By Jay Kerner
The first Super Bowl was held on my ninth birthday in 1967. It was also Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. Neither the former nor the latter was of much consequence to this birthday boy. The next football championship skipped my attention, but by number three, I was all aboard. Loved Joe Namath. Loved Lenny Dawson too, but Joe was cooler.
But I was a Chiefs fan all the way, watching road games on snowy black and white TV and listening to blacked-out home games from the apartment above my grandmother’s beauty shop on St. Joe Avenue.
To make Super Bowl 4, our boys had to take out Joe’s Jets and then the hated Oakland Raiders. They smoked the Minnesota Vikings in the big game to win the title.
And they hadn’t been back since.
They came close a few times. The longest game in history on Christmas against the Dolphins. Joe Montana took us to an AFC Championship on his last legs, but came up short.
A handful of Chief meltdowns didn’t help. The Colts comeback. Names that will live in infamy in KC sports history, from Lin Elliott through last year’s goat, Dee Ford.
But beginning last year, we had new hope, with a young gunslinger out of Texas Tech, Patrick Mahomes.
All of a sudden, it just felt different. Instead of waiting for the next self-inflicted disaster to occur, we confidently waited for the next miracle. And they just kept coming!
But the Super Bowl? 50 years of heartache made that dream seem unattainable.
We’d never made Super Bowl plans before. Seemed futile. Didn’t make any this year either. Instead, we made warm weather plans.
The Queen has a brother in Florida and we booked a trip to see him. We’d watched last year’s overtime Championship Game loss from his place.
When the tickets were booked this year, the Chiefs were barely above .500, and we weren’t even factoring in a Super Bowl run.
But then they made one, and with each successive victory, our hopes continued to climb.
They clinched the playoffs with a couple weeks to go, but seemed relegated to a Wildcard round slot. Then, in the last week of the season, the lowly Dolphins gifted our team with an unlikely win over the Patriots, giving us a much needed bye the first week and moving us from the 5 seed to the 2.
Then the Titans knocked off the top seeded Ravens while the Chiefs were coming back from a huge deficit to rout the Texans. Another comeback against the Titans and our team was going to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years! The game was in Miami and we were already going to be down there! Hot damn!
That’s when we got busy.
Now I called this piece Super Bowl on a Shoestring, but that’s really a stretch. We didn’t go to the game in person. We instead, did everything but.
At an average ticket price of $7 grand per, we didn’t really consider it. (Ok, maybe for just a minute.) But this story is about everything else you can do in the week before the game, whether your team is there or not! I’ll share the things we did, the things we missed out on, and our plans for next year.
First you have to get there.
If you’re flying, look at discount airline Allegiant. They already fly direct from KC to Punta Gorda, FL, and are expanding to cities all over the state. Our tickets were $122 each, not each way, but round trip. And if that’s not good enough, apply for an Allegiant Master Card. Book with that and either reserve a 4 night hotel stay or a 7 day car rental, and that ticket becomes buy one get one free! No kidding! It even gets you a free adult beverage on each flight. That of course is the only thing that’s free. You’ll pay for baggage, you’ll pay for carry-on. You can’t even recline the seats. But at 2 hours from KC it’s a small sacrifice.
Now, you’re there. Where ya stayin’?
We’re Airbnb fans. We looked at hotel rates and there was no comparison. Florida was filled with choices and the abundant supply keeps the rates low. There are scads of super nice places for well under $100 per night. We actually spent a few days the previous week in Tampa/St. Pete, (site of next year’s Super Bowl) and had a wonderful time.
For the week of the game we moved to Hollywood, Florida on the Atlantic side, about half way between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. We had things to do.
First, our kids scored us tickets to Opening Night. This is a media event on Monday evening, held this year at Marlins Park, a covered stadium in Miami Beach. Tickets are reasonable and all the players and coaches from both teams are there, along with pretty much every sports announcer and Hall-of-Famer you can think of. They’re all in the middle, while the crowd is in a ring surrounding it. Great photo ops in every direction. And swag! We love the swag! Our favorite was the Super Bowl LIV FM radios handed out as you walked in. They had players at interview stations all over, and you just touched a button to switch your listening from one to another. I don’t know how many radios they produced, but all evening as we walked around, they kept handing us more. We ended up with nine, I think. (Guess what the grandkids are getting in their souvenir packs?) A cool event, we knew nothing about beforehand.
