Judging from the pictures he was texting me early that day, Mark seemed to be having a great time in Dallas despite the weather. He tells me that he and some friends got to the stadium several hours in advance to walk about the spectacle that is Jerry’s World. After a 25-minute trek through tents and security pat-downs, Mark stepped up to a ticket scanner. And that’s where things started going sour.
His tickets were coming up with a big invalid “X”. Not sure what was going on, Mark was told there might be an issue with the bar code and had to visit the ticket resolution center, a half-mile or more away. Slightly embarrassed and unsure, Mark began walking, trying not to get upset. After all, it was still hours until kickoff. When he arrived at the tent, it was clear he was not alone. There was already a massive line of people who all received the same rejection as Mark at the gate, and they appeared more than just annoyed.
“They were just pissed,” Mark said. “But nobody knew what was going on. We were eventually told our tickets were unusable. I was wondering if Ashton Kutcher was going to pop out and say I was Punk’d.”
Sometime after 3pm, Mark and the others were moved into an area called the Party Plaza, a fenced-in tailgate-style section without bathrooms. Apparently, there was food and drinks, but definitely not free. There, a frustrated Mark and hundreds like him were subject to more idle downtime while those in charge from afar seemingly tried to decide just what to do with the displaced herd of ticketholders without seats.
During the waiting, Mark met a variety of people, including a 91-year old man who had driven all the way down with his grandson to Dallas from Chicago. “We felt so bad for them. We were like, ‘this isn’t the end of the world for us.’ We just felt so bad. This wasn’t right at all.”
At this point (roughly around 4pm) with no reliable information coming, the agitation levels were peaking. People were chanting “Jerry sucks!” and one guy began screaming “class action law suit!” while violently shaking the face that held him in.
The crowd was finally told they were going to be let it. Mark and friend followed the crowd to whatever entrance they were being led. “I never felt like more of a reject in my life,” he said. When they got into the stadium, they tried to flag down anyone wearing an earpiece, thinking they might know what was going on. Without any real explanation so far, Mark was still hoping the situation would be resolved and he could get a seat. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Now, 45 minutes until kickoff, Mark and others were ushered into an elevator and led to a ground floor area called the Miller Lite Club, again wondering if he was being Punk’d.
“It was more like a holding pen,” Mark said. According to him, this area was actually about five feet below the playing surface, so that they could “only see legs.” Mark said they couldn’t see any of the game and were bunched together several deep, trying to make sense of the game on monitors that had a 40-second audio delay. “We strangely got used to that,” he said.
During the first quarter, these apology letters were handed out.
Sometime during the 2nd quarter, the displaced ticket-holders were then offered vouchers for free drinks. But shockingly, there was a catch – a tab maximum was placed so that twenty minutes and one free drink later, everything was back to normal price ($10 for a 12-ounce beer, he said.) In the 3rd quarter they were given sandwiches and a small buffet including mac ‘n cheese. People were standing in entryways three- and four-deep (apparently allowed) and doing whatever they could to catch a glimpse of live action.
“At this point, we just felt like a nuisance and a reject, like we were somehow ruining it for everyone else… We barely watched the game and saw nothing live at all. It was a complete disappointment. Kids were crying. Old ladies were crying. It was like, ‘this is it? This is what is comes down to?’”
In the 4th quarter, they were given what Mark refers to as a “Sorry Sack,” which included a t-shirt, hat and a program. There were rumblings they would be able to go onto the field after the game. An NFL representative eventually came around and apologized, exchanged emails with the displaced fans, and said they wanted to make it right.
One of the few highlights for Mark came after the game, roughly twenty minutes after the Lombardi trophy presentation when they were in fact allowed on field (in another gated-in area). “That was kind of neat. They were trying to make something right,” he said. He was able to take this picture of John Kuhn.
As I write this, Mark is waiting in the Dallas airport, disappointed from the experience and ready to return home. I give Mark a lot of credit for taking this as well as he has. There are certainly people who went through the same hassles and runaround – who got the same sporadic information and who effectively missed the Super Bowl they traveled to see – who are many times more livid than Mark.
I decided to ask Mark if there anything the NFL could do to make it up to him. He replied, “Yeah – not let it happen in the first place. This shouldn’t have happened. They knew about it. This is like being a kid and going to Disneyworld and finding out it it’s closed. We didn’t get to even see the Lombardi presentation. We could’ve seen this all at home, and been a lot more comfortable. It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience and a lot of people lost out on that. They could’ve let us shake every player’s hand, but they’re not going to fix the fact we missed the Packers win the Super Bowl.”
Update: Since this posting, an NFL representative has contacted me in hopes of reaching Mark to inform him of the new options as announced by Commissioner Roger Goodell. This offer, available to all of the 400 affected ticketholders, now includes a free ticket to a future Super Bowl of his choice, airfare and accommodations. Complete details can be found on NFL.com. While there will surely be several lessons learned from this experience, I applaud the NFL for trying to make things right. Though I cannot speak for him, I believe Mark will be satisfied.