After a few hours of sleep, it was rise and shine for the main event: The SuperBowl! Dressing for the event was by itself, a challenge, as the weather and temperature forecast had been changing all week long. I packed for the predicted 30 degrees, but that morning the forecast was saying mid, to upper 40’s. I ditched the long johns and zipped the liner out of my ski coat, donned some fleece lined leggings, a thermal t-shirt and my NorthFace HeatGear half zip pullover. I had brought my Uggs, but debated if I should wear my Smartwool socks, deciding yes I would, just to err on the safe side of cold.
First up was brunch, where we met the last of our football celebrities, who entertained more Q&A’s. This morning was a delightful group: Mark Schlereth from ESPN (3 time Super Bowl winner), Derrick Brooks (newly inducted 2014 Hall of Fame), Jerry Rice, and Tony Gonzalez, who had a great repoire with each other. You could tell, they genuinely enjoyed each others company.
I’ll again be honest: since I am not a huge football follower, some of what they said was lost on me. That said, I was absolutely MESMERIZED by Tony Gonzalez! I don’t know what it was about him, his voice, or his demeanor, but he absolutely reminded me of Tom Jones! I just kept expecting “Its’ not unusual” to be belted out at any spontaneous moment! (Um, yeah, I know I’m dating myself!)
Derrick Brooks had just been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he shared some of his personal moments and emotions as he waited to see if he made the Hall of Fame status. Mark Schlereth was a simply charming man, having repeated SuperBowl experience, and a unique perspective as an offensive lineman. Hearing about the physical toll the game took on his body, from years of defending a quarter back, was eye opening. I guess I’d just never really thought about these men who put it all out there, with the very real risk of having their careers cut short at any point in any game, nor the long term effects of that physical abuse. They addressed the concussion concerns within the sport, and the need for more research to be invested. There is real justification why sports seem to pay well upfront; the back end has a lot of health issues to contend with.
I learned that for these guys, there is no worse word in english to be called than ‘soft’. Those are fighting words. I learned that these men loved their sport, felt gratitude at being able to make a living doing what they loved. I learned that in order to succeed in their field, you needed smarts, as well as brawn or talent. I was surprised by this general feeling throughout the weekend. All these men were smart, humble in person (I cannot attest for their TV or field personalities, this is my personal observation in a small setting), passionate, and grateful for their success and achievements. I found my own appreciation for the humanity behind the game growing. The press loves a good scandal and over the top bad boy behavior. These are the ones the public hears about, making news for their outrageous antics, casting a negative taint over the whole sport. I have a feeling, more of the players are good, down to earth, likable people, like the ones we met.
(M trying on Mark Schlereth’s SuperBowl ring, it was HUGE!)
The brunch was wrapped up and then it was off to the official Superbowl Tailgater. I have 2 words to say about it: Hot & Overwhelming! We were in the Meadowlands Racing track facility, which was next to the stadium and holy cow: IT. WAS. HOT. They had a coat check, so we left our coats to pick up later, but with everyone dressed for the outdoor game, and the looming dark sky potentially bringing either rain or snow, that place should have been air-conditioned to a reasonable temperature! I was grateful my HeatGear is designed with wicking properties, otherwise i’d be drenched like some of those poor servers, who were dripping in their polyester shirts, vest and ties! There were 3 floors filled with various food stands, bars and music, crammed in to every nook an cranny of the building. There was a ‘main stage’ area, and we watched some of Philip Philips play.
Flanking either side of the stadium were giant tents, one dedicated to the Seahawks, one to the Broncos. We were smart to start at level one, breeze through, then move to the upper levels quickly before the rest of the crowd had arrived. By the time we were done with the top level, the timing was perfect to head back to the main level and hang out in the team tents (which had better bars anyway) where it was much cooler, with the live concert music blasting through the doorway.
From the tailgate, we walked over to the stadium…us, and a mass of humanity moving the same direction. We found our seats, opened up the goodie bags attached to the seat cushions and settled ourselves in for the game. It was expected to be a nail biter, with the best defense playing the best offense. In all the Q & A’s, the general consensus (with the exception of Derrick Brooks who favored the Seahawks) was that the Broncos would (because of Manning and general team experience) beat out the Seahawks by a narrow 24:22. What I think no one, and I mean NO ONE, expected was the blowout that ensued. Since I was rooting for the Squawks, I had fun, as did these guys!
For the number of Broncos fans who surrounded us, well, let’s just say they had a less than enjoyable experience. Halftime was, meh. The acoustics were not the best in an open air stadium but the fireworks were amazing! Bruno Mars reminded me of really great MoTown sound and feel, but the Chili Peppers?? Seriously, put on a shirt man! You are at the SuperBowl, live, with millions of families and small children watching! I found it tacky, in poor taste and boring repetitive music. For the love of pete, even Mick Jagger had the decency to wear a shirt that covered his chest. To show up half naked, prancing about, is just insulting to the audience. (I know some love the Chili Peppers, and to each his/her own. It was the attire, or lack thereof, I have a problem with)
After a GREAT game, (for me anyway!) it was back to the hotel for a lovely little late night hors d’ouvres bar and fun play by play banter with Broncos fans! Alas, all good things come to and end, and after a long, fun filled day, it was off to bed with real life to face the following morning.
Wrapping up the entire event, I left with an appreciation for a sport that I did not have entering. It has reminded me not to be judging of a the many, based on the actions of a few. It reminded me that there are real human beings behind the faces we see on TV. I was reminded these are men who have wives, children, parents, siblings, just like the rest of us. These are men who have, with talent and a bit of grace, been able to rise and achieve success, through discipline, hard work, and perseverance. I think our current culture of entitlement and instant gratification has a lot to learn from these men and their sport. I know that I was blessed to be able to attend this event and meet these individuals, but I didn’t expect to be so moved, motivated and inspired. But I was, and I am. It’s awesome when life throws you a curve ball, or should I say – a Safety?