Scott and Celeste’s Super Bowl Trip: First of all, no, we didn’t make it into the game. And yes, that is a disappointing thing. But, and I can not stress this enough, we would feel worse had we not tried at all! And so I’ve given away the ending, but if you want to hear about how Houston and the Super Bowl brought yours truly to his knees, than gentle reader, read on into that good night. As designed by Celeste (uh, well never mind…), this was to be a short trip into Houston. Fly in Saturday night, go to the game, and fly home. Veni, Vidi, Vinatieri. As some of you know, we initially only had a flight purchased; no hotel, no rental car, and most dangerously, no tickets to the game! Should we punt? But flight tickets are difficult to extract one’s self from, so we were going, come hell or high water. Both of which are near and dear to a Houstonian’s heart as it turns out. We heard stories, we procured advice, we tracked ticket prices on the Internet. We entered contests and asked around. We set a budget. We would play it cool; we would wait until just before game time and buy when the supply went up and the demand went down. We found a rental car; we found a hotel. Things were looking up! We took out an obscene amount of cash with which we were going to bargain for tickets. Then we took out a little more. Just in case. We had a limit, but we had a little more than that on hand. Just in case. We packed light; a change of clothes. His and hers football jerseys. “Great Expectations” by Dickens. My new Notre Dame sweatshirt. The optimism of youth. We were nervous about carrying so much cash around. We developed a code phrase. The money was “Lincoln”. “How’s Lincoln” was the code. “Lincoln is fine” came the response. Lincoln was fine; the real Lincoln (our dog) was home, eating my Led Zeppelin cds. We were nervous and excited. And that was fine and proper as well. Houston airport; 7pm, Saturday night. You would think the airport would be stuffed to the gills with Chowderheads and, uh, Charlotteheads (?). Not so; apparently everyone was already there. In point of fact, they were all there. And “there” was the “Main Event”. A city sponsored street party celebrating Houston’s first Super Bowl since number VI or something. Houston blocked off 10 or so downtown city blocks for this event. Bands – well, country bands, be fair -, booths, beers, etc. The weather was nice. We settled into our hotel room (threw the backpack in the corner), and decided to get some dinner and then head into town for the gala. No sooner did we leave the hotel than we got hopelessly lost. In retrospect we were not thinking clearly. We were looking for a particular restaurant. But then getting lost along the way we decided to plunge headlong deep in the heart, of Houston. We could get a beer and a bite to eat there! The Main Event was chaos. 50,000 people trying to cram into two Irish pubs. And the country music of course. And two lost souls, looking for something to eat. A-Ha! A temporary food court beckons. BBQ beef sandwiches. Smart choice. There must be a lot of BBQ in Houston; there are certainly enough fat people… But no one is getting fat on the $6 sandwiches we found. Sometimes there is a reason why a particular line is short. But to wash it down with a $5 Coors seemed pretty good. Let’s bust this scene. We wandered the streets of downtown Houston. It was a lot like downtown Denver, circa 1990. But bigger. This is Texas after all. We found the hotel where ESPN was staying. And the scalpers were scalping. We asked. The selling price was double or more what we were willing to pay. We didn’t panic. Celeste panicked a little. We saw Chris Berman rush into the hotel with his bags. Did he really just arrive? I couldn’t remember his name. I pointed and said “back- back- back- back- back-back- back-“, to Celeste. She knew whom I was talking about. After he went by we remembered his name. I saw another famous columnist, but having no catch phrases for him, I went blank. We walked back to our rental car. Another scalper. $100 more than the last scalper! Jeez. I’m pretty sure that was Franco Harris standing in the lobby of the Four Seasons. That beard is pretty distinctive. It was late and we were tired. Time to head back to the hotel room, get some sleep, and get ready for a big day of ticket-buying and super bowl-attending. I was still hungry. It was between Taco Bell and a convenience store. The Bell was struck down by Celeste. Into the convenience store. The highlight of my day was seeing a real bomber of Fat Tire in the convenience store. Fat Tire, and fiesta chex mix in hand, we settled in to our room at the Sleep Inn, and drank fat tire out of complementary plastic cups (wrong type of glass!) and ate Chex mix on the bed, while watching the ESPN crew live from were we just were standing 30 minutes ago. Saturday arrived gloomy and cool. Good weather, really. We drove the empty highways of Houston in search of the football stadium. It was 9 am or so. We would be there first. I had a theory about the available tickets. I felt like Greenspan himself. I had everything figured out. You see, the trick is to find individuals with extra tickets early, and hit up the scalpers late. Regular people with extra tickets don’t want to stand around all day and haggle for a big profit; they want to get inside and go to the game. Hit them early, get their ticket, and get in. If that doesn’t work, wait until just before the game. The scalpers will all flood the market with tickets. Demand will dry up. Hang in there. You’ll get face value at kickoff. Below face, maybe. So we walked, fingers