It all began in the fall of 2001. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be really cool to check out the Super Bowl host city and maybe even see The Game?"
Then I looked at the logistics from Denver and thought better. But there was word that SBXXXVI would be rescheduled and so I, being the crazed football and Broncos fan that I am, stayed up all night scoping out New Orleans hotels. Previously, undesirable hotels or locations were available below the cost of a second mortgage. In this brief window of time, I found a $119 hotel in the Central Business District and embarked on what has become an amazing, almost-annual NFL super fan Super Bowl winter vacation ritual.
From 2002 through 2006, I attended my first three Super Bowl weekends in New Orleans, San Diego, and Detroit. During my time in the host cities, I attended the great free or low-cost events like the Super Bowl Experience, Pepsi Smash concerts, VIP events, 1iota free audience events, and more that the NFL graciously offers to all fans. I was in sports utopia, and it was all about to get better thanks to Southwest Airlines.
In 2006, Southwest began service in Denver. Travel for me has never been the same thanks to the airline that I LUV. For example, because of the great fares and flexibility, I was able to do Arizona SBXLII Week for a couple days and then hop to Vegas for Super Bowl weekend, a 2-in-1 great adventure. Then when a friend backed out of going to the Tampa SBXLIII weekend the next year, I was close to canceling because of a far-away hotel and no rental car. However, with a little creative thinking and Southwest to the rescue, I crafted another plan. I arrived the weekend before with tons of events, activities, and fewer crowds combined with cheap top-notch hotels on opaque travel sites.
I could go on and on about how many incredible experiences I have had. I am at the point where I attend Super Bowl Week every year. There is always something new and unique—and a great, usually warm city to check out. Part of the adventure is throwing my hat into various contests for prizes, meet-and-greets, and merchandise giveaways because someone has to win. Regardless, the fallback is a great winter vacation with a top-notch hotel for around $80 and reasonable flights with little advance planning.
Sometimes I am having so much fun that I have almost forgotten when I was supposed to go home. Thanks to Southwest, I have all the contingencies covered. Many times, I have that longing look—hating to leave a great Super Bowl city to go home. But what if I won tickets to a fantastic event or even the game itself?
I ended up with a surprise in New York City during the SBXLVIII. My favorite team, the Denver Broncos made it to the Super Bowl and added to the excitement. I planned my adventure with all the travel contingencies. I thought, what if I somehow won tickets, didn’t have a place to stay, and didn’t have any flights booked? In an effort to avoid disaster, I priced a few hotels and several Southwest flights. Out of the blue, a major 4-star hotel chain offered an extended rate in Midtown Manhattan, which translated to an amazing $80/night opaque rate. Immediately I booked it for 10 nights.
While enjoying all that NYC has to offer—outdoor NFL game, various football, and cultural events—I went out to Super Bowl Boulevard dressed in Broncos orange from head to toe. I had a blast telling my story and hoped that a game ticket might be in my future. A columnist from TheDenver Post labeled me a true “Broncomaniac” while secretly thinking, "He’s crazy" regarding my Super Bowl ticket aspirations.
On the Thursday morning before the game, I checked out ESPN’s “Mike and Mike,” which had Jerry Seinfeld as a guest in the Herald Square studio. I stumbled upon a clothing store ad promoting Super Bowl ticket drawings in conjunction with an international soccer star’s new underwear line in a local newspaper. After a work meeting, I headed to the store to check out the competition.
Upon arrival, there was no signage anywhere but the security guard pointed me to a tent in the back. I thought I’d put my name in a bowl and resign a “hey I tried” mentality when I didn’t win. But then an employee mentioned that to enter the contest you had to do so via scratch-off card and kick a virtual reality soccer or football field goal first. As I went into the tent, I explained how I was from Denver and how this was my eighth Super Bowl host city visit.
The words “Super Bowl” were revealed to me after scratching the card. I thought, “Oh great, I won commemorative Super Bowl soccer underwear, right?” However, the store marketing rep said, “You just won tickets to the Super Bowl!” I almost passed out processing what I had just heard. I started coughing, wheezing, and went into panic attack mode. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.
I won Super Bowl XLVIII tickets and my brother flew in to attend the game with me—our first football game together in 30 years. The game may not have met my hopeful Broncos expectations, but I am still so grateful for the experience.
Although I am not sure I can ever top the NYC Super Bowl excitement, I know darn sure it would have never come together without the help of Southwest Airlines. This past weekend, Southwest even took me to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl LII Weekend.
Southwest Airlines, thank you for creating a sports traveler who absolutely adores you for enabling these incredible life experiences. I'm a Customer for life who LUVs Southwest. Thank you, thank you, and thank you!