Despite growing up in warm, sunny Florida, I was born in Pennsylvania. From my earliest memories of football, I was a Philadelphia Eagles fan. Besides the obvious reason that I was born only 45 minutes outside the City of Brotherly Love, I think my allegiance to the Eagles came from my older brother, Brett. He was an Eagles fan and I wanted to be just like him. Now, when I say I am an Eagles fan, I don’t claim to be the best fan. That is to say, I am not one of those guys that go shirtless to an Eagles game to show my devotion. This, of course, is because A) I live over a thousand miles from Philadelphia, B) I don’t like the cold, and C) I value my health.
That said, my allegiance is pretty deep. Deep enough for me to make absurd assertions to my friends that the best quarterback of all time was not Dan Marino or Joe Montana, but rather Randall Cunningham.
“His numbers are not nearly as good as the top QBs,” they retort in indignation. “Yea, but boy could he run,” I shoot back.
Annoyed, they then inform me that quarterbacks are supposed to pass — not run — and that I was an idiot.
When the Eagles made the Super Bowl for the first time in my lifetime, I decided I had to go. Thanks to my father, that desire became a reality.
From the moment we stepped out of the car on Super Bowl Sunday, it was clear that there was a preponderance of Eagles fans in the city. The ratio of Eagles fans to Patriots fans was probably roughly similar to the ratio of liberal professors to conservative professors at Cornell. Well, maybe it wasn’t that big a difference, but it was still quite significant.
After catching the last hour of the NFL Experience and making our way through the tight security, we got into Alltel Stadium about two hours before game time. The stands were just starting to get crowded and the excitement was building.
We wanted to get food before the game started and right near the entrance to our section was an Outback Express. Needless to say, this was a godsend. So we waited in what was a pretty long line, only to find out that by the time we got to the front, they were out of everything except chicken fingers. So five orders of fingers and fries it was. But I couldn’t help wondering: how in the world they could have run out of food before the game even started?
Sitting around us were a great number of Eagles fanatics, including a guy that looked strikingly like Andy Reid in both appearance and stature. Another guy on our row would provide additional entertainment to the game. By the time we got to our seats, he was already smashed. As the game went on, it only got worse. I twice saw him almost get beat up by Eagles fans — he was wearing a Tom Brady jersey and was a complete jackass — and once complained to the stadium staff that concessions were no longer selling him alcohol.
I came to Jacksonville with a belief that my presence alone would propel the Birds to victory. I guess I have an inflated conception of my importance in the grand scheme of Eagles football. I read before I left that Jacksonville was not ready for the Super Bowl. I can attest to the truth of this observation. Let me say that if Jacksonville ever gets the right to host the Super Bowl again, an immediate investigation should be launched to see what bribes have taken place. After the game, it took an unnecessarily long time for the crowd to exit the stadium. Outside the stadium, no one knew what was going on. We needed to catch what they called the “Superlooper” to get back to our parking garage. No one knew exactly how we were supposed to get to it.
When we finally got on the bus to our parking garage after a journey even Odysseus would respect, dejected Eagles fans solemnly slouched in their seats. One fan that came from Philadelphia looked at my ten-year-old nephew Zach in his T.O. jersey and told him that it wasn’t worth it.
“Change teams now,” he said. “You’re young, there is no reason you have to go through this. There are a lot of great teams out there. You’ve got the Cowboys, the Packers, or how about the 49ers.” I jovially interjected, “Why not the Patriots? You’ll be a winner right away.”
As the conversation proceeded, we soon realized that the bus driver had no idea where he was going. His job was simple: to take the bus and its passengers from the stadium to the convention center to the main parking lot and back. Yet, he obviously didn’t know where these destinations were.
He first made a wrong turn, then another wrong move, before dropping us off entirely at the wrong place. After realizing this, we got back on the bus, and the bus driver proceeded to take directions from a Super Bowl volunteer from Chicago. Thanks to the Chicagoan, we finally got to where we wanted to go. We found out later that we were not the only people to get on a bus only to discover that the bus driver had as much a clue of where they were going as the out-of-town visitors.
All and all though, it was a fantastic trip. How couldn’t it be: The Super Bowl is the ultimate sporting experience. If you ever get an opportunity to go, take it — even if the game is in Jacksonville.
Next year in Detroit!
Jamie Weinstein is a Sun columnist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Time Out appears Wednesdays.
Archived article by Jamie Weinstein