Inside Super Bowl LII
So, you are looking at that tax refund right next to your bucket list and wondering, is going to a Super Bowl as good as the hype? More importantly, is it worth the cash it would cost?
Enter Scott Loehr, a New Richmond native. He was raised a Vikings fan, but now lives in Florida and splits his NFL allegiance between the Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars. It looked like the stars were aligning perfectly for Loehr this season when both the Vikings and Jaguars made it to their respective divisional playoff games. Bonus, Super Bowl LII was going to be played in Minneapolis. At the time Loehr bought his tickets, he did not know both of his teams were destined for the divisional playoffs, one game away from the big game; the fact that that game would be played at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis was enough to persuade him to cough up $9,000 for two tickets, one for himself and one for his wife.
"I got my tickets early in May. We go to a fundraiser here and I purchased them at a silent auction. Every year they have them and I usually don't bid, but this year, being from the Minnesota area, I told my wife, 'The Super Bowl is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. I haven't seen the new stadium, so let's go,'" said Loehr.
As the season neared the end and it was looking good for both of Loehr's teams to make it to the Super Bowl, it was hard to keep from getting his hopes up.
"Holy smokes! Can you imagine the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Vikings playing each other in the Super Bowl and we were going? That would have blown my mind," said Loehr.
Getting the tickets was the easy part. Finding a place to stay was just the beginning of Loehr's "Super" adventure.
"Trying to get a hotel room on your own was impossible. In June, I called all around Minneapolis and St. Paul and everyone said, 'Nope, we're booked.' I thought there was no way people booked this thing that early because they don't know who's going play. I finally found a room in Bloomington at a Best Western right next to the Mall of America for $175 a night. That was perfect because everything else I was seeing in Minneapolis was thousands of dollars," recalled Loehr.
Two months later, Loehr received a call which would open his eyes to the reach of the National Football League.
"The caller said, 'We have to cancel your reservations.' I said, 'How can you do this to me? I booked this.' So what happens is, all the rooms are owned by the NFL. I had no idea. I didn't book my room through an approved NFL agent therefore, they canceled the reservation. They told me I could book again through an approved agent. That same room was $900 a night if I wanted it. I said, 'The heck with you,' and I went through a broker and found a room downtown four blocks from the stadium," said Loehr.
Nowadays, the Super Bowl is as much about the week-long festivities preceding the actual game as it is about the game. Fans could purchase tickets to a wide variety of events from the NFL Experience, to zip lining across the Mississippi River, to exclusive parties with famous athletes and entertainers, to a gourmet tailgate party with professional NFL players and coaches before the game. For a diehard football fan, it is kind of like heaven.
"We ate dinner at the Oceanaire and that's where we ran into the Cowboys. The hostess sat us right next to them. I literally had to ask Jerry Jones to move his chair so I could use the restroom. I got pictures with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Head Coach Jason Garrett, and All-Pro tight end Jason Witten," said Loehr.
Among the other celebrities Loehr and his wife came across were former U. S. Vice President Joe Biden, country singer and celebrity judge on NBC's The Voice Blake Shelton, and the cast of NBC's Emmy-winning series, "This is Us." They even sat in on a private concert with Sting. Loehr also got to talk football personally with someone who knows something about the game, New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton.
"He couldn't have been a nicer guy. We were having drinks and dinner at Murray's Steakhouse with some friends who were Eagles fans. All of a sudden out comes Bill Cowher followed by Bob Costas and Sean Peyton headed for their limos. I said, 'I think that's Sean Payton,' and I waved. He comes over to our table and he says, 'You're not going to give me sh-- about the Skol chant I did are you?' He didn't have to stop and he spent ten minutes talking with us. He was asking us questions. We were talking about how the player missed the tackle in the Minnesota game and how I was taught in high school to make sure my head was up when I tackled. He was just a great, great guy," said Loehr.
Loehr purchased tickets to the Maxim Super Bowl Party as well as the Super Bowl Players Tailgate Party. Although he said he would pass on the Maxim Party next time, the Tailgate was worth the price of admission, so to speak.
"Since we had tickets for Tailgating with the Pros, we bypassed all the regular security to get into the game. They padded us down ahead of time. We went through metal detectors, there were dogs, and then they did a coat check. You weren't allowed fanny packs. If you were going to bring something in, it had to be in a clear plastic bag. Security wasn't much different than at an airport. From the party, they bused us to our own entrance on the other side of the stadium where only we were allowed to enter. So we walked right in. People outside were waiting for two hours to get into the game. At all the festivities there were armoured vehicles, and lots of automatic weapons. There was definitely security presence there," said Loehr.
A week before the game, Loehr still did not know where he and his wife would be seated. They ended up sitting in mid level seats around the 30- yard line, very good seats.
"For our situation and for a lot of people, unless you're a celebrity or something, you don't know where you are sitting until a week before the game. My tickets arrived on Tuesday and we left on Wednesday," said Loehr.
As for the fans, they were not your typical weekend football fans, according to Loehr.
"You heard about how awful the Eagles fans were, but the truth was, the guy who's going to call your son an as...., isn't showing up at that game, he can't afford that ticket. You run into more professionals. So you're getting a fan, even if you're a season ticket holder, someone who is willing to throw down at least a minimum of $2,000 a ticket. You didn't see some guy passed out in a corner. There weren't people throwing up in the bathrooms. It wasn't your typical football fan," explained Loehr.
Be prepared if you want to snag a few commemorative trophies.
"The Bud Light cups were programmable. So when the Eagles would score the cup would light up and when the Patriots would score, it would turn a different color, completely programmable. I got a commemorative cup and I said, 'Give me three more of those for my kids.' The woman asked, 'Three? What do you want in them?' I thought, Mountain Dew, water, 'I don't care, I just want the cup.' She said, '$98.' I was like, 'Are you out of your mind?' I just got one of them," said Loehr.
Loehr admitted he is not much of a Justin Timberlake fan, but as for the actual football game that was a different story.
"Okay, I'm not necessarily a Justin Timberlake fan, but it (halftime) was pretty good. But as far as the football game, even though I didn't have a dog in the fight, come on, back and forth, a thousand yards, one punt, I mean, come on, that was a Super Bowl!"