The fan experience at Super Bowl XLVIII

For years, my father and I imagined what it would be like to attend football’s biggest game. While watching the Philadelphia Eagles play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, he promised that one day we would make the trip.

Finally, we decided that this year was the year. I will soon graduate high school, and an alumni of my high school was playing in the game for the first time.

Russell Wilson graduated the Collegiate School of Richmond, Va in 2007, two years after my father promised me a trip to the Super Bowl. His late father was my basketball coach when I was seven, and the younger Wilson would occasionally show up for practice and games to help coach the younger kids. From that moment, it was clear that there was something special about this high-schooler, but no one could imagine what would come nine years later.

super bowl

Super Bowl XLVIII

If my family was going to go to a Super Bowl, this was the year. The location was ideal, only a six hour train ride from my family’s home in Richmond, and we would have the opportunity to see a graduate of my small private school play one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning.

When we arrived in New York City on Friday evening, one thing was clear: the city was not going to shut down over one football game. In fact, it seemed as if only about 10% of people even knew a football game was going on, much less planned on actually attending the game. We stayed in a hotel on 92nd street where many of the guests were from outside of the country and were in town for tourist activities not regarding the weekend’s football game.

On Saturday, we headed down to Super Bowl boulevard on Broadway. This replaced the usual NFL experience this year, as twelve or thirteen blocks were blocked off. The fan experience was solid for the most part, but immense crowds made it difficult to visit each particular station. People were able to take a pictures in New York Jets, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos uniforms. Also, people were able to receive autographs from NFL stars Cam Newton and Maurice Jones-Drew among others.

One disappointing aspect of Super Bowl boulevard was the fact that tickets for the toboggan were sold out before Saturday. Tickets cost $5, and all proceeds from ticket sales went to charity. A good idea in principle, but the sell out brought disappointment to many young fans including my younger brother.

Oh well, you live and you learn- always remember to by your toboggan tickets in advance.

That night we debated checking out the Miami Heat play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, but instead opted for some Italian food at Delizia 92, on the corner of 92nd Street and 2nd Avenue. The food was fantastic, as we gorged our selves on pizza, spaghetti, and homemade bread. One of the best parts about a New York Super Bowl for the fans was the opportunity to eat at so many fine restaurants. Wherever we went in the city, we knew we were going to be served some of the best food around.

Sunday morning came and none of us new what to truly expect. We started the morning off with a bible study and some Sunday NFL Countdown live from the ESPN studio on Super Bowl Boulevard. My father and I waited for 45 minutes in a line at a bagel shop before finally going back to the hotel to get ready for the game. Around 1:30, we hopped on the Subway to head toward Metlife Stadium. This is when the adventure started.

We went from our hotel to Secaucus Junction with relatively no problem, however, here we encountered some issues. The lines were extremely long to get through security, and a few people even passed out from over heating. Fans began to get restless, with a few threatening to fight. However, we made it to the game with plenty of time to spare.

At the game, we first had to go through another round of security. This Super Bowl was certainly going to be safe, the authorities were going to make sure of it. After another twenty minute wait, we entered the stadium around 4:00 PM. Luckily, Eli Manning was taking pictures with fans and my brother and I were able to take a picture with the Giants’ star quarterback before heading to our seats.

Once we reached section 104, it was clear that there was a different electricity in the stadium. Fans were excited, hopeful, and thrilled to be sitting in fantastic weather. As kickoff approached, the stadium filled and music and fans began to increase in volume.

Finally, the game began. I don’t think I need to go into to much detail as to what happened during these three and a half hours. The Seattle Seahawks dominated the Denver Broncos. They were younger, faster, and hungrier than the Manning-led Broncos. Bronco fans were shocked and disappointed to see their team come out so flat on such a big stage. On the other hand, the 12th man was amazed, as they saw the Seahawks bring a Super Bowl back to Seattle for the first time ever.

To say the least, the ride back from the stadium to the hotel was a nightmare. We waited until 11:30 to leave the stadium, almost an hour and a half after the game ended. At this point, the line to reach the train was still extremely long. We waited until about 12:30 AM to get onto this train and returned to our hotel about 2:15 in the morning. In the future, this transportation predicament cannot happen.

The NFL stresses the fan experience as being critical to their success. Issues like getting to and from the stadium are major reasons that many people stay home in front of their 60 inch TV’s on Sundays instead of in the stadium. Why the NFL used only one mode of transportation to get to the stadium I do not know. People were not allowed to drive cars or take cabs to the game, only increasing traffic on the metros. Fortunately, I think the NFL recognized the problem, and hopes to avoid future circumstances in the future.

Excluding the transportation aspect of the game, the trip to New York City and New Jersey for the Super Bowl was fantastic. It could be classified as a once in a lifetime experience that every true sports fan should make. The electricity, the halftime show, everything is bigger and better. The game itself is surreal, and the atmosphere may be even better. To truly experience football at its finest, one must visit America’s greatest game.