I haven't actually been there, but that's what people say.
Everyone knows that reality rarely lives up to expectations. Although the Super Bowl game itself exceeded the expectations of most, the weekend leading up to the big game led me astray.
Coming off of an amazing week in D.C. for the inauguration of President Obama (which, ironically did not disappoint), I decide I am going to play everything low-key when the Super Bowl visits the humble city in which I reside. But Friday morning I receive a call from my future roommate who is a much better guitar player than I, Bradly. He is in hysterics as he tells me the story of how he met the third runner-up in last year's American Idol contest, Michael Johns, the night before.
"Michael is so down to earth," he tells me. "He is playing a bunch of VIP parties this weekend and wants me to play with him! He also said I could bring anyone I wanted!"
So much for avoiding the madness. I pack my bags and my dog, Ace, for the weekend. We have it all planned; I am to stay at Bradly's all weekend (which is much closer to the eye of the hurricane) and just roll to all those veeps. Car packed and dog excited, I await Bradly's call. It never comes. He was busy with his kids; understandable. But try telling that to a canine who thought he was going on vacation. All is not lost, however. A bunch of my old fraternity brothers are in town and I meet up with them. Only, instead of a night on the town, we go to the typical dive bars we always used to frequent. I have a fine time seeing my boys, but no matter how much I imbibe, none of them look as good as Paris Hilton would have looked at the Marriott (don't get me wrong, not a fan, just the first celebrity that popped in my head).
Car still packed, I awake to a raging headache Saturday morning (inevitable when you meet up with old fraternity brothers) and wait for Bradly's call. By now I know he is playing at the ESPN the Magazine tent sometime around 2 pm. He wasn't mistaken, Johns is down to earth and wanted Bradly to play with him. I guess you can give the expectations win to Bradly because, for 15 whole minutes, he is the most famous guy at the ESPN the Magazine tent. I, on the other hand, am hung over on the outside, trying like a groupie to get into the Patron VIP tent. Finally, to his credit, Bradly gets all of his groupies, including me, into the "drink for free" zone. Is that all VIP means? I mean, it is Bradly, his friends, the third runner-up on American Idol, a Jacksonville Jaguar, that American Idol girl from Tampa and a bunch of other people like me wondering, "So this is VIP?" I bet even good ol' Michael Johns is a little disappointed even if he can't admit it. After all, he was a TV star for a while. And who is that old woman dressed like the heiress from a soap opera fanning herself on the leather couch the entire time? Paris Hilton's mom? Nope, just another one of us. At least she plays the part, though; I wore my VIP shirt the night before while singing "Friends in Low Places" karaoke to a bunch of wasted Steelers fans.
Jaded as I was, and as I often am, the Patron margaritas would not let it get to me much. Well, actually not at all. Soon enough, I forgot that I was a nobody amongst all the other nobodies. In fact, I decide I am Bradly's body guard.
"NO PICTURES!" I scream. "MOVE ALONG...DON'T TOUCH!"
Next thing I know, we are sneaking into the 3 Doors Down concert (remember that we were going to be backstage in my head 24 hours earlier) and I don't even want to see the show. I decide, in my infinite "beer-wisdom" that I am going to catch a cab home to Bradly's. Guess how many cabs are available in downtown Tampa the night before the Super Bowl? So I start walking, trying to hail anything that has at least 2 wheels. I keep walking, because, for some reason, no one recognizes me as Bradly's body guard or as the guy that made Bill Clinton speechless in 2006. I stop for a minute because the very nice police officer asks me to keep my trek out of the traffic lanes. But he doesn't recognize me from the Warp'd Tour in 2004, so he won't call my limo to tell them where I am, nor will he acquiesce to my request for a ride to my famous friend's apartment.
So I keep walking. Pretty soon I'm lost. Lived in the city for 6 years, can't find Kennedy. I decide to stop and get a drink at the nearest gas station. But then I realize that I must have left my wallet at that penthouse mixer I didn't attend the night before. So I keep walking as I try to call my now famous friend, who is assuredly sharing famous stories with other famous people backstage at the 3 Doors Down show. I call 40 times, no joke. How quickly you forget the little people. So I stop walking and lay down on the feather bed that was, earlier that day, some one's lawn.
Five minutes later, I awake to an epiphany: I'm two blocks from my "too good for you now" friend's place. I find it, walk in and find the couch.
Super Bowl Sunday I awake to my good buddy Bradly, who hadn't forgotten about me at all. In fact he had told me when I left that his phone was about to die and had texted me his address just in case. He hadn't rubbed elbows with anyone other than the 20,000 folks watching the show in general admission and all he wanted to do at the end of the night was lay down.
I call and cancel my credit cards while we wait for his friend to take us to where we hope his car still is. He drives me home and I lie on the couch for the rest of the day watching the pre-game shows.
The game was great. It exceeded all of my expectations. But next time the big game comes to Tampa, I'm planning a trip to Arizona