Fans at the Metrodome saw celebrities, souvenirs and a great half-time show Sunday.
There was a football game, too. But except for the victorious Washington fans, the game itself took a backseat to the hype and the hoopla and the fun of just being there at the big show.
At 2 p.m. sharp, the first fans through Gate F were Chuck Lohmann of Woodbridge, Va., and his son, Chuck Jr.
They had been up since 6 a.m. They were pumped, even after an 80-mile drive from their Rochester hotel. Then for the better part of an hour, the father-and-son Washington Redskins fans stood in the cold and listened to speeches about racism by American Indian Movement activists, who were gathered nearby.
"Hey, that's what America is all about," said the elder Lohmann. "But, you know, it's just a name."
But why the hurry to get to the stadium? "We wanted to get seat cushions," Lohmann said. "And we didn't want to park 12 blocks away."
Suddenly, the gates clanked, and a security man started pulling out the chain.
"All right," Lohmann said, a crowd gathering behind him.
"Hurry up," said the son, as dad fidgeted with cold hands to pull their tickets out of his pocket. Section 126, Row 29, seats 14 and 15. Fourth Super Bowl under coach Joe Gibbs.
This was no ordinary Metrodome football crowd. Fans were lined up several deep at the gates three hours before game time and most were in their seats an hour before kickoff. Few left their seats during halftime, staying put to watch the extravagant on-field musical production.
But for a Super Bowl, it might have been more ordinary than most. While one street vendor from Washington, D.C., expressed amazement at the number of minks worn by fans yesterday, the crowd was decidedly more into football than glitz.
Take Boots Tunstall, a 58-year-old Redskins fan from Alexandria, Va. She was dressed head-to-toe in maroon and gold, from her Redskins earrings and insignias painted on her face to her white hightops with the yellow laces inscribed with "Redskins." A Washington fan for 30 years, she wears nothing but team-related clothing from the opening of training camp to the end of the year except when she goes to church.
The booty collected over the years includes 12 Redskins watches, 8 sets of earrings, 10 jackets, 73 pairs of shorts, and 41 hats. "Every day I wear something new," said Tunstall, who was attending her first Super Bowl. "I just keep washing them and throwing them back on."
The price tag for all this? About $50,000, she figures, much of it spent on commemorative coins and pins. She and her husband, Jerry, had tickets on the 50-yard-line, but she wouldn't say how they got them.
The only thing that upset her about yesterday's win was the sight of another fan wearing a walking cast adorned with Redskins memorabilia. Tunstall, who is recovering from a broken leg, had to make do with a regular leg wrap.
Bills fans Chet Pawenska, an insurance agent, and Jim Dillon, a municipal judge, took Friday off and drove from Buffalo to the Twin Cities. Without tickets, they hooked up with a friend of Dillon's and got tickets overlooking the end zone. They also went out of their way to compliment the Twin Cities.
"I just can't get over how wonderful the people are here," Dillon said. He recounted how they had become lost looking for William's Pub and found someone who helped them. "We feel like kin," he said. "We feel like we have a home here."
Then there were Philadelphians Jim Poller and John Pinkerton, who sported hair-dos dyed blue, yellow, red and green. "It took a week to get it to look like this," Pinkerton said. They won their tickets in a raffle that included airline tickets, hotel rooms and transportation.
"And here we are," Pinkerton said from his seat in section 115. "The feeling of walking through the turnstile with a Super Bowl ticket was tremendous. I told the Dome people (taking tickets), `Don't you dare tear it in half, I'm going to frame it."
The ticket taker tore it anyway.
About the only people in short supply inside the Metrodome were children. Mark Jackson, 14, got to attend the game with Chris Morris, a St. Paul Companies employee, his partner in the Big Brothers program. The pair have been together for five years, which is one of the reasons they were picked to get tickets. It was the first professional football game that Jackson had seen in person.
Jimmy Brunetti, 7, and his brother, Drew, 5, had different connections. Their father, Jay, is the Redskins' equipment manager. While their father worked on the field, the boys sat with their mother, Linda. Both had cotton balls stuffed in their ears.
"The sound is very tough on little kids. Their ears are very sensitive," Linda Brunetti said.
An usher asked a fan in Bills garb to please put out his cigarette in a Metrodome concourse. The fan was standing right below a no smoking sign, the fan wasn't happy with Minnesota's rigid smoking laws.
"I think it stinks," said Dave Gregory of Lancaster, N.Y. "I'm still going to smoke. I'm just going to play stupid if anyone tells me that I can't."
Even amid relatively tight security, Annie Danaher, a big-event enthusiast who drove up from Iowa without a ticket, said she managed to sneak into the Metrodome.
