Friday, February 01, 2008

Super Bowl XXXII, 10 Years Later

I have been to one Super Bowl in my life: Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego. John Elway's first title and the scene of his career-defining "helicopter" gain.

I got to the game as an employee of the NFL. (Not sure how many of you know I worked for the league itself, about a half-dozen jobs ago.) I worked in the division that managed NFL.com (at the time managed by Starwave, which also managed ESPN.com, where I worked before the NFL and which facilitated the role at the NFL).

For the most part, I was a low-level lackey. The culture wasn't particularly entrepreneurial and the atmosphere wasn't particularly welcoming to its nascent online division.

I did have the opportunity to do two interesting things:

(1) I got to conceive and manage SuperBowl.com that year, which would become the most widely visited single-event Web site in the young history of the consumer Web.

(2) They flew me out to San Diego for a long week of lead-up to the game. Here's where I have to tip my cap to the generosity of the league: They also provided for a companion to fly out to San Diego – and, because I was working at the game, they gave me two game tickets, along with a host of passes to all of the biggest and best parties.

I gave the tickets to my father and brother. My dad took advantage of the free flight; my brother used miles to get out to San Diego. They stayed with me in my hotel room for free and ate from the plates of food I brought from the employee dining tent. They got special access to the NFL Experience and front-row seats to MTV Rock-n-Jock and attended all those parties with me. It was one of their greatest memories ever. Mine, too.

For that, I can't thank the NFL enough, even if the experience of working for the league for those 8 months wasn't particularly fun – and, actually, kind of ruined any passion I had for the NFL.

I watched the game from an NFL.com press box, and two things stand out:

(1) Jim Fassel is a genius. He did the equivalent of a "live-blog" for SuperBowl.com, providing constant chatter and answering user questions throughout the game. I don't think I truly understood how smart the REALLY smart NFL minds are until I heard him talk about the game: He knew everything – his analysis skills were jaw-dropping. He was calling plays before they happened. He might not be a fit for TV as an analyst, but the NFL should allow guys like him to call games from a special live feed you get if you care about the actual game being played. And he was a truly nice guy and treated all the lowly NFL.com workers really well.

(2) I had a special league-approved locker-room pass, as part of NFL.com, ostensibly to cover the game. When the game was over, I could either go to the Broncos locker room – a once-in-a-lifetime experience – or sit in the box and work on a postgame column to lead SuperBowl.com, tinker with the SB.com site and otherwise avoid a scene in the bowels of the stadium that, in all honesty, I was horrifying intimidated by. (I will never be a reporter.) Instead, I gave the pass to a co-worker and she went to the locker room. As expected, she said it was one of the coolest scenes she has ever experienced. Of course it was. In hindsight, I regret my insecurity – it is one of my greatest regrets of my professional life, if only to have experienced a Super Bowl locker-room.

I can't believe it is 10 years later. My stint at the NFL wasn't particularly memorable. But this week 10 years ago, it elevated itself to one of the most enjoyable weeks and experiences of my life. (Oh, and I have never sniffed a return to the Super Bowl.)

Commenters: What is the greatest sporting event you have ever been to live? (I know we bring this up somewhat regularly. I can't get enough of your stories. This isn't my most meaningful sporting event I have ever attended, but it is the biggest, from an "objective" standpoint.)

-- D.S.

10 comments:

Lord Bodak said...

Not really the biggest of events, but the most meaningful to me, was the 1998 ECHL Kelly Cup Finals in Pensacola, watching my team (the Hampton Roads Admirals) win it in game 6. Made the playoffs by a single point and needed another team to lose on the last day of the regular season to make it, but that was one magical playoff run.

Your Humble Correspondent said...

I was at Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, the game where Moises Alou caused a fan to fear for his life to this very day. I was about 8 rows behind the play, and watched in horror as a long line of media types marched to the scene before they lead the poor bastard out.

The rest is too damn upsetting...

MCnater said...

Dan,
I too was at Super Bowl 32. I'm from Wisconsin and a die-hard Packer fan so you can imagine my disgust at the result. I was a high school senior at the time so I didn't have too many great Sports moments that I had been to live yet, but even though we lost the experience still ranks up their as the best and most surreal of my life.

If only Mike Holmgren hadn't been such a stubborn ass and made some adjustments to pick up the blitz. Read here for an amazing read about how Ron Wolf blames Mike for the loss.

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=713518

Jon said...

Game 6 of the 1992 NBA Finals. I was 11, and my dad's friend managed to get 4 tickets; my mother declined to go, and I made the cut.

When the Blazers looked like they were going to force the series to 7 with an easy double-digit win, we almost left (but chose to stay because I had just purchased a 3 lb bag of Lemonheads). And then Bobby Hansen hit the first three of the Bulls' comeback.

To this day, that night in Chicago Stadium ranks up there as among one of the loudest nights I have ever experienced. To see the first championship won at home by a Chicago team since the Bears won in '63 at Wrigley Field, probably will never be topped (barring, of course, being there when the Cubs break through their culture of ineptitude). And for an 11 year old to get to share it with his dad helped quite a bit, too.

Sandy Aygo said...

My greatest sporting event memory was working with Dan at Super Bowl 32 and watching as he conceived the SuperBowl.com website.

Greg said...

Game 2 of the 2007 NBA Finals. Cheapest of the cheap seats, right by all the international press, and I loved every minute of it. (Almost missed tipoff, thanks to a broken fryer at Hooters.)

And Dan, I seem to remember you having some sort of meeting with NFL security that you brought up once... care to rehash that story?

Scott said...

I've got 2. First is my alma mater, Clarkson, winning the ECAC Hockey conference title the year after I graduated, after watching the team improve to that point over my 3 years there. The school is in the middle of nowhere, and there is nothing to do except follow the hockey team, the only DI program at the school.

The other was a Mets game a few years back, in Mike Piazza's first series back as a Padre. I think it was the second game, so the intro wasn't all that great. But he hit home runs in his first two at bats and got a standing O and a curtain call after the second. In his next at bat, he hit it to the warning track. Seeing that kind of atmosphere for a visiting player was nothing short of amazing.

futurelegendvinceyoung said...

Nebraska's ass kicking of Florida in the 96 Fiesta Bowl. Before everyone started sucking USC's dick and Dan even knew who the Gators were the Cornhuskers ruled college football and put a beautiful 62-24 beat down of the Ol' Ball Coach's boys.

bird said...

I was at not one, but two sporting events that people still discuss, even more than 20 years later. The first was the 1982 playoff game between the Dolphins and the Chargers. Although the Dolphins lost, it was a very well-played game by both teams. The second event also featured the Dolphins--it was in 1985, and it was against the then-undefeated Chicago Bears. To this day, I remember how electric the atmosphere was in ye olde Orange Bowl, and yes, the Dolphins won that game!

Larry said...

It'll sound anti-climactic to a Super Bowl game, but I saw an Expos game. In Montreal.

I had rooted for the Expos from the West Coast for 25 years and seen them in 9 different stadiums, but never in Montreal. Their final year there, I made a pilgrimage to the Big O and saw a weekend set against the Reds.

The Expos lost the first two games, but won the finale. I caught a foul ball that day. I got to "Run the Bases" with my then-one-year-old after the game. I even went up and knocked on the press door and, amazingly, was granted a "hi, how-are-you" with the bewildered Expos broadcasters.