Any other year in the last 9 years, I would have had the financial resources to make this happen. But with the economy and such, I had no money to get game tickets. My wife has been unemployed for 13 months and my job barely pays the bills. I tried to offer my home and serve as a personal driver to any Cards fans coming to FL for the game, in exchange for a game ticket, but there were no serious takers. As game day ticked closer I got a little depressed thinking I wouldn't be there. I called my boss, who knows people on the Board of Directors for Ford and tried to see if he could score me a ticket but even he couldn't get me there. Then on Friday night, before the game, it happened. My 76 year old dad called and said it wouldn't be right for me to miss this. I didn't need a plane ticket, a hotel or even a meal out. I just needed a ticket to the biggest game of our lives. He would wire me $2k and said to try and get tix for my wife and I. Needless to say I was overcome with emotion and joy. I can only hope to someday be in a position to do this for my kids.
THE SEARCH FOR SEATS
I spent Friday night searching online but the prices were pretty much consistent at $2300-3500 for two seats, plus online fees. Plus, who knows where these seats came from. When I got to go to Game 2 of the D-backs World Series in '01, I heard a story of an elderly guy who was booted out at the bottom of the first cuz the homeplate seats he bought in the streets were stolen out of the mail. He had given five grand for four seats. I PM'd some other board members and thankfully one answered me and explained all of the security features I should look for on the ticket to know if it's genuine. Of course, even a genuine game ticket could have a cancelled bar code on it and I could be denied entry.
I stayed up till well past midnight just staring at windows from Ebay, Stubhub, craigslist and others. Stub Hub's website showed about 1,600 tickets in their inventory. My wife graciously offered, that if it came down to it, what really mattered is that I go. If we can't afford two seats she insisted I go without her.
Saturday morning I drove the 70 miles north to Tampa to look for seats. There had to be a hundred thousand people in the area, mostly for the NFL Experience Theme Park. I spent 7 hours walking around the stadium and surrounding area looking for tickets. There were a few shady looking guys with signs saying need tickets, but no one with actual tickets to sell. The Stub Hub tent at Legends Field had the cheapest single seat at $1,895 plus 10% fees for a nosebleed corner. Stub Hub's kiosk was showing fewer than 300 seats left in their database. After 5 hours I began to wonder if I would really get to go. I called my wife and explained and she reitterated, don't turn down a ticket. She knew she wouldn't be going and she was okay with it. "It's your dream, not mine. As long as you go, I'll be happy knowing you're there." I was going to have to pay $50-100 to park too, so I needed to not spend more than $1900 total. Some Arizona news stations were reporting tickets available at or near face value but that report appeared to be greatly exaggerated. This place wasn't like Glendale, where they set up designated reselling areas. I was totally in unfamiliar territory here.
I went to the licensed brokers on Dale Mabery Highway. Every time I had to move my truck, I had to pay to park, even on Saturday. I decided to continue walking. The broker shops wanted $2000 each for nosebleed corners. I met a Phoenix couple who was looking to trade up from upper deck 50 yard line to lower level 50. The broker offered them face value for their two, plus he wanted $1,200 cash from each of them. When you factor in market value of the tickets they had, this was a $6,400 deal. They said forget it. I followed them out and offered them a thousand dollars for each of their seats but they said no, they were worried about giving up what they had and not getting new seats. I can't say I blamed them. As I talked with them, another guy came to the broker looking to sell a single seat. He wanted $1,900 but the broker would only offer him $1,500. He said no and I followed him out. I got to talking with him and learned that he had two seats for he and his dad. He bought this extra seat from an advertising executive and was hoping to sell it to help off-set some of his travel costs. He felt the broker would get at least two grand for it and I agreed. He told me he would sell it to a fan, rather than the broker for the same money. We were 26 hours before kickoff and I still didn't have a ticket. He let me examine the ticket's security features and even compare it to his other seats. The Phoenix couple let me compare it to theirs and I was convinced it was not counterfit. He showed me his Tennessee driver's license and offered to let me copy down his personal information to help reassure me. I didn't even have a pen but he was pretty convincingly sincere. I paid him the $1,500. The seat was section 107, Row M (13 rows off the field) right at the 4 yard line, Cardinals side. Wow, I could have done worse. I called my wife to ask if I should stay a few more hours and try to parlay this seat into two nosebleed seats. She said no, to quit while I was ahead, and come home for dinner. What a woman.
