Sunday, February 1, 2009


47* at 6AM
Forecast high in the upper 60's

For as long as I can recall, I have been telling friends and family one of my goals in life was to attend a Super Bowl. Before Arizona even had an NFL franchise, back when I used to root for the Giants because I liked the play of Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor and then coach Bill Parcels, I would dream of someday being in the stands at the Big Game. I learned early on that you can't just "buy" a ticket to sit aside the world's grandest stage. Sure, a few hundred fans of the participating teams get drawn in lotteries with the chance to buy two tickets. Even fewer of the season ticket holders from the host city's team get some. But most of the tickets to the Super Bowl are accounted for long before the game's foes are set.

Every active NFL player on every team gets two. So do coaches, assistants, staff members and so forth. That's over 5,000 tickets right there. The participating teams players each get 10, with a chance to purchase 25 more per person. Sponsors and advertisers make up the majority of the ticket holders. Local government, dignitaries and VIPs get theirs.

At the Super Bowl nearly every ticket is priced the same, no matter where the seat is located. Back in 1987 when the New York Giants defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, the face value of tickets was $500. Today's game price on the printed ticket is $800. Although there were a few seats in the extreme upper corners going for $500 and suite seats cost $1000 per seat, the vast majority of the 75,000 tickets originally went for 800.

In my quest to find tickets for this game, I began tracking prices of the online auctions about 2 weeks ago. Market prices consistently stayed between 150% and 300% of face value. As of Friday night, there were still a couple of thousand seats between Ebay and Stub Hub going for an average of $1,600 for the upper decks and $2500 for the lower levels. After many painful hours of online study, I decided the best thing to do was to head to the stadium in Tampa and find tickets there. I researched the security features of the real tickets so that I could reduce my chances of falling victim to fraud.

The traffic around the stadium, 36 hours before kickoff, was akin to the Las Vegas strip. You could walk faster than drive. I spent many hours walking miles around the perimeter of the stadium and found very few brokers or scalpers with game tickets to sell. There were more than a few shady characters holding signs but I trusted my instincts and didn't approach these guys. The stadium was entirely fenced off and the actual box office was closed. At one time, I heard a guy ask where the ticket office was, saying he heard the NFL had released a block of tickets for sale. Security pointed him in a direction and he took off running. I gave chase for about a mile and followed him to what turned out to be the place to buy tickets for the NFL experience, the league's interactive theme park that travels to the Super Bowl site every year. This was getting ridiculous. There were tens of thousands of people roaming the streets, mostly there for the theme park. The area was absolutely crawling with Steeler fans. If this is any indication, I will be out-numbered 10-1 during the game.

I went to the Stub Hub tent and found their were fewer than 300 tickets left for sale, with the cheapest being $1,895 for a single upper deck. When you add the Stub Hub fees, it would be more money than I had to spend. News reports of this game's tickets going for face value or less were greatly exaggerated.

I called my wife and shared my dilemma. The chance of getting two seats with the two thousand dollars I had was looking bleak. It was also going to cost $50-$100 to park on game day. Knowing what this chance meant to me, to see a Super Bowl featuring the Arizona Cardinals, she said to not pass up a chance to buy one ticket for myself.

I made my way south of the stadium, about a mile and a half, to where I had seen some ticket broker offices on my drive in. I went inside and found they were selling nosebleed corner seats for $1,900 each. A couple from Phoenix was inquiring about trading their upper deck seats for sideline lower level. The broker could do this but he wanted their $800 tickets, plus $1,200 cash from each of them. This was the equivalent of $2,000 and they said no. I offered them $1,000 for each of their upper level seats but the wife worried that the entire trade would be out of their budget. They, like me, had been trying to find affordable seats all day without luck. A guy from Tennessee came in and inquired about selling his extra lower level seat. After the broker examined the security features he asked how much the guy wanted. The man said he wanted $1,900 for it. The broker offered him $1,500 and the guy said no. I followed this guy outside and spoke with him about his ticket. He said he had bought his own pair and then an advertising exec buddy of his gave him this one. He intended to sell it to offset his travel costs. He asked if I was interested in it and I told him he wanted more than I could spend. He said he'd sell it to me for what the broker wanted to give, $1,500. He let me examine it and the Phoenix couple let me compare it to the security features on their ticket. It had the Lombardi trophy hologram and the micro lazer cuts that enabled you to see through the words Super Bowl XLIII when holding it up to the sun. This looked like the real deal. The guy tried to reassure me by letting me see his Tennessee driver's license and he said I could write down his personal information. I didn't even have a pen but I looked at his license. It was him on the picture and he also had a deputy sheriff's badge & ID from Tennessee. I told him my history and we found that quite coincidental. I contemplated this transaction and I told the guy that I was a believer in charma. He laughed and reiterated that he wasn't going to rip me off. I said I had been a faithful Cardinal fan for 21 years, as I looked to the sky and said, "Lord, please make this a real ticket." I did the deal. The seat is on the Cardinals side line, around the 10 yard line, 13 rows off the field. I will be on the north end, closest to the pirate ship, but on the Cardinals side.

Have I mentioned that my favorite rock & roll artist of all time will be playing the halftime show? I should be close enough to see the Boss sweating on stage.

My thanks go out to my Dad for making this happen. He knew a chance like this doesn't come along too many times in life. I couldn't have done this without him. Thanks also to Kathy for giving me the green light to at least get one ticket. I would have loved to have shared this with her in person. Thanks to my son, Ryan, for believing me when I told him this day would come. He, like me, never failed to dream our team could reach this game. He's the second biggest Cards fan I know. Perhaps one day I will be in a position to do something like this for my son.

It's game time.

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