"I told everybody in Fairfield I was going to go, but I didn't want to pay the $150," she said. "I just walked right through a turnstile. My friend, he's not as nervy as me, so he stayed outside. He said, go ahead, and I did. Isn't it wild? Life is great."
While some fans looked around for their tickets, Edgar Hill was looking for a wife. He stubbornly clung to his poster "Yolanda, Will You Marry Me," and the ushers stubbornly insisted he take it down.
"They keep telling me there are no banners allowed. And I haven't seen it on TV," said Hill, a bar owner from Aberdeen, Md. "I'm disappointed. I don't know if I'm going to tell her now." Yolanda, his girlfriend, was somewhere back in Maryland. It wouldn't be a major social event without a couple of sightings of The Donald and Marla Maples.
As they wriggled through the crowded concourse to their seats on the 50-yard-line, Trump and Maples stopped to chat with fans and sign autographs. Those who got near them described them as obliging and friendly, saving the harshest criticisms for the couple's pushy manager. The star couple also caused a major traffic jam behind them in the concourse.
At halftime, rather than cause more concourse gridlock, Trump and Maples asked an usher to bring them four ice cream sundaes at $1.75 a piece. They gave the usher $30 and told her to keep the change. But the usher declined.
Other celebrity sightings include Joe Montana, Dan Rather, Leslie Stahl, Eddie Albert, Eleanor Mondale, Muhammad Ali, who signed autographs for about two dozen onlookers, and boxing champ Evander Holyfield. At one point during the game, two young women followed Holyfield to a restroom and waited outside for several minutes. When he came out, they snapped his picture and scurried off.
Losing a last-second heartbreaker to the New York Giants in last year's Super Bowl was a tough swallow for Bills fans. But yesterday's performance made them gag. For all practical purposes, the game was over by halftime and Buffalo fans were an ornery bunch and quick to lay blame.
While Washington fans sang "Hail to the Redskins" and exchanged "high fives" during the halftime break, Bills fans could bear to watch no more. In fact, as the third quarter started, the second-deck concourse was filled with Buffalo fans who had huddled in small groups to console each other.
Tom Wynkler of North Buffalo, N.Y. was sitting on a chair in the lobby drinking a beer and munching on a pretzel and watching the game on a TV screen above a concessions stand. "I can't stand to watch it," Wynkler said. "If they get within 10 points again, I'll go back in. Otherwise, I'm sitting out here and getting drunk."
Sharon Botticelli and Sandra Smejles were only slightly more optimistic. "If we come back to win I'm going to church every Sunday for the rest of my life," Smejles said.
How much did it cost for two people to do the Super Bowl, from parking your car outside the restricted zone to tickets to souvenirs to your refreshments? Well, here goes. Let's assume the tickets went for face value - $300 a pair.
You could park for $15 in one of the lots of Fifth Avenue. Add $20 for two programs, $25 for the least expensive sweatshirt and $15 for the least expensive T-shirt. (You could spent up to $65 for the fanciest sweats and $18 for a T.) The cheapest cap was $15, a pennant was $4.
Like most people, you arrived well before game time, right? Two large beers were $7.50 and two regular Cokes were $4. Two bratwurst cost $5.50 and that late game snack included one pretzel ($1.75) and an order of nachos ($2.50). Your total: $415.25.
Among the politicians and pundits filing into the Metrodome yesterday afternoon was Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp, Gov. Arne Carlson, CBS commentator Andy Rooney and U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo.
As Rooney and Sabo walked by the Indian protest, Rooney said he found the demonstration "trivialized" the issues of American Indians. Sabo said that if he was asked by Washington what it should do, he'd recommend the team change its name.
Local politicos were invited to visit an end zone suite rented by Miller & Schroeder, a local financial company, and the Larkin Hoffman law firm. During the first quarter, Rep. Bruce Vento and Minnesota House Speaker Dee Long had stopped by.
One of the least surprising no-shows was former Gov. Rudy Perpich, who most credit as the person most responsible for bringing the game to the Twin Cities. He had been vacationing in San Diego. To further distance himself from the event, his former chief of staff Lynn Anderson said he might have spent yesterday flying to Zagreb, Yugoslavia.
"The governor always said people don't want to see politicians at games anyway."
Former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer finagled a "cheap seat" to the game. He joked that he was trying to use his connections to get into one of the suites. Surrounded at one point by several local reporters, he said, "You guys are so hungry that you have to spend time with a has-been like me," said the Hamline Law School dean. "This is pathetic."
As the game drew to a close, the Lohmanns in Section 126 felt all the driving and waiting had been worth it. Filing out of the stadium into the night filled with fireworks, Chuck exclaimed: "The `Skins just kicked, didn't they?"
Staff writers Kevin Diaz, Randy Furst, Jill Hodges, Joe Kimball, Richard Meryhew and Howard Sinker contributed to this story.