As you might have heard, the Super Bowl returns to Minneapolis this Sunday. I’ve just got to tell you about my brush with greatness and other stories from when I attended the previous Minnesota Super Bowl in 1992. Despite what you’ll read below, I had a great time.
The January before, I had won a Super Bowl travel weekend, including tickets, at a drawing at a Kansas City sporting event. The folks there took my contact information, mailed me a letter of congratulations, and then … nothing. Months went by with no further information. I called over the summer and again in the fall and was always told that the travel package was all lined up and they’d let me know the details closer to the game. That December, I became more insistent and finally caught the ear of an executive who seemed to realize that not following through would be bad for his very public business. Finally, the wife and I got our tickets, though the last-minute lodging turned out to be the kind of rundown motel that had mold on the Ivory soap in the bathroom.
It was very cold, never higher than single digits. We bundled up in layers, but standing in line for an hour next to the snow sculptures at the St. Paul Winter Carnival, waiting for a turn on the ice slide, taught us that we were insufficiently insulated. After our exhilarating luge, we stumbled over to a downtown department store to upgrade our boots. We had learned that Minnesota cold is best experienced in smaller doses.
A pep rally in one of the enclosed shopping areas in downtown Minneapolis
Transportation that weekend was limited to official buses, since every rental car was taken. On Game Day, they brought us to downtown Minneapolis, where the tall office buildings are linked by a series of tunnels and enclosed pedestrian bridges. In separate shopping atriums (or atria, if you prefer), there were pep rallies for fans of each of the two teams, Washington and Buffalo. It was very crowded and very noisy.
The wife and I took a break from the masses and walked outside into the unforgiving air. Just then, a man in a dapper trenchcoat came around a corner, glancing behind him. With our ears still a little numb from the aural assault we had left, the wife said just a little too loudly, “That’s Jim McKay!” The legendary sportscaster turned to us, startled and wide-eyed like a cornered animal. Then he dashed away, moving very well for a 70-year-old man, followed by the gaggle of fans he must have been trying to duck away from. Sorry about that.
When the time came, we walked over to the Metrodome. We walked a gauntlet of protesters (against Washington’s nickname), souvenir sellers, promotional products (a branded fake snowball? why?), and increasingly desperate ticket scalpers. After the game started, I heard that their price eventually dropped below the $150 face value to $100 per ticket, which was disheartening to the hardcore Washington fans next to us who had paid $1400 for a pair the day before. I brought along a camera and my Sony Watchman portable TV for replays and highlights. Now everyone has a video screen and camera in their pocket, but in 1992, they made me very popular in my seating section.
A zoom-lens view of Super Bowl XXVI from my seat in the upper corner
Blowouts were the rule for over 20 years of Super Bowls – XI through XXXI – a period when only three of the games were decided by a touchdown or less. This Super Bowl was not one of the exceptions. Washington won 37-24 after taking a large early lead then letting Buffalo score in garbage time.
After the game, as fireworks exploded overhead, we joined with tens of thousands milling through the nearby streets, searching in vain for a cab. We eventually found a shuttle bus to the airport to rent a newly available car. Before we left town for good the next day, we toured Best Brains, the studio home to Mystery Science Theater 3000, then at its creative peak, but that’s a story for another day.
It might have been a Minnesota thing, but the organizers and other locals treated us all like royalty. So I’d have to say that if you can win some Super Bowl tickets in the future, go for it! The experience will be hectic, but fun. It’ll definitely give you something to talk about.