How can one even possibly put into words the sights, sounds, experiences, dreams, hopes, fears, gasps, chants, smiles, tears, and memories all swirled about in a flurry of red, white and blue confetti raining down from the top of the Cardinal stadium on Super Bowl Sunday?
But for the sake of reliving the incredible day I had yesterday, I’ll try.
I still can’t believe I was there. I woke up this morning and wanted to pinch myself after having the most vivid, realistic-feeling dream that I was at Super Bowl XLII yesterday.
The pinching wouldn’t have hurt much; I was already feeling aches and soreness from my head to my feet. After standing for 9 hours straight (excluding a quick 10 minute bus ride from Cricket Pavilion to the University of Phoenix Stadium) I was more than ready to fall asleep for a long, long time.
And so my "dream" of being at the Super Bowl Sunday began.
I was assigned the job of taking tickets at the entrance with three of my friends from school. At first I thought this job was the worst one I could possibly get, but then I realized directing traffic or being placed away from the Super Bowl stadium would have been far worse. I got to see the odd assortment of fans bustling in from all over the nation (and in some cases, the world) into University of Phoenix Stadium.
I got to be an expert at instantly picking out counterfeit tickets (to the heartbreaking realization of the ticket holders). I got to hang out with Super Bowl security, and laugh at all the ridiculous, far-fetched conspiracies of people vying to get past us, and into the game.
After many long, weary hours of standing, scanning, and ripping off ticket stubs (this too, broke many a fan’s heart), our group of ticket takers was on break for dinner (and, luckily, the rest of the night).
We headed through the NFL Experience; an eight-million dollar tailgate extravaganza, containing NFL stores, a card memorabilia museum, stages, interactive games, life-sized football figurines of every team in the league, food booths, lounge areas to watch TV on large screens, and fake cactus gardens. After living in Arizona for a couple years, I really got a kick out of the faux cacti.
Dinner for NFL employees (this was right after Tom Petty sang “Free Fallin'” during the half time performance) consisted of chicken, beans, tortillas, salad, other Mexican dishes, and delicious sugary cinnamon churros.
Wait, we’re getting paid for this?
After dinner, our group wandered around the NFL Experience. There wasn’t a fan to be seen since everyone was inside the arena, watching the third quarter of the game. We took this opportunity to jump over every fence, squeeze in between gates, and duck under ropes to goof around with all the fun obstacle courses.
There were stages we climbed up on, a news reporting station we pretended to be commentators for, green turf mini-fields we ran across, and after diddling around with other exhibits, we fell exhaustedly on big foam cushions in the middle of the Gatorade obstacle course, and watched the remaining three minutes of the Giants/Patriots showdown.
Any other news article can tell you what happened in those last, break taking, jaw dropping, I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened plays. I sat there, with my hand covering my mouth in complete amazement. If there were any minutes of the game not to be missed, these last few were the ones.
Directly after the game’s end, we proceeded to the edge of the NFL Experience to direct the fans away from the tailgating extravaganza, now closed, and to the parking lots. Not surprisingly, all we saw emerge from the arena were Patriot fans. And boy, did they look depressed. I made eye contact with a few, and gave a couple pity smiles. One woman in a Brady jersey wiped away a tear and kept walking.
From my perspective earlier in the ticket taking episode, I saw about 2/3 of the fans wearing Patriot clothing, and the remaining donning Giants’ gear. Only one pair of Giants fans were to be seen in this first wave of fans exiting the stadium, however.
In this somber moment of watching the exodus of the Pat’s faithful followers depart, my friend Tracy turned to me, and said, “Why don’t we go into the stadium now?”
A split second later, we had walked away from our post and were on our way through opposite traffic, headed toward the Mecca of football. Details at this point in time are blurry; it was such a rush of adrenaline to be doing something technically not allowed, but on the flip side, one of the greatest moments of my 20 years.
We stepped into the arena, fully aware that at any moment a security guard could check our employee passes and notice we didn’t have clearance to be inside the stadium, but that thankfully didn’t occur.
Tracy and I ran down the steps, gleefully laughing and smiling a grin as big as I could ever have. We took numerous photos, of the ceiling, the sides of the stadium, the confetti-littered field, the fans, the arena, and of ourselves with the picturesque scene behind us.
Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” song played over the speakers. The whole crowd was sharing this moment singing their hearts out; everyone in unison. The happiness was contagious; it seeped through every row, every seat, and I could not have found a place on earth that was more delightful at that moment.
I’m neither a Giants nor Patriots fan, and I sympathized with Brady and his Pats at the game’s conclusion. The Patriots had an amazing season, and I hope they don’t forget that when looking back on all the touchdowns, wins, and celebrations they had this year.
The Giants were certainly deserving of this incredible honor. One fan said to me at the entrance gate, “This is house money!” when I was taking his ticket. Confused, he explained further, “We weren’t supposed to go this far! This wasn’t supposed to happen!”
True fanhood right there.
I couldn’t be more sure after yesterday that I sincerely love the world of sports, far more than any description could tell. I love the energy, the passion, the athleticism, the hard work, desire, courage, strength and commitment that goes into sports.
I love the atmosphere, the intensity, the moments where hearts seem to stop in anticipation of what will happen next. The Super Bowl reconfirmed my desire to pursue a career in the sports industry, and I fully intend to see it out.
While the small details and select memories may fade, my picture collection, Super Bowl ticket, credentials, official employee outfit, and love for the game won’t.
And somebody, please pinch me.