Extra Points: Super Bowl Memories
Thursday marked three years since the Eagles ended a 56-year drought by winning a championship.
Their 41-33 victory over New England in Super Bowl LII was among the top highlights of my journalistic career, which included 28 seasons as the Eagles' beat writer for a local newspaper.
The game itself, viewed from the sky-high press box at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, was thrilling. If my entire body hadn't been frozen during a bus ride to the arena, I probably would have gotten goosebumps. Here a few memories from that special week, including a story about how I almost missed the game.
*I've never been so cold. As my plane landed in Minnesota, the pilot announced the temperature as a balmy 19 degrees. It turned out to be accurate. The temps never climbed out of single digits the entire week and were often below zero in the morning.
Turns out North Face isn't just a clothing company in Minnesota, it's a way of life. I can't understand how anyone would want to live there. It doesn't do much good to have 10,000 lakes if they are frozen 10 months of the year.
*The initial press conference, otherwise known as "Opening Night," was fun. It's more of a carnival than a press conference, with folks dressed up in colorful costumes asking the questions. I kind of felt bad for some of the bottom-of-the-roster players, though. They pretty much had to entertain themselves in the bleachers while the top players sat on stage.
I got a kick out of watching long snapper Rick Lovato snap a hoagie to punter Donnie Jones. Lovato's family owned a deli, Joyce's Subs and Pizza, in Lincroft at the time. U.S. Women's soccer player Julie Ertz, wife of Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, also commanded a lot of attention.
*The media Super Bowl party, called the "Media Thaw Out," was a blast. It was held at the Mall of America and featured a bizzare setup in which women poured tequila shots while balancing on swings. There was also a lot of booze flowing from ice sculptures, at least from what I can remember.
At some point in the night, I think I wound up swinging on a trapeze.
*Eight years before joining the Eagles, coach Doug Pederson was on the sidelines for Calvary Baptist School, a small K-12 school in Shreveport, Louisiana. I happened to run into a TV crew from Shreveport and they helped me track down a few guys who played for Pederson at Calvary Baptist. To a man, they raved about Pederson as a motivator and mentor.
So did some of the Eagles.
"Doug knows how to relate to players," then-Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount told me that week. "He played in the NFL for a long time, and he knows what we go through. He knows when to push us and when to back off. But the most important thing is he treats us like grown men, which we are. He gives us respect."
Too bad he didn't get the same respect from management a few weeks ago.
*The shuttles from the Mall of America to the stadium began running at 11 a.m. I jumped on the first bus in hopes of getting an early taste of the vibes and atmosphere before the game.
Midway through the trip, I happened to notice the guy next to me was wearing a different credential than the one around my neck. Turns out there were separate, special credentials for the game, which I had neglected to pick up.
I eventually found out they could be obtained at the Mall, so I simply stayed on the bus for a return trip, only to learn the credentials office there was closed and everything had been shipped to the University of Minnesota.
The bus driver refused to alter his route, which forced me to get off at a snow-covered intersection and traipse to a nearby McDonald's where I called for an Uber to take me to the college. I asked him to wait for me while I grabbed my pass, but he had other plans and took off. As a result, I boarded a rickety school bus with holes in the seats and a broken heater to get back to the stadium.
The whole thing took less than an hour, but it felt like forever. I was so worried, I started looking up job openings at the North Cape May Wawa.
*Everyone was stunned when the Eagles pulled off "Philly Special." It essentially embarrassed the Patriots, who if you remember, also tried a trick play earlier in the first half. It would have produced a huge gain, but Pats quarterback Tom Brady, who was wide open, dropped the pass.
The next day, quarterback Nick Foles and company explained that they worked on the play all week in the lobby of the team hotel but did try it in practice, lest someone see it and leak it.
*I was very happy for Pederson, Foles and the rest of the Eagles, but I was elated that some longtime Eagles fans were finally rewarded for decades of loyalty.
There were also a few who didn't live long enough to see it.
Despite passing away in August of 2017, 1978 Mainland Regional High School graduate Jeffrey Riegel remained an avid Birds fan. A series of ads appeared throughout the season featuring Riegel's photo and an inspirational message. There were provided by Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen, who had been lifelong friends with Riegel.
Marsha Grossman, an Atlantic City-area native, also passed away that August. She had owned Eagles season tickets since 1961, the year after the Birds last won a NFL championship, and watched each game wearing a special "McBube" Eagles jersey.
Her family members took turns wearing the jersey during the 2017 season. Son Jim was wearing it at U.S. Bank Stadium during Super Bowl LII.
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