We jam-packed a lot of stuff into the Friday and Saturday of Super Bowl week and had an incredibly busy day on Game Day. On Friday, a gorgeous, hot and sunny day, we started the day with a trip to the Riverwalk, where we walked along the Mississippi and saw all of the various food stands, performance stages, television network booths and other various entertainment venues. We stood in the crowd for the live ESPN broadcasts for a little while where we saw, among others, Michael Phelps, Jerry Rice and Tedy Bruschi. We walked around Jackson Square and grabbed lunch before having to make the hike uptown to the Superdome for a training session for our job on Sunday. We received some instruction as well as a tour of the Superdome and its six special venues that would be home to autograph sessions before the game on Sunday. We then walked back down to the convention center where we stayed for an hour or so before heading back to the hotel for the night.
Saturday was yet another early morning as we were scheduled to work the DirectTV Celebrity Beach Bowl. We arrived around 8AM and what followed proved to be a frustrating day. Without getting into too much detail, the event was very poorly set-up and run from an organizational standpoint. To be fair, the facility was build in a few short weeks and the game and broadcast seemed to run very well (although I didn’t watch the game live or on TV, but I heard no complaints). Anyway, I felt there was a lot of wasted time and miscommunication as the plans and rules for the event seemed to be continually changing. At one point the rapper Mase actually pushed past me as he exited the VIP section to go and sit in general seating with his female companion, despite the fact that neither of them had tickets for either section (or at least not that they were willing to show me to get through). Security chose to allow him to stay obviously. After the game was a Pitbull concert, held on the same faux-beach on which the game was played. Pitbull himself seemed to put on a good show (despite the fact that I am not a fan) but the volume levels were entirely too loud for me and I could not understand any words over the bass and had a headache within a few minutes.
Annoyed and tired, we left the area at the conclusion of the beach bowl and grabbed dinner at a local burger shack. We then headed down the street for a Family Mardi Gras concert. At this venue there was more live music and a much better concert in my opinion, from Frankie Valli (maybe I’m just getting old). The parade was alright, but nothing to really write home about as many of the floats were similar in nature.
SUPER BOWL SUNDAY finally arrived and we left bright and early to take the shuttle into the stadium. Once we arrived we had to wait in line to receive our gameday credentials. The host committee apparently made some mistakes, or perhaps it was on the NFL’s end, but either way there were a lot of volunteers who received screwed-up credentials or no credentials at all. We eventually got what we needed and headed into the Super Bowl zone around the stadium. Here we received our final orders and prepared for our job for the day, to escort retired Hall of Fame and current players to the various venues for NFL On Location autograph sessions. Each member of our group was assigned a player and we were paired up. Our job was to get our players to the stadium and then to their three schedule venues where they would sign autographs for the fans in that location. The list of players we had to escort included Hall of Famers Paul Krause, Tom Mack, Joe Delamielleure and Elvin Bethea as well as current players Antonio Cromartie, Doug Martin, Jamaal Charles, Calais Campbell, Sean Weatherspoon, Earl Thomas, Brandon Carr and Kyle Rudolph. After all of the autograph sessions were over and all of the players were back to their hotels or seated at the game if they were staying, we got to eat dinner in one of the nice venues outside the stadium. From here we headed back into the stadium to a venue inside where we were able to watch the game and the halftime show. During the third quarter we got together with a few other small groups who were working post-game to receive information on exactly what we would be doing. This is when the unprecedented power outage happened (and no, I nor anyone I was working with was responsible). So after that was resolved, we learned that we would be escorting fans onto the field following the post-game awards presentation. We had to get them from their venue to the gate where they would be entering the field and then stick around afterwards to ensure they would be able to find their way back after they left the field. Once this was all over we got to head back to the hotel for the night for some much needed rest.
Monday we got to sleep in a little bit before we headed down to the NFL Shop in the convention center. Most of the convention center was packed up or in the process of being broken down, but the NFL Shop does this through fire-sale. The shop was a zoo and we waited in line over an hour just to check out. From here we walked back down to Jackson square to enjoy beignets at Cafe Du Monde before leaving the city of New Orleans. We set off for Mobile, Alabama to stay closer to where we were flying out the next morning. We passed through Mobile for dinner and headed to LuLu’s Restaurant (Jimmy Buffett’s sister). We crashed in a crappy motel that night and left for the airport Tuesday morning, Mobile to Atlanta to BWI followed by the drive home.
What a heck of a week. I got to see New Orleans, work for NFL Experience and NFL On Location, met dozens of current and former professional football players, and watched the Super Bowl from inside the Superdome. I was interviewed by two local newspapers in the process and ended up with an experience I can’t even describe with words. This is something I will never forget.