Super Weekend and the Big Game

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.

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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.

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Days 1 and 2 in NOLA for Super Bowl XLVII

Our first 2 days in New Orleans as volunteers involved shifts working with the NFL Experience.  For those that don’t know, NFL Experience is a football related interactive playground where participants of all ages can compete in anything from a punt, pass and kick drill to running the 40 yard dash to catching balls from JUGS machines.  We started out Wednesday by going downtown to get our credentials for the week and then headed into the convention center to check in as volunteers.  Wednesday evening we were stationed at the punt, pass and kick section in the massive Ernest N. Morial Convention Center that serves as home for all of the weeks events leading up to the big game.  After a busy shift of catching balls and filtering participants through the stations we headed downtown for some New Orleans style dinner at Mother’s (Po’boys, jambalaya, gumbo, etc).  After getting back to the hotel late, we had a quick turn around to work the early shift Thursday morning.

Thursday saw us working with NFL Experience again, this time, however,  we were spread out among several activities.  Some of us worked at the same punt, pass and kick station, some as a passing station and a couple of us (including myself) got to work in the Under Armor Combine Experience area.  Under Armor set up a large section of the convention center that allowed fans to act out their favorite parts of the NFL combine, the 40 yard dash, the broad jump and the vertical leap.  I spent the day encouraging people to sign up through special Under Armor digital wristbands that were able to record their progress for the day on their Facebook profiles.

Throughout the course of the day Thursday I had the chance to attempt each of the drills at the Under Armor NFL Combine Experience, as well as the explore the convention center and everything it had to offer a little more.  Among other things I got to see AJ Green playing with the children at the NFL Play 60 location, saw several of my Steelers fans classmates meet Ike Taylor, met, got a picture with and received an autographed photo from Russell Wilson and met, was photographed with and got an autograph from Von Miller, who was very cool as he joked around with me a little bit.  Dozens of NFL players, past and present, have been on hand to participate in various events and autograph sessions here in the convention center.

Later Thursday we had a networking event, organized and lead by our own Dr. Davis, where a panel of local industry professional spoke to a large group of sport management students who were invited to attend the Super Bowl this year as volunteers.  They gave us a lot of good advice as they answered many questions the student body had for them.

We finished Thursday with a trip to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street.  Dinner was phenomenal and words cannot begin to describe the scene on Bourbon Street, certainly not an experience I have had prior to now in my life.

Tomorrow we will have more time to explore the activities in the convention center before we head to our training for our job on Sunday at the big game, a job that has remained secret up to this point so far, but was promised to be an amazing experience.  After 2 days I am exhausted, excited and ready for more all at the same time, and I can not wait to see what the rest of the week will bring.