Three days before the No. 1 sporting event in America was to begin in New Jersey, my 17-year-old son asked me, rather smugly I thought, the obvious question: “Where you watching the Super Bowl, Dad?”
So I told him his mother and I were invited to watch it with friends nearby.
“Too bad,” he replied. “I’m going to the game.”
I was thunderstruck. But he was telling the truth. His friend’s father had just given away four tickets he’d acquired because he was going to be out of state. Each one was listed at $1,500.
And so, despite all our advice about getting there early, my son and his three pals—all seniors at Northport High School—boarded a 3 p.m. train in Huntington for the 6:30 p.m. game, knowing they were cutting it close. It didn’t matter.
They were able to reach their seats, five rows back from the end zone, an hour before kickoff, having gone through a security checkpoint outside the New Jersey stadium where armed SWAT teams and National Guard stood vigilant. My son said those guns “looked sick.”
That’s where this particular group of LI teens ran into their first, and only, long line of the day. Their LIRR train hadn’t been crowded with football fans, although they were more conspicuous as they made the connection to NJ Transit at Penn Station. Strangers were high-fiving each other if their NFL team logos matched, with the typical greeting being, “Go Hawks!”
That’s shorthand for the Seattle Seahawks, the No. 1 ranked defensive team in the NFL. They ultimately proved their prowess over the No. 1 ranked offensive team, the Denver Broncos, whose 37-year-old quarterback, Peyton Manning, was no match for the aggressive attack he had to face every time he took the snap.
Or even tried to. Within the first seconds, as an omen of the game to come, the Broncos’ center snapped the ball over Manning’s head into the end zone, where a Broncos player landed on it for a safety, putting two points on the board for Seattle. So for a while the Super Bowl score resembled a World Cup soccer match until the Seahawks kicked a three-point field goal. And then they never looked back, until the blowout was over, 43-8.
That score almost added up to a price of a Spartan meal for two at the game, with Pepsi (not Coke!) going for $6, $11 for hot chocolate, $14 for a foot-long hotdog, and craft beer for $16 a pop. I’d given my son a fistful of cash and it was barely enough. He didn’t come back with change, but at least he did return with souvenirs.
Spectators had been given a bag of swag as they entered the stadium, complete with hand warmers, knit gloves, and a seat cushion, thanks to Pepsi and other corporate sponsors for this most corporate sporting event. The most important item of apparel was a special black wool cap fitted with colored lights that would be digitally activated. An announcer told the fans in the stands when to don their headgear for the half-time show, so they could become part of the scenery when Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed. For those on hand, my son reported the acoustics were great and the special effects were “awesome,” with laser lights dueling like sabers in the darkness, fireworks exploding overhead and the crowd’s own craniums turning red and blue as waves of color swirled around the stadium.
In the third quarter a brief rain fell, but it was never uncomfortably cold for those watching the game live outdoors—a big concern in the weeks leading up to it.
By half time, only the Broncos were feeling an icy chill in the air. They were outplayed and outgunned, embarrassed actually, despite having a Hall of Fame quarterback like Manning calling the plays. He was never able to light the fire that would have jump-started his team’s comeback.
People watching this crushing defeat that bordered on boring—the worst curse of a Super Bowl—wondered how the Broncos might have fared with their ex-quarterback Tim Tebow on the field, since he kept showing up in entertaining cellphone ads and he had more impact on screen than his former teammates did on the gridiron. (Of course, he had no impact when he was a Jet.) I rooted for Peyton because he was the old guy, but I liked Seattle more than Denver because it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. So I couldn’t care less who won but I did want a closer game. But that was not in the cards.
For my son and his friends, whose favorite teams did not reach this year’s Super Bowl, it was still a great experience, perhaps a “once in a lifetime” kind.
“We were so grateful we got to go,” said Tyler, one of his pals. “Too bad the Broncos sucked.”
Yes, it was, but at least those of us watching Super Bowl XLVIII on screen had a relatively amusing selection of high-priced commercials to enjoy. I could’ve used a wardrobe malfunction for added interest but so it goes. There’s always next year.