The next day we had tickets to The Dan Patrick Show. You probably know Dan from his years as an ESPN anchor, or his years on previous Super Bowl broadcasts. If you don’t know, for the past decade or so he’s had his own show, with a supporting cast of knuckleheads, lovingly referred to as the Danettes. They talk sports, entertainment, current events, and everything in between. I love it and have watched regularly for years. The Queen retired in November and now she’s hooked, too. We used to watch it on a local cable channel but now you have to stream it on BleacherReport.com. It’s also on Direct Tv and Satellite radio.
Anyhoo, they broadcast live from the Super Bowl all week. Tickets are free but you have to apply. One of the questions asked “How much do you love Dan?” I answered, “Not as much as my wife, so scoring some might help me get lucky”. We got some! (And it did!)
It was a wonderful experience! (And the show was fun, too!)
The people were wonderful. The guests on our day included Deion Sanders and Jerome “The Bus” Bettis. After the show, we got pictures with Dan and the boys. They even fed us fabulous sliders from their Traeger Grill. It was all, cool as hell! There were plenty of other shows we could have attended, but our schedule was pretty full and the Queen needed beach time.
The next day was The Super Bowl Experience at the Miami Convention Center. Tickets were $20 each, but we got way more than that in swag alone. This is an event much like others you’ve probably attended. Think Car, Boat or RV Show but with an NFL theme. You have all kinds of participatory booths where you can kick field goals or run 40 yard dashes against superimposed NFL stars. You can pose with the Lombardi Trophy. There were fans of every team there in jerseys of every color.
There was swag out the wazoo. Former players shilling for all kinds of stuff. Newly elected Hall of Famer, Edgerin James game me some Old Spice deodorant. Some Dolphin I never heard of, handed me some Chunky Soup.There was a huge NFL shop where you could score anything and everything they could put an official logo on, at prices roughly 25% higher than the stores a few short blocks away.
They even had a Build-A Bear Workshop where folks ponied up big bucks for a bear in a jersey. (An officially licensed NFL jersey mind you.)
Upstairs was Radio Row. If you’ve ever listened to a sports radio show or watched one on any network, they are there, broadcasting live all week. Sports and entertainment stars everywhere. Again, the big names are in the middle, and we get to walk around the perimeter. I recognized the booth for WHB 810 in KC and had the pleasure of visiting with on air personalities, Todd Leabo and Soren Petro. It was cool to match faces to voices.
There were so many events to choose from. The city of Miami put on a huge, free festival at the riverfront with live entertainment. Boulevard Beer put on a giant Tailgate party in Ft. Lauderdale. There were concerts and parties galore, but it was time to head west.
We weren’t going to the game, but had made arrangements to meet old friends and new at an official Chiefs Fan hangout in Cape Coral. It was a gas! I suppose it would be cool to actually go to a Super Bowl, especially with your team in it. But sitting in nosebleed seats in a Stadium surrounded by mid-level executives from Exxon and Procter and Gamble, pales in comparison to a bar full of rowdy, like-minded die-hards.
We sat with people we knew, and cheered with people we got to know, as we all tomahawk chopped together.And when the clock struck zero, the high fiving and hugging began! I wasn’t alive for VE Day but it had to be something like this. I watched the Royals win both World Series from my living room. Never again!
Among a crowd of the like-minded is the way to go. Tears. Laughter. The whole deal! About the only real clunker in our whole trip was the 6am return flight, the morning after.
We just stayed up. It’s been a long time since I pulled an all-nighter. I now remember why.
Lots of hungover people on that plane, plenty, still drunk.
I did get a couple of hours sleep in flight, before arriving back to the cold. My last tip is to bring a coat and long pants in your carry-on. Shorts and T-shirts don’t cut it on a February shuttle bus.
So that’s the story of our Super Bowl experience. We didn’t actually go to the game, but I bet we had a better, fuller, week than a lot of people that did. We went, we watched, we got the t-shirts. And we didn’t break the bank to do it. There are so many free, or reasonably priced activities, that almost anybody can be part of it, with a little research and pre-planning.
Like I mentioned earlier, next year’s game is in Tampa. We love that area! Allegiant starts flying there later this month. We still won’t buy tickets to the Super Bowl even though our team is odds on favorites to be there. But we’re going either way! And we hope you’ll join us! Buy us a drink when you see us. (We’ll be the ones in the red hats!)