Ticketing the Super Bowl: One Fan's Experience

t williAnalyst IFebruary 5, 2008

I'm your ticket into the Super Bowl.  Literally.

To get into the Super Bowl, one must go through the highest of security measures—second in the nation only to the White House. If you pass the pat down, the metal detector, and the wand, you may proceed.

Then you get to me.

If you don’t get through me, you don’t get to be inside the stadium.

If I allow you through—well, have an amazing time, sir, and have fun for me. I’ll be sitting outside here for another couple hours, scanning tickets, checking for counterfeits, having interesting chats with fans, and being highly entertained by the countless array of shenanigans and acts people put on to try to get into the game.

I was hired as a one-day employee of the NFL by S.A.F.E Management—the company that runs the Super Bowls and select football stadiums throughout the country—for Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona.

I was assigned, with three of my buddies from school, the lowly job of taking tickets. I was on an emotional rollercoaster the whole morning, my highs being thoughts like “Will I work inside the stadium?” or “Will I see any famous sports stars?”

My lows were “crap, my security badge doesn’t let me inside the stadium,” “I’m sure my other friends got cooler jobs than this,” and “I can’t believe I got this close to the Super Bowl, and I can’t go inside at all.”

Don’t worry—that last thought became even more painful later when I was given an extra ticket to inside the stadium. Face value? $700—and that was for the nosebleed section.

We were instructed to tear off the bottom stubs and keep them. This was extremely painful for the majority of fans to watch, most of whom kept their ticket safely strapped around their neck in a plastic pouch, and many of whom grossly overpaid beyond the face value of the ticket.

A man told me that I could take the bottom of his ticket because I was so pretty. Umm, you’ll let me take the bottom of your ticket because if I don’t, I won’t let you into the Super Bowl and you just wasted $1,300.

One fan in the morning even tried to bribe me with a $20 to let him keep the bottom of the ticket. I said no.

My friend, Tracy, told a guy that she needed to take his stub. The guy responded with a chuckle, “I haven’t heard that in a while. But you’re too young for me.” We had a good laugh after that one.

A few minutes later, however, I asked a high school-aged boy to “please pull it out for me” (referring to the ticket, of course). His dad laughed and told me, “You might not want to say that to him—he might really do that.” That certainly brought a blush to my cheeks.

The three levels of tickets were the terrace (or nosebleeds) for $700, the club level, which was the middle section, for $900, or the front and center for a mere $2000. And may I remind you, this was just face value.

The fans were fantastic. I got to meet a lot of great people, even in those short few moments of scanning and tearing off ticket stubs.

There were the Patriot fans, dominating the landscape at security. I’d ask Patriot fans, “Who’s going to win tonight?” with a big smile on my face. Most of them would state their obvious answer.

I’d ask Giants fans the same thing, and get the naturally opposite answer. When fans would ask me who I wanted to win, I’d honestly answer “Niners!” and start laughing.

Then there were fans wearing different team jerseys. I saw a couple Eagles fans, a pair of Packer fans, one guy sporting a 49er Willis jersey (that made my day!), and Vikings gear.

One man, wearing a Dolphins jersey, happened to be getting talked down from a Patriots fan when he was getting his ticket scanned. I interrupted, and patted the fan on the shoulder, and said, “You’re a true fan! The Dolphins will have a better year next year, and they’ll make the Super Bowl! With the Niners!”

The Patriots fan just laughed at me (karma?). I smiled at the man in the Marino jersey and told him he was a great person for sticking with his team.

Even though Miami was the furthest possible team from making it to the Super Bowl, the spirit was carried into the stadium with that one single fan. It felt good to watch.

A Pats fan was waiting for his friend on the other side of the gate, and I asked him if he was from New England. He said yes, and asked me how I knew.

“It was your feet.” He looked down, and back up at me, confused.

“You wouldn’t be wearing sandals on a day like this if you were an Arizonan.” The weather all day was grey skies and a chilling breeze—not the best representation of what Arizona has to offer in the middle of the winter.

“Are you going to pat me down too?” Some guy with a big goofy grin held out his arms, ready for me to check him personally for smuggled items. No, definitely not happening.

One of the most entertaining aspects of being a ticket taker was watching the ridiculous attempts of fans trying to get into the game without tickets.

A 20-year-old blonde girl, wearing a low cut shirt and push up bra “had to go pee.” She was bent over “in pain” and making gruesome facial expressions, whining how badly she needed to use the restroom.

Blondie attempted to enter several ticketing gates, pleaded with security, police (and me) and received the same answer—NO! Her friend was already on the other side of the gate, and as retribution, she offered that her friend would give us his ticket to hold, to prove that they would come back out.

Nothing worked, and she finally gave up, but not before I heard the friend from behind me whisper, “if you find tickets and get inside, call me.”

What a despicable, dishonest attempt. I’m glad she didn’t get in. 

Left side Right side Centered

Another memorable attempt was a middle-aged man dressed from head to toe, eerily matching the Minnesota Vikings mascot. He too was denied entry for failure to produce a Super Bowl ticket.

I had a couple fans try to sweet talk their way through me, openly admitting they didn’t have a ticket. They didn’t get through.

One man in a nice suit (this was in the third quarter) was bringing several cones through the metal detector, and almost passed through us ticket takers, until a security guard stopped him and asked us why we didn’t take his ticket.

The man sheepishly smiled and said he was just trying to help, and slinked through the exit.

Two six-foot tall girls, one in each team’s jersey, explained to a fellow ticket taker next to me that they were performing for the halftime show. Funny, but no amount of makeup, glitter, tight skirts, or boots can get one in the game.

Counterfeit tickets were easy to spot after I got used to the feel of the legitimate bowl tickets. These had a different gloss or finish, no perforation, and felt or bent differently.

If the scanner didn’t approve the ticket, I’d send the patron to a supervisor, and the fan’s worst fears would be confirmed: the ticket wasn’t real.

A dad came back in the second half with a new pair of tickets with his seven year old son. After these new tickets were scanned, he gave a big sigh of relief and said that he lost $1500 on the first pair of counterfeit tickets.

Throughout the day, our ticket gate had about six instances of fake tickets. Those poor people. Lesson learned: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Well into the game, most of the fans had already entered through the security gate and ticketing stations, and we felt like our job was complete. Tracy decided to run though the metal detector, setting it off with her ticket scanner hanging around her neck.

I thought it was pretty cool to goof around like that, in front of Super Bowl security guards, and get away with it. Anyone else trying to pull that off would end up in handcuffs.

The only “celebrities” I saw in person were Grant Hill and former wide receiver of the Raiders, A.C Caswell.

Caswell was at the Bowl signing autographs, and somehow landed himself and his four sons outside the game, and was trying to get back inside. I had the pleasure of chatting with him for a good ten minutes about football and sports. I did manage to tell him I was a 49er fan, much to his dismay.

It was an amazing day. Long and exhausting, but amazing. I hold more respect for all the behind the scenes action that goes on for sports events. One doesn’t realize all the hard work and organization that makes these games possible; before Sunday, I would just hit the power button on the TV, settle back on the couch, and watch the game.

It was a once in a lifetime experience. For me though, that isn’t good enough.

I want to make the Super Bowl at least a twice in a lifetime experience.


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