As mentioned in previous entries, I’m not a sports fan, so the Super Bowl usually holds no meaning for me. I’m not even one of those casual viewers who attends a bona fide Super Bowl party to gorge on refreshments and watch the world’s most expensive new TV commercials. My family has its own Super Bowl Sunday traditions, none of which involve feigning sports interest for a day or being invited to parties by other people. It’s just not our thing.
For the space of a few hours, last year’s Super Bowl XLVI was a slightly different story.
(Full disclosure: I wrote and posted portions of the following narrative elsewhere online on January 29, 2012, three months before Midlife Crisis Crossover was launched. My intent is to share a few highlights with MCC readers who never saw the original version, not to fulfill my daily posting quota by inserting a quick, lazy rerun. With all the necessary reformatting and elective rewriting involved, not a single minute of free time was conserved tonight.)
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Last year’s Super Bowl was fortuitously held here in Indianapolis. My employers were one of several local companies instrumental in providing resources to make this major tourism boon a reality for Indy. The company received a thank-you gift of a few dozen free tickets (normally a $25 face value) to the NFL Experience, for all intents and purposes a football convention to be held at our newly expanded Indiana Convention Center during the nine days leading up to the Super Bowl. I presume our officers called first dibs on some of those tickets. The remaining thirty-three were passed on to “top contributors”, which they swore included me.
I appreciated the compliment, even if my appreciation of sports falls short of what the other 99.99% of the American population holds. But the ticket was non-transferable, and HR permitted me to leave early on a Friday to enter two hours early as a sort of “private event” perk. It was hard to turn down the promise of “private party”-level benefits and the chance to cut a Friday shift short, so I made the most of it.
Unfortunately I was only given one ticket, and wasn’t told who else in the entire company is a “top contributor”, so I had to go it alone — no coworkers, not even with my wife at my side. That part was lame. Being alone in a crowd isn’t as fun as it used to be, if ever it really was. To commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime occasion and keep myself too busy to dwell on loneliness, I busied myself with amateur photography.
The new JW Marriott Hotel was built specifically so downtown Indianapolis would have more rooms available for this very special occasion. It looks like someone erected a giant blast shield in front of the city and ruins what little skyline we have if you approach from the west, but it does what we need it to. As I approached from the north, it clearly defined where the party started.
Inside the Convention Center was a vast panoply of football-related games, athletic demonstrations, merchandise, exhibits, and random acts of football art. Largest of all was this inflatable mega-football poised over a small-scale simulated football field. Neither was in use while I was there, but combining the two would be an interesting game.
Jewelry lovers could bask in the shiny majesty of pretty, pretty Super Bowl rings — an entire display case full of Preciouses.
The Colts cheerleaders were on hand for brief musical performance, including some light singing, even though their team wasn’t in the game on account of Worst Season Ever. I was hanging out in a rare empty space between crowds and unwittingly wound up this close to them while they waited their turn onstage.
Onstage, they sang and danced an unknown country/western song about drinking, partying, and “getting some”. Fun all-ages entertainment. More amusingly than regretfully, trying to take distant photos across a dark room of objects in motion with an uncooperative camera resulted in zombie cheerleaders singing about BRAINS.
My wife had ordered me to take photos of the Vince Lombardi Trophy after its unveiling. The NFL Experience told us the proceedings would start at 2:45, but kept all other details shrouded in secrecy, including the part where everyone wanting to see it would be required to form a long line for their own personal imprisonment. The proceedings had no speeches, no instructions to the crowd, no visible rituals, just a local high school band marching through the crowd. When the band stopped playing, everyone glommed together in the shape of a line. The volunteers monitoring the front of the serpentine estimated a 45-minute wait.
I took a shot from the 45-minute point and moved on.
In lieu of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, I took this up-close, unfettered shot of the much more accessible and line-free Lamar Hunt Trophy. Whatever it or he are.
The NFL Experience main exit took you right to Super Bowl Village. Our city government spent months renovating Georgia Street and then turning all of it into one blocks-long party zone. Food trucks, hucksters, jugglers, and warming stations vied for attention with two free stages, one for local bands and one for not-local bands. The only performer I recognized on that day’s schedule was Bret Michaels of Poison. I declined.
The greatest attraction of them all was the ziplines running from Union Station to Maryland Avenue. Tickets were sold days in advance and sold extremely well. Would-be daredevils trying to buy onsite waited hours to buy tickets, only to learn their turn wouldn’t come till the next day.
This looked kinda fun.
The most common sight to be shared by local Facebook users that weekend was a 30-foot salute to Roman enumeration, erected in front of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. South of it on Meridian Street were parked several rows of Indianapolis 500 race cars, each one custom-painted to represent a different football team. This parade alerted tourists as to what sport Hoosiers really like best. After basketball, I mean.
When all was said and done, our Super Bowl XLVI shindig was one of the largest, most successful parties ever held in downtown Indianapolis. The Friday evening before the game, local news reported that crowds were so shoulder-to-shoulder, extra police had to come downtown and help shut down additional streets to allow expansion for safety and breathing room. It was an unreal and fascinating experience, even if the game itself seemed a secondary consideration at times. All told, everyone involved, whether fan or merchant, came away from the experience a winner.
Check that: almost every participant was a winner.