thought he was the classiest athlete ever.
Our Sunday definitely started with a bang! We headed to Mack’s house in our donated rental car and were greeted by the nicest, warmest people I’ve ever met. There was no awkwardness; we made easy conversation like we’d known each other forever. Mack showed me the most beautiful private art collection ever, including a Shepard Fairey original commissioned piece.
When taking this picture I explained how social media paid for our airfare and my commitment to live tweet/blog about the experience. As we were driving to our reserved parking, Mack called and said he read the whole story on Sarah’s blog and asked if we really planned to sleep in the airport that night. I told him yes, Mack’s response was “bullshit, you’re sleeping at my house.” After discussing with my dad and ironing out the logistics of returning the rental car we agreed to go to Mack’s house for the night.
Car parked, we headed to the stadium around 11:30. It seemed we were among the first people there but after standing in line for 30 minutes we realized we were in line to get in line. We quickly moved toward the next maze-like line and didn’t move for the next hour and 15 minutes, during which we were forced to listen to Nickelback. If you’re wondering what my description of hell would be, that is it. As we started to enter the stadium security informs me I have to throw away my camera and binocular cases because “you could put a bomb in it, leave it in a seat and walk away.” Ironically, every woman with a purse walking in was perfectly acceptable.
After security we walked through a tunnel into the Disneyland of football. It was a sea of people rushing and pushing everywhere, there was not enough time to relax and soak it all in. We went straight to the Johnsonville tailgate party which was not as cool as it initially seemed – Johnsonville representatives didn’t recognize our coupons and had to get verification from management they were real – got a single brat each and then were pushed out of the way. We moved on to the ESPN section of the concourse and I got to see my favorite NFL live analyst, Broncos alum, 3 time Super Bowl champion and most famously known for his work as Detective/crime novelist Roc Hoover on Guiding Light, Mark Schlereth. As I walked up and yelled, “Stink!” (his nickname), Mark saw the Denver Broncos jersey and got a big goofy grin on his face. He yelled back, “what’s up brother!” I explained orange is the only color I can wear to a football game and he said, “I hear that.” Mark gave me a shoulder squeeze and posed for a picture. After meeting Lynn Swan and Mark Schlereth I was set for the day!
We wandered around and took pictures of the stadium; watched the Fox broadcast taping with Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson from a distance. Tried to get souvenirs but the merch stand was packed with people, some of whom had been waiting for an hour and a half in line. Instead we went inside the stadium, passing $19 margarita vendors, to the three story tall Pro Shop with a line about the length of a football field curling up the stairs, out the door and hadn’t moved in about 10 minutes. We decided outside was a better option and finally came away with one souvenir – a ticket protector lanyard. I really wanted to walk around stadium to take in all of the art but quickly realized it was impossible with 105,000 people trying to do the same thing.
At about 3:30 we went up to get snacks ($19 bought a soda in a souvenir cup, bag of peanuts and a soft pretzel) and settled into our seats. For the next hour and a half we sat in awe of the stadium, kept entertained by stats shown on the world’s two largest high-definition video displays – did you know the Statue of Liberty could be placed at the fifty yard line and her torch wouldn’t touch the ceiling? Or that the Empire State Building could be laid flat inside the stadium? – and the stupid Snickers commercial with Roseanne Barr played on repeat about 30 times. Eff that commercial.
The TCU marching band performed during the pregame warm up – great show to my untrained eye but I’m sure my band nerd wife would have picked apart their spacing issues. Shortly after that they started setting up the stages for Lea Michele and Christina Aguilera, the stadium started to buzz and I could tell it was about to go down. Immediately I started taking as many pictures as possible – didn’t even realize Christina screwed up the national anthem or that Fergie had a terrible Axl Rose impression – and became immersed in the experience. We were seated amongst throngs of Packers fans who were electric in the first half and quiet during second half when the Steelers started to mount a comeback. This was the loudest thing I’ve ever experienced by far. Right before the end of the game I saw a sparkle out of the corner of my eye and caught Roger Staubach on the sidelines holding the Lombardi trophy. After the Packers won we hung out for a few minutes and took pictures of the trophy and MVP presentations. Then we filed out into – next to Nickelback – the second worst experience of the day, 80,000ish fans leaving through four exits at the same time. It took about 45 minutes to an hour to get from our seats to the rental car one mile away.
Safely in the car we headed back to Mack’s house, greeted by instructions to walk in, welcomed to use anything and enjoy the coffee already set in the coffee pot for the morning. Luckily, Mack was still awake watching postgame footage and I got to have a beer with him while my dad went to sleep. It was awesome to get the opportunity to socialize in real life, Mack saw it as an opportunity to hold me down and pour bourbon down my throat. Granted, I didn’t put up much of a fight. Spending time conversing was icing on the cake of the whole experience. Finally, I headed to bed and drunkenly slept for 3 hours, headed to the airport around 7:00 and landed in KC to see my beautiful wife and daughter waiting for me.
The only way I can describe this experience is like a Kansas Tornado. It’s all such a blur; once we got on the plane it became a surreal whirlwind. I’m so grateful for this once in a lifetime experience and wouldn’t change anything about it.
Check out all my Super Bowl XLV pictures on facebook.