Super Bowl Sunday!
Years of planning come to fruition in downtown Minneapolis today. No, it’s not the Vikings playing the first-ever home Super Bowl. And Millie’s not here. But a week of frosty cool events and some good old-fashioned Minnesota nice has made Super Bowl LII, a contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, a pretty sweet Bold North consolation prize.
Less and an hour before kickoff, pre-game activity had moved to the area in and around U.S. Bank Stadium. Members of the St. Paul Bouncing Team entertained onlookers with a blanket toss.
Clad in Eagles and Patriots jerseys, the teams flung their “bouncing girls” 30 feet high as they did splits and somersaults in midair.
Hollie Carr of St. Paul has been bouncing for four years, and this was her last performance.
“I’m sad,” she said. “It’s bittersweet. I love this family.”
The mood in the stadium concourses was jovial, friendly, upbeat. Eagles fans were decidedly more boisterous chanting and yelling cheers. Patriots fans were taking the idea of a sixth championship ring for Tom Brady in stride.
Dartmouth, Mass., Elementary art teacher Beth Neto was a the game with three daughters — Jenna, Braely and Chloe.
“Last year, the boys went. This year is our turn,” Beth said of her husband and son’s trip to the game last year.
Like most fans, she was complimentary of their Minnesota experience. “It’s been wonderful. Everyone is so kind.”
One Philly fan wearing a toy eagle head on his head said a beer server gave him and other Philly fans a cold shoulder and did not serve them at the stadium. Otherwise, it’s been fun and welcoming, said Gray Hamilton of Bryn Mawr, Penn.
Morrow Rosen isn’t sticking around either. The Eagles fan left Philadelphia at 7 a.m. and he’s going back right after the game.
The dentist is here with his college-aged son. It’s his second Super Bowl. He was tapping on his phone in the Mall of America, seated on the floor next to one of the many K-9 units blanketing the place.
“I’m feeling a little cold, a little nervous, but I think we match up well,” Rosen said. “We [the Eagles] don’t get here much. At least we haven’t. I feel like that tide’s gonna turn.”
Bella Riehl isn’t even out of high school and this will be her third Super Bowl. The Boston native was waiting with her family while her younger siblings rode roller coasters at Nickelodeon Universe.
They left Boston on Sunday morning and will fly back at midnight after the game, so they haven’t seen much of Minnesota but “the mall’s really cool,” Riehl said.
Riehl has to go to school early Monday and has tests in microeconomics, anatomy and math coming up on Wednesday.
The key to the game? “It’s all about if Brady’s in it or not,” she said.
For Ron Weekes, the blue collar ethos of the Eagles’ fan base prompted him to drop soccer as his favorite sport.
Born and raised a Manchester United fan, the London resident threw on a black Brian Westbrook jersey to cheer the Eagles at the Super Bowl Sunday.
“I’m coming off of soccer and on to this. Too much rolling around and cheating in soccer,” he said. “In this, when the ball snaps, it’s all business.”
He’s became an American football fan since playing 20 years ago and now some of his colleagues at work are Eagles fans. So he picked them as his team a year ago. He arrived late Saturday afternoon and he’s heading out early Monday. His limited experience of Minnesota has been positive.
“So far love it,” he said. “The city’s great. For me it’s a shock, the snow and cold. But everything works. In England, when we have a little bit of snow, everything stops.”
He’s been to probably a half dozen NFL games, including the NFC championship two weeks ago. Sunday, as he stood sipping a cup of coffee and waiting for his friends to show up at the screening line, he said he’s “just ready to take it all in.”
If Weekes seemed to just be chilling out, other fans were just plain chilled. It’s hard not to notice the cold when early afternoon temps stay south of zero.
Still, even chattering teeth couldn’t chase away Jimmy Fallon fans, who waited for hours outside the Orpheum Theatre where the Tonight Show will tape live after the game, The line for tickets stretched around the block. One group from Rochester arrived at 11 a.m. and were inching toward the front door shortly before 2 p.m.