in the air. Seven times around Reliant we walked, calling “Need tickets!” “Need two tickets”. And the walls would fall and we would be admitted to the Promised Land! We agreed that we would look for two individual tickets. We both graciously offered to let the other go, in case we only could get one ticket. It’s easy to be generous when you have noting to lose. We walked. And stood. And called out. And we were in a wilderness, bereft of extra tickets. The scalpers were laying low. Oh we saw a few, but the prices were still too high. Higher than our budget. More than the little more. “How’s Lincoln?” “Lincoln is bored.” We made fast friends with dozens of other like-minded and light-budgeted fans. We traded stories; “… he bought one for $2500”, “…3 for $2700, but they were counterfeit…”, “The one in New Orleans was much easier…”. But it isn’t called the Big Easy for nothing, I suppose. Ah, New Orleans. Apparently it really was easier to get tickets to the Rams-Patriots game in New Orleans two years ago. Face value. Below face value. And you’re in New Orleans, not this lame-ass city! New Orleans became a buyers paradise of mythical proportions. A place where real fans can get a ticket to see the team they love. Not these corporate-types. We raged against the machine. And still no tickets. “Need 1”. “Need 2”. “Need 11”; I swear. This group of 11 people drove 33 hours from New Hampshire, lured to Houston with tales of New Orleans and near-free tickets. They got 1. Now how do you split 1 ticket amongst 11 people?? Maybe you could get 2 in, one on another’s shoulders. Go in with David Robinson (I’m his cousin, man!) I saw David Robinson, actually. I said “Hey Admiral!” I should have said “I need tickets, big fella!” He smiled. “How’s it going?” he replied. You really want to know? “How’s Lincoln?” “Desperate.” I forgot to take his picture, even. So now we were up against it. It was 2:30. No people with extra tickets. No scalpers, even. By now hundreds of supplicants circling the stadium and chanting their penance. One lady asked Celeste, “well why didn’t you buy your tickets earlier?” How do you answer that? “I figured I’d buy yours now?” “I was on the yacht and lost track of time.” We heard a rumor from a man who said at 2:30 1,000 tickets would be made available at the Reliant Center. Just east of the stadium. We ran. Of course there were no tickets. We knew that. We ran anyway. It felt so good to believe in something so hopeless. Running through the parking lot headlong towards certain futility I was the happiest man in Houston. I had a purpose. I was going to lose and I knew it! But I was going to lose, running! Do not go gentle into that good super bowl. Do not go into that super bowl at all. And still running. Is this how suicide bombers feel? No, really? I could jump that fence. Maybe they wouldn’t catch me. I’ve got my running shoes. I could distract them somehow; throw my coat! Throw my voice! Throw caution to the winds! I mean, jeez, the fine can’t be more than face value; it’s probably only a misdemeanor anyway; Or I could bribe the security guard. “Here’s my ticket…” “I think we can settle this right here…” All Steve Buschemi in Fargo. Little corners of 100 dollar bills sticking out from under my sleeve. Or maybe not. 4:00. The euphoria of the doomed is seeping away. The scalpers fiddle while the fans immolate on a pyre of their own making. And my knee is throbbing from all that running. I don’t regret a thing. We plan our exit strategy. Get to the car, go somewhere for a nice dinner and spend some of the money. “How’s Lincoln?” “Lincoln is sad.” But somehow we couldn’t go. We stuck it out until 5, where we could hear the roar from inside the stadium. The pre-game was beginning. Where were the scalpers flooding the market with cheap tickets? We saw none; we heard more rumors. 3 times face value after kickoff. Mostly counterfeit anyway. We began to trudge to a Holiday Inn just North of the stadium. Downcast and defeated. We were not alone. The lobby was packed with Patriot fans. Sprinkled with Panthers fans. Absolutely stuffed with fans! So many fans without tickets! Fans, making the best of a bad day. $3 Budweiser! These are my people! The salt of the earth! My new best friends. The game was starting. We found a bench in a hallway, and watched the game on a TV in a lounge through a plate-glass window. I was simply happy to be sitting down for pretty much the first time all day. We made friends and yelled and raged. We spilled beer, pretzels, and tracked mud everywhere. We turned the Holiday Inn into a frat house. For we were a brotherhood of true fans. Fans enough to travel across the country without a ticket, just for the chance to be there when our team won. We made friends with the fans on the other side of the glass window. We would high-five them across the glass. And we won. They won. We were there. We weren’t there, but we were there. We won and we ran, ran out into the night, ran towards the stadium. Fireworks lit up the night. It was nearly 10. We still had not eaten. We wanted a steak dinner! Lobster! Your finest wine, garcon! We’re celebrating a victory! We got Popeye’s drive-through. Cajun Spice. Mashed Potatoes. Oh well. That’s fitting. Let the corporate bastards celebrate at Morton’s, we got Popeye’s. Food of the people. Fat, miserable, horrible people, yes. Our people. Was it worth it? I’ll never forget it. And I’ll never go to another Super Bowl without tickets in hand. Unless it’s in New Orleans. The real Promised Land. “How’s Lincoln?” “Back home.” Go Pats!
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