Welcome friends to my little corner of Super Bowl coverage. Of course, this is not mere game recap. This is the recap of how the fans watched the game. This is a recap of how crazy the city of Tampa was on the day of Super Bowl XLIII.
The idea first sprung into my head when the Jets were 8-3. Being a huge Packer fan, I still loved and supported Brett Favre. When the Jets had just knocked off the undefeated Titans I vowed to go to the Super Bowl if the Jets made it.
It is this moment when I jinxed them. They would go 9-7 completing a meltdown of epic proportions.
Enough about sorry teams.
I, of course, was down for that.
We left Gainesville around noon, I was wearing my Packers Brett Favre jersey meant to signify to others that I have no emotion bond to either Super Bowl participants, only that I was here to enjoy myself.
My friend, on the other hand, was a die-hard Steelers fan. He was sporting his custom jersey that read his last name on the back.
Having lived in Pittsburgh for five years, I had to admit...I was pulling for the Steelers.
We arrived in Tampa around 2:00 pm.
It was a beautiful day, wind was blowing, sun was shining and the clouds were at a minimum. Great day for football.
We went to a plaza next to The St. Pete's Times Forum.
It was here we Immediatly noticed the Super Bowl craze. Dozens of Steelers jerseys filled the plaza and just as many stalls had been set up selling Super Bowl merchandise.
It was here I began my "Cardinal Count." Pretty much self explanatory, how many Cardinal fans can I find?
After leaving the plaza, I was up to six.
My friends and I then ate at a predetermined location.
My friends had already decided that they were going to eat the ever-so-famous Guinness Burger. As a matter of fact, they were dreaming of the meal during the drive down.
We soon discovered that the Super Bowl even effects the menus in local restaurants.
We received a small "abridged" menu with less than a dozen meals to choose from.
Guess what they left off?
Yeah, the Guinness Burger.
In order to keep patrons coming in and out in a timely manner, Bennigan's had shortened their menu to the meals that could be prepared in the shortest amount of time.
Heartbroken, but not beaten, my friends were. They wanted that Guinness Burger.
They kindly asked the waitress if she could make the exception for them.
She returned 30 minutes later with their Guinness Burgers.
We left the plaza and began our journey to find our tail gating party: "Super Gate."
We left the plaza at 3:30.
On our way to the parking lot in which Super Gate was taking place, we passed at least four or five parties on the sidewalk with cars parked on the grass just blasting music.
We were forced to make a pit stop as my friend had to...take care of certain business...
He went into four different stores to find a bathroom because the lines were so long because of the massive amounts of tailgaters in such close proximity to the stores.
After 20 minutes of potty hunting, we were off.
Then, we passed Raymond James Stadium. The place where it would all happen.
Of course we didn't actually drive by it as every road in front of the stadium was blocked off.
We were forced to take many (many...) detours until we arrived at our destination at 5:00.
The parking lot was massive, could have landed at least a dozen Apache Helicopters.
It was packed with RV's and tailgaters. Near the beginning of the parking lot were two large projector screens, this is where we would watch the glory that is the Super Bowl.
Kickoff came and it was loud. Hundreds of Steeler fans were waving their terrible towels and hollering for a two yard gain.
The first half was boring for the most part, except when the Steelers scored...in which case I lost my hearing in the moments following the score...
I did not watch the halftime show as the sponsor of Super Gate, Cholula Hot Sauce (don't ask...), began handing out free stuff. From boxes of hot sauce to office chairs. So I missed Bruce Springsteen hump all of America.
The second half rolled around and the Cardinal fans (At this point Cardinal Count was up to 42) crawled out of their little holes. Actually...there were probably more people rooting for the Cardinals that had a different NFL team's jersey on than there were Cardinal fans rooting for the Cardinals.
In particular there was one Patriots fan who stood out. He was jumping and screaming "What's Up Now!!" every time the Cardinals made a big play. I would have thought he was a real Cardinals fan.
After Larry Fitzgerald put the Cardinals up 23-20, the place was silent. Except for Patriots boy who was screaming like his team had won something.
I sat down to watch what would be one of the greatest drives in Super Bowl history.
Roethlisberger was guiding his team down the field like the greats before him. It was like a beautiful climax to a masterfully written play.
It was at this time I met a girl I would call for the rest of the night: Steeler Stalker.
She was intoxicated out of her mind and randomly sat on my lap AS THE GREATEST DRIVE IN SUPER BOWL HISTORY WAS TAKING PLACE. Annoyed, I ignored her and tried to focus on THE DRIVE.
She kept flirting with me while Santonio Holmes was Fitzing (The new term for what was previously known as "mossing") Cardinal defenders. However, I am too much of a gentleman to be rude to a lady.
Luckily she was distracted for the final play of the drive.
I sat in awe as Ben Roethlisberger threw one of the best passes I have ever seen in my life and Santonio Holmes made THE CATCH (sorry Dwight Clark and David Tyree...this beats you guys).
As Holmes came down with the ball I jumped in elation and went nuts.
I was the only one.
The rest of the people had not realized that Holmes caught the ball and got both feet down inbounds.
A second later the place erupted. Fans began chanting Six-Burgh.
The parking lot was filled with dancing and high fives as everyone had enjoyed one of the best Super Bowls of all time.
As for my Steeler Stalker, she kept following me around until my friends and I left for a night on the town.
Those stories...I think I'll keep to myself...
Here's to a great Super Bowl and an even better NFL season!