“We thought there would be a line but not this long,” said Ryan Hartman, 26.
Hartman said they booked the free tickets in advance, but they’re distributed on a first-come, first serve basis. Despite the wait, he couldn’t pass up the chance to see Fallon:
“He only does the one live show a year and it’s after the Super Bowl,” he said.
Sunday. Sharayah Conrath and Kelly Heikens, both of Minneapolis, got in line at noon.
“We’re with two friends, so we’ve been taking shifts at the Saloon, drinking Bailey’s and coffee,” Conrath said. Both are big fans of Fallon and Justin Timberlake, his guest and the Super Bowl halftime star.
“They’re BFFs — that’s so cute,” Heikens said. “The two of them together make a great team.”
Of course, there are those who say they couldn’t care less about all the buzz.
Such as Lorenzo Nabors, a Vikings fan who decided to ignore the Super Bowl this year.
“Once the Vikings lost, it was back to regular life,” said the Brooklyn Park man who was making his way home from the Mall of America via a Metro Transit blue line replacement bus to downtown.
He didn’t even stop to take in the Super Bowl activities lining Nicollet Mall last week as he passed by nearly every day.
Still, he’s glad Minnesota landed the mega event.
“Minnesota is a great state. We need more attention,” Nabors said. “The Super Bowl is a chance to show we’re awesome.”
The inconvenience it sometimes poses for locals was worth it, he said, even if the Vikings loss’ to the Eagles deflated his interest in game itself.
“Neither the Patriots or the Eagles have as much heart as the Vikings,” Nabors said. “You have to have heart when you’re a Vikings fan. You have to have hope.”
Nola Kelsey will be attending her first NFL game today. She’s the grandmother of Marquis Flowers, a linebacker for the Patriots, and had yet to make it to a game this season. Why not?
She didn’t like the weather in New England. She lives in Phoenix.
“I couldn’t go to Boston because I thought it was too cold,” she said, wryly.
She’s been watching her grandson play football since he was playing Pop Warner, and she and her husband came to the Twin Cities on Friday to stay with family in Prior Lake.
“Go Patriots!” she said before she walked into the screening line at the Mall of America.
Kelsey and her family are leaving for home — and warmth — tomorrow.
After only a few days in the Twin Cities, fans may be starting to understand why so many of us talk about the weather.
Yes, said Bryan McKernan, 43, and Mike Walsh, 30, they wish it were warmer. Despite the cold, however, they said they’re enjoying themselves.
“Love the Midwest, man. People are great,” McKernan said.
“Yeah, it’s really nice out here,” Walsh said.
The friends flew into Milwaukee and drove to Minneapolis after they couldn’t get a direct flight here. Both live in Annapolis and are Marines (McKernan, a retired helicopter pilot; Walsh an artillery officer working at the Naval Academy). The dedicated Eagles fans lucked into their tickets earlier this week: they knew a gal, who knew a guy, who knew a guy who worked for the Giants, and he hooked them up with a pair of seats. are hopeful.
“This is probably one of the most complete teams we’ve ever had,” McKernan said. “They’re not really arrogant, there aren’t a lot of individuals but they play great together as a team, and just keep winning.”
Both said it’s going to take solid quarters of football to defeat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Stella Workman’s eyes went wide at the mention of the weather. Originally from Philadelphia but living in Florida, she stood in the screening line to get on the light rail on the east side of Nickelodeon Universe.
“I guess you guys are used to it,” she said. “There was a warmer at the bus stop.”
Still, she said, it’s been a pleasant — if chilly — visit.
“Everyone’s been really nice, very accommodating,” she said. “Minnesota nice.”
The Eagles fan’s eyes went wide, however, at mention of the weather.
Hours before game time, fans in green and blue jerseys took to the streets, their excitement palpable despite the frigid weather. According to StubHub.com, 982 tickets to the game were still available, starting at $2,448.
