Have you ever been to the Super Bowl? I got to go once, and it is a story worth retelling.
What you have to understand about me, if you did not already know this, is that I am not laying down $2K to go to a sporting event. The Giants could be playing. It could be the Super Bowl. God could whisper in my ear it will be the last time the Giants are in the Super Bowl, and it does not matter- I am not spending that kind of money on going to the game. I’ve probably seen around ~75-100 Giants games, and I got scalped exactly ONCE ever. That was for the Giants-Redskins 1987 NFC Championship (really cold and windy, but we were too happy to notice), I think I paid ~$150-$200 and it was worth it.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2000. I did a favor for someone and he wanted to repay me, I said he did not have to. He kept bothering me about it. Finally in ~early May, the guy gets me 2 seats to the Knicks NBA Eastern Conference Championship (one of the games in the series). And my Grandmother passes away. So I give him the tickets back and tell him it is fine, no worries. He tells me he still wants to have an opportunity to return the favor. I laughingly tell him, “in 20 years, when the Giants get to the Super Bowl, you can get me 2 tickets to that game.” That finally stopped him, he gave up, and I never thought about it again. I mean, the Giants hadn’t been to the Super Bowl in 9 years and NO ONE was ever going to beat the Rams. Until the next millennium. Which luckily happened to be next season.
8 months later I watch the Giants beat the Eagles (still would service Sehorn, Angie could get in line) and the Vikings in the Meadowlands, and 7 days later, halfway into the 2 week layover before Super Bowl XXXV, I return from a weekend away to hear on my voice message machine that I have 2 tickets to the Super Bowl. The guy remembered and delivered on my 20 year wish.
Because of the Super Bowl, and because of the short notice, there were no flights to Tampa. The best we could do was fly to Ft. Lauderdale and drive. Which is what we did.
When we got there, it was bizarre. There was no parking in the stadium lot. The lot was taken over by the NFL, who used it for their ‘NFL Experience’ or whatever they called it. I called it horsesh*t. We were there fully 3-4 hours before the game and there was a monstrous traffic jam that left every single car at a virtual standstill. Why? Because the people attending were clueless with what to do with their cars and were in massive gridlock on Tampa City streets. City officials directing traffic were even more clueless. If you were an NFL corporate, a private bus whisked you from your hotel room to the stadium parking lot ‘experience’ in special traffic lanes cordoned off for ‘official’ use only. If you were a football fan you got put in Tampa stew.
I never realized how important the tailgating was until I did not have tailgating. We parked in some guy’s driveway, blocks away from the stadium, but it was so … unremarkable. There were a few Ravens fans that we talked with. But there was no energy.
When we got to the Stadium it was worse. Everyone was milling around to go into the game. The fans wearing Ravens/Giants gear were outnumbered seemingly 10:1. We were all out of our element. I missed the drunk Giants fans yelling all the way up the escalators. I missed the energy of 75,000 Giants fans in blue. It was replaced by about 5K-10K of fans in one isolated section of the stadium, a part I was not sitting in. Add in another Ravens section elsewhere, throw in thousands of seats that the other ~30 teams got, add the NFL corporate seats, and there was practically no one left who knew the difference between Keith Hamilton and Jessie Armstead. I love my cousin and her husband very much (they were sitting next to us, part of the threaded connection to the tickets, ironically, another long story)… but.. they are JET fans. Zero disrespect to them or my source for the tickets, but if that is not a metaphor for what is wrong with the Super Bowl, I do not know what is. When you are at a Giants game, they BLEED BLUE. When the call is wrong, you need 75,000 mouths letting the zebra know that a travesty of justice has just been allowed. It took us days to see the replay of Hamilton’s holding call. Meanwhile, back at the stadium, 50,000 fans at the Stadium could not tell you the difference between holding and screwing. We had both done to us on the same play. The Giants were flat, the stadium was flat, the holding call was a killer and no one seemed to know a football game was being played.
With about 3 or 4 minutes left in the game, when the outcome was well known (by about ~5K-10K of isolated Giants fans), my friend and I got up to leave and travel back to Ft. Lauderdale. Someone looked at us like we had three heads… “Why are you leaving?” they asked, quizzically. “They have the trophy presentation!”
“Not for me,” I replied, offering a polite smile to the ubiquitous corporate-NFL-30-teamer. I came for one thing, a NY Giants championship.
The bitterness of that defeat would pay dividends 7 years later. Amani Toomer and Michael Strahan (pt #2, for why the Giants would win) would never forget that visit to the Super Bowl. The next time they got there they carefully explained the misery of attending and losing. They let 43 others know that the only option there was in Super Bowl XLII was winning, because the other choice was a death sentence.
Yesterday, the NY Giants and NY Jets made a pitch for a Super Bowl at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Give it to them. I hope the weather is -10° degrees and a blizzard. All of the corporate-NFL-30-teamers will be long gone and the only people in the stadium will be the hardcore fans of the 2 teams that are playing. That would be a start.