I took my wife out for a nice breakfast. She would watch the game on two screens; one inside the house and a second screen on the backyard patio during smoke breaks. She didn't want to miss a second of the action. I departed for Tampa at 10:30 AM for the 6:30 PM kickoff.
Traffic was actually lighter on Sunday morning than it was on Saturday afternoon. I guess most of the throngs of people down here yesterday probably didn't have game tickets. I really saw tons of parking lots charging $100 to self park. Wow. I drove back to the lot where I'd paid five bucks on Saturday and I coughed up $50 bucks. At least it was a fenced lot, with security. They said they'd be there all night, which was good because when we win, I planned on staying in the stadium for hours after the victory.
There was still a part of me that feared being turned away at the gate. I contemplated what I would do, but quickly forced that bad charma out of my head. I saw all kinds of tailgating going on and more Cardinal fans than I expected. I thought about making some new friends but decided it best to play it safe, get into the secured confines of the stadium, and not risk meeting up with foes dressed as friends. I'd come too far to risk being robbed or worse.
I had read stadium policies and learned that I couldn't bring my camera case in but I could carry in a small bag or purse. I brought my fanny pack to carry car keys, Blackberry, Canon camera, cell phone camera and of course my game ticket. (didn't want it being folded in my pocket). Upon arrival at security the agent denied me entry saying no fanny packs allowed. I told him what the web site said but he said only women could bring in purses. I politely but firmly asked for his supervisor. He pointed me toward a young lady who stood on the same ground and said men could not carry in a bag or purse. I told her that amounted to gender discrimination and didn't think the NFL would support her on that and I asked for her supervisor. She said, rather snotty, "I AM THE SUPERVISOR." I said, "Well you're not the last line supervisor of the Super Bowl, so I am respectfully requesting to speak to YOUR supervisor." She went away with an attitude and a very nice young man came over, introduced himself by first and last name, and shook my hand. I explained my situation that my truck was so far away and thought it was unfair of them to post that small bags or purses were acceptable. He told me that he had been told no "fanny packs" but that items less than 12x12, carried over the shoulder as a purse were permitted. I laughed and said, "Well, allow me to show you my man-purse," as I slung it over my head. He laughed with me and asked that I please not wear it around my waist at any point during the day, so as not to arouse security. Truth be told, this fanny pack actually is the gun holster style, left over from my years as a cop. The empty hoster is still velcro'ed inside. Can you imagine if they would have seen that when they searched it. They didn't and the supervisor actually escorted me through security so they wouldn't stop me again. How's that for customer service? It pays to be politely persistent.
It was an emotional day for me. From the moment the gate agent scanned my ticket and said, "Enjoy the Super Bowl", I had to hold back tears of joy. Okay, I'm lying...I really cried. You have to understand how passionate I am about football; how many years in Phoenix I suffered ridicule for being a fan of the loser Cardinals. 21 years they were in Phoenix and 19 of them were losing seasons. I always told my sons to support the hometown team. You can't pick your family, some people say, and my philosophy was that you also can't pick your football team. You go to the game with the team you have. And the Cardinals were our team. I told my boys that someday...someday, the Cardinals would make it to the Super Bowl and when they did; EVERYONE would know that our family never game up on 'em. No one will enjoy it more than us, boys. When you spend 21 years telling your kids that, see if you don't bawl like a baby when you realize that not only has your promise to your sons come true, you're going to be there to see the long suffering Red Birds be introduced on the world's biggest stage. Yeah, I cried when I got in.