Inside the IDS Center’s Crystal Court, Hope and Bill Ross of Lancaster, Pa. made their opposite allegiances clear. Both donned jerseys and ball caps — his backing the Eagles, hers for the Patriots. Both thought they’d never be here. The story: Five years ago Hope said she wanted to go to the Super Bowl to see the Patriots play.
“I said ‘Fine, you know what? We’ll go when the Eagles play the Patriots.’ Thinking never in a million years would that happen,” Bill said. “Well, I wasn’t so lucky and here we are.”
“Well, you were lucky, we are lucky,” Hope said. “And one of us is going to be very happy, and the other one will be happy for the other. Hopefully he’ll be happy for me.”
Inside Brit’s Pub in the heart of downtown, football fans bedecked in red sang and chanted after their team, Liverpool Football Club, scored a goal. This was “real football,” they said — otherwise known as soccer.
Marlon Ferrey was among them. The 57-year-old has been coming to the bar to watch Liverpool matches for over a decade. He moved to downtown Minneapolis from sunny Miami.
“I couldn’t stand the heat,” he said.
Asked how much he cared about American football, Ferrey said, “Not much.”
Andrew Bromage, 38, was visiting all the way from Liverpool, England. He’s a big Soul Asylum fan, and was able to catch them last night. He’s been visiting Minnesota regularly over the last decade, and always stops at Brit’s to catch a game.
“It’s like my second home, he said, adding that he’s enjoyed seeing Minneapolis getting media attention from around the world ahead of the Super Bowl, and that the area has done a “superb job” hosting, leaning into the cold weather.
“It’s really great that Minneapolis is getting international attention,” he said.
But football fans of the American variety also patronized Brit’s — and loyal ones at that. Gary McLaughlin and his sons Jason and Shaun, along with their friends were on a bar hop toward the stadium, which they described as “pregaming” and “indoor tailgating.”
The McLaughlins piled into a Ford Explorer, put a twin mattress in back and took shifts driving on the 18-hour trip from Philly to Minneapolis. “It was a no-brainer. The Eagles were going,” McLaughlin, 59, said.
The avid tailgaters confirmed that the scene of rowdy tailgaters from the 2012 film “Silver Linings Playbook” mostly captured the idea and spirit of pregame ritual among Eagles fans.
“When everybody can no longer feel feelings, we go into the game,” Jason McLaughlin said. The group stressed how impressed they’ve been with the pervasive friendliness up in this neck of the woods. Shaun McLaughlin said he especially appreciated the skyways. “We probably walked two miles yesterday — all indoors.”
Nigel Spill wouldn’t let a little cold weather interrupt his streak.
He’s been to more Super Bowls than Tom Brady — 36, in fact, including the past 34 games. His consecutive streak started in 1985, when he and a friend decided to head up the game in San Francisco without tickets, just to see what they could find. Long story short, he said, they scored “really nice seats.”
They swapped them for some so-so seats in exchange for cash and a limo ride. After the game, the limo was gone and they had to hitchhike 40 miles back to their car.
“I said to my buddy, ‘I’m never doing this again. This is the last time.’ I would not do something like that again.”
Next year was New Orleans, and a friend called to say two of his friends had just canceled on a suite in the French Quarter. He wanted to know if Spill knew anyone who wanted to go.
“I looked at my buddy and said ‘OK, I’ll do it again.’”
Then he went the next year, in Los Angeles, and the next year, in San Diego. That made four in a row.
“All of the sudden it became an obsession and here I am, four years later.”
Spill, a lifelong Patriots fan, said his favorite Super Bowl is a no-brainer.
“I think you know the answer to that,” he said, referring to the Patriots’ miraculous 34-28 comeback win last year over the Atlanta Falcons. “It’s gonna be hard to top that but a victory today would be nice.”
Skyrocketing ticket prices have made in tougher to keep the streak alive. But, Spill, who runs a sports memorabilia business in LA, has a connect, from whom he buys tickets at face value. “When I first started, if you paid $200 per ticket, you were paying 2-3 times face value.”
Staff writers Beena Raghavendran, John Reinan and Adam Belz contributed to this report. James Walsh • 651-925-5041