As the blue and red confetti rained down on the University of Phoenix Stadium I couldn’t help but feel blessed. In shock of what had just transpired, I tried hard to shift my focus from disappointment to appreciation. I had just spent three awesome days with one of my closest friends and attended one of the most popular sporting events in the world. Not only that, the game, despite my Seahawks coming up oh-so-short, was epic. I get chills thinking about it now and will continue to get chills when I think about it for the rest of my life. It was an exhausting day of emotional highs and lows. I felt proud, excited, nervous, humbled, confused, and sad all within a very short timeframe – and it almost didn’t happen.
The Ultimate Mancation – Day 1
Let’s back up a couple of days. This ultimate Mancation roller coaster of emotions started off with cocktails at 35,000 feet. While en route to Phoenix I met a lovely couple on my flight. We talked about travel and farming and how they related. These pleasantries resulted in me being fed drink after drink. Now, normally I am a closed-off person which is a character flaw that I truly hate about myself. Travel is my therapy for this and offers me that outlet to open up. I was bagged and just wanted to sleep and catch up on some work. At first, annoyed by the conversation, I realized how I had slipped into old habits and thankfully came around. This was a crucial step one in setting the tone for my ultimate mancation weekend.
Hit the Ground Running (& Gunning)
After meeting up with Taj, a friend I have known since I was seven or eight, and his pal John we were off to do some damage. Going to the Super Bowl itself is not cheap. More than that is the overly inflated prices on hotels that come with it. Taj, a warm and loveable guy by nature, came through with some amazing connections. Along with another friend of his, we had a massive five bedroom home to ourselves – for free! I’m a believer that good things happen to good people and Taj is living proof of this.
We settled in, showered, and headed out for a night one of this ultimate Mancation weekend – the Phoenix Suns versus the Chicago Bulls. The game itself was a bit “meh” but we had great seats, cold beers, and good times. Afterwards, we ended up making friends with some locals and wound up seeing a side of Phoenix that would’ve been hidden if it wasn’t for Taj’s outgoing nature and lovable personality.
The Ultimate Mancation – Day 2
This is where my positive attitude was really put to the test. I had purchased our (expensive) Super Bowl tickets through Venue Kings – a broker that is run by a friend of a friend. I had interviewed Anthony (the owner) a couple of years back about navigating the ticket resale market and remembered thinking this guy was a little bit cheesy and a little full of it. Still, he was recommended, said he would “hook us up” and was (optically) the cheapest source around. With that, I vouched for him to Taj and my new friends and secured our seats.
I was told by Anthony to purchase the cheapest tickets available and he would get us the best seats in that section the day before. Sounds good. We went to meet him at his HQ in busy and rainy downtown Phoenix. The NFL had taken over the area around his hotel so getting there was not super convenient. My hangover did not help. So when we finally made it to the busy lobby and were told that he wasn’t there and that a lot of people were asking the same questions it did not sit well. I was okay with this but my crew wasn’t. The fact that I vouched for this company didn’t sit well with me but decided to make the most of it because really, what else could we do?
PGA Waste(ed) Management
So with zero tickets in hand, we made our way to stop number two on this ultimate Mancation weekend – the PGA Waste Management golf tournament. I had never been to a PGA event before but had heard as a spectator, this is the one to go to you. I knew it was more of a party scene than golf tourney but nothing could have prepared me for what we experienced. Scantily clad women, drunken bro’s, overflowing porta-potties, and beer gardens after beer gardens. It was like a scene straight out of Happy Gilmore, and it was awesome. In the 4 hours or so that we were there, we saw maybe 20 minutes of actual golf. Crowds of drunk drunkards, girls taking selfies, and frat boys in polos sliding in the mud dominated the day. It was as if we were at a rock concert for preppy people.
The Ultimate Mancation – Day 3
Day 3 of this ultimate Mancation rolled around and with it came Super Bowl XLIX – the main event. We were up early and out in order to get a jump on our tickets. With the pickup location finally sorted we arrived to find a line of 20 or so people deep. Confused as to why it would take so long to pick up something we waited. And waited. It took over two hours to finally get in and when we did it made sense why. Venue King owner Anthony would grab people, 2-4 at a time, and bring them in his room. Perhaps this was a stall tactic for tickets he didn’t have in hand yet or perhaps it was because he was sitting on tens of thousands of dollars. Either way, it was annoying and started to wear on our group.
You would think an expensive operation like this would warrant a laptop or printed out spreadsheets at the very least, but no. When we finally got in the room there was Anthony frantically searching scraps of papers and notes on napkins. It was sketchy. Clearly he was frantic and clearly he was in over his head. He asked my name at least five times and couldn’t find any proof of purchase.
Ticket in Hand
In the end, we got our tickets and although they were the absolute last row of the stadium and we weren’t all together, (thanks for the hookup!) we finally had hard tickets in hand. This put us further ahead than many others that day. I would later find that Venue Kings among many other brokers ended up selling tickets they didn’t get, obviously leaving them in a jam. This included ticket resale giant StubHub who graciously refunded stranded fans 2x the value they paid.
As for the game itself, what more can I say that hasn’t already been said in the news and on every sports page in the world. The game was unreal and included peaks and valleys for every single fan in the stadium. Seriously, Jermaine Kearse, you have some crazy cat-like reflexes – and who knew Katy Perry could fly?
Highs and Lows
The stadium was electric, even from the rafters, and the events going on around it were great. I will say that the post-game celebration’s for the fans was lacking – although I was on the losing side so what do I know? Patriots fans could’ve partied till the sun came up. I ended up at a strip club (not by choice) where other deflated Seahawks fans were getting sad lap dances to numb the pain. No sad dance for this guy though because a) it’s creepy, and b) deep down I was happy. Through this ultimate Mancation emotional weekend, I came out ahead. I spent three days with a friend I haven’t connected with in years and made new friends in the process.
Although it was annoying, we did get tickets to the Super Bowl and did witness one of the best football games ever. Just another reason why pulling the positives out of a situation can make for some amazing trips and experiences.
For that I am thankful.
…Or at least that is what I tried to tell myself when I woke up at 6 AM the next day in a cold sweat with that interception playing over and over in my head.
Come on Pete Carroll, you’re better than that.
What say you?
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For more reviews from Phoenix and beyond see HERE.