After clearing security, I found the entire perimeter of the stadium was fenced off, guarded by FBI agents in ninja gear. I couldn't get into the actual stadium yet but the permitter walk led you to the area where the NFL experience was set up. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that admission to the theme park was included for game ticket holders, today only. I got to kick extra points (20 yard away), throw touchdown passes, see a travelling exhibit from the NFL Hall of Fame and watch a 20 minute I-MAX style movie from NFL Films called Road to the Super Bowl. In the theatre, when they showed the Cardinals winning the NFC Championship I started crying again. HAHAHA. I was gonna be a mess when we win this thing. As I stood in line to get a free picture of me holding a replica game ball, I called my Dad to thank him again for letting me come here. Yeah, you guessed it; more tears.
Concerts at the NFL Experience on game day included John Legend, as well as Journey.
About 3PM I decided to head for my seat. As soon as I got inside I bought a 16 ounce beer for TEN DOLLARS! Holy crap. Other prices included a slice of pizza was nine bucks. Hot dogs were $8. A shrimp salad sandwich was $18. Game programs were $25. So much for the recession. I'm happy to report the bathrooms were still free of charge.
My picture diary below shows the celebrities I encounted and tons of game shots. You all know what happened in the game so I won't recap that except for this little nugget. When the 4th quarter started, the Cardinals down by 13 points, many fans in my section started talking like it was over. The Steelers fans were gloating; the Cardinals fans were gloomy. There was a family from New York, seated behind me, with two little boys about 8 or 9 years old. I noticed one was wearing a Cardinals jersey so I told them this: "Pay attention boys, it's not over. What we're about to see will be a Hall of Fame moment. You're about to experience a story that you will tell your grandchildren someday. Kurt Warner is going to lead the Cardinals down the field and retake this game." They looked at me with wide open eyes, probably wondering if I was drunk or crazy. The answer was neither.
When we got the ball back with just over 5 minutes to go, I turned to them again. "This is it boys, Hall of Fame drive coming right up. You gotta believe we can do it. You gotta believe! Do you believe?" They both nodded but that wasn't good enough for me. "You gotta say it, baby, say 'I believe'."
"I believe," they said. SHOUT IT. They both screamed out, "I BELIEVE!" Their mom and dad, admitted Giants fans, smiled and high fived me. When Fitzgerald broke out that 64 yard touchdown catch and run; when the Cardinals took the lead; these two boys hugged each other with a love that can't be described. They both high fived me and looked at me like I was a God. I started to cry tears of joy. Could it really be?
The clock showed 2:37 seconds remaining and we all know what happened.
Despite the outcome, I had a wonderful, spectacular, fantastic experience at the Super Bowl. I told Kathy and Ryan, it was my dream to attend the Super Bowl; I never said my team had to win. It was the time of my life and I will forever cherish it. My love of the Cardinals was vindicated by their appearance in this game and with 2:37 seconds remaining, we were going to win the world championship. But like a heavy weight fight, in the final seconds of the final round, the underdog, Cinderella, challenger took a knockout blow to end a beautiful chance at infamy. I thought of Rocky I, where he gave it a shot but came up just short. Remember how good you felt as the music came on and even though you knew Rocky lost; you felt so good. You felt like a better person. You felt like this wasn't the end.........
Did you happen to catch Rocky II?
Super Bowl XLIV will be February 7, 2010 in Miami, Florida
CLICK ON PICS FOR FULL SCREEN VIEW
The NFL Experience theme park
From my seat, 13 rows up from the field
Cards fans brought some attitude
Happy to be here, proud to cheer
I couldn't resist telling Jeff this would be the Cardinals "Independance Day"
Toss of the coin. Cards won the toss and deferred
Fitz would break open and score the Cardinals .............
2:37 left in the 4th quarter; Steelers 20, Cardinals 23