For a few years now people are not allowed to tailgate at the Super bowl stadium, so Super Gate is a the home where any tailgaters from across the land can park up and party for Super bowl weekend.
The car park is some three miles from Raymond James stadium, and initially I thought it was going to be strange to be so close to the stadium, but to not see anything apart from a car park in Tampa Bay.
The tailgating experience was second to none and there were 10 competitions, in order to find the best tailgaters in the land. Beer pong, corn hole and hot babe contest were some of the competitions, with the BBQ cookout being the sought after challenge. I happened to be a food judge, and this is where I ate some of the best food I have tasted in my life: venison, pulled pork, lobster, steak, ribs and raccoon and alarmingly; bear! Which I was not too happy about as I felt like a cannibal, as I am such a huge Bears fan.
All around the tailgate people had the T.V sets running the build up to the game. There were tailgaters from about half of the NFL teams, and the Oakland Raiders BBQ tailgate cooked for everyone for five nights running. On Saturday more and more Steelers fans showed up, some had tickets but most did not, and they simply wanted to watch the big game at the tailgate.
The Steelers fans soon came alive when they spotted just two Cardinal fans and surrounded them with twirling terrible towels. It was a shame not to see more Cardinal fans, as I was going for the team in red.
Go on the 'Cards! The Dallas Cowboys tailgate won the BBQ cook off and became the tailgate champions of the year. I got a seat, and plated up some of their winning food. It was kick off time and I was watching the national anthem on a big screen. I could have actually been anywhere tailgating because I did not leave the car park for four days.
The televised crowd at the stadium went crazy when the fighter jets flew over, I looked up and counted, one, two, three, four, and then the fighter jets were above my head and the 300 people at the tailgate cheered.
It was a fairly slow first half. The Steelers were dominating the play and looked comfortable. The Cardinals finally got into gear and began moving the ball. When Kurt Warner stepped back and was throwing for a touchdown I thought we were going to see a comeback. However a Steelers lineman plucked the ball and miraculously ran it back for a Steelers score. I thought it was game over.
I missed the half time show because I and the rest of the Super gate staff, (nine of us) piled into a convertible jeep and cruised the lot, giving out plenty of freebies. Although I missed the half time show this was a lot more fun. We gave out hot sauce, cooking grills and beer pong tables.
Throughout the second half I was talking to people and gorging on even more food. The second half flew past and when Larry Fitzgerald broke away and scored I thought the 'Cards had done enough. All credit to Big Ben and his team for making a great winning drive and Santonio Holmes for an amazing catch. Steelers nation members around me were cheering and bouncing up and down. Though still maintained their grip on reality for just a few more plays...Warner jinks left and arches his arm back for a long deep last try. The ball knocked out and fumbled leaving the Steelers as this year's Super bowl winners. The Steelers fans erupted once more.
I felt bad for the Cardinals as that last play could well have been an incomplete pass. But they played well and had a great season. The Pittsburgh fans did not cheer or party late into the night like I thought they would have. At home if England win a game in the world Cup the singing and hollering goes on all night. Instead people moved back to their R.Vs and drank slowly, chilling on their garden chairs watching that Holmes catch over and over on the flat screens. Perhaps some of the rowdier crowd went to downtown Tampa, but the mood became more hung over quite quickly.
It was odd having a 4 day pre-Super bowl party and next to no post game party. In the middle of the night people packed up their tailgates and by 7 am the next morning most of the R.Vs had gone. I got a knock at my door. It was one of the chefs from one of the Cowboy tailgates. He told me he had something I have to see.
I walked to his tent, which was now wrapped in a huge super bowl banner. He went to the stadium at 3 a.m. and tore it off from somewhere and now pinned it to his tailgate tent. It looked awesome. I just wish he would have called me at 3 a.m. to help him out.
The supergate experience was amazing yet bizarre. It was a great end to my trip, meeting so many great fans across the country. Some I had met before, like the Raiders guys and it was great seeing them again. I really hope next year there will be a tailgate team from every NFL franchise.
Many people have asked me if I was mad for not getting ticket, despite having seen 40 football games this season. But to be honest, I had run out of money by week 15, and the ticket price for this game was so expensive. I was offered around $1200 for one ticket.
However, I just happy to be part of the whole Super bowl experience and meeting so many great fans. My trip has always been about meeting the fans and experiencing the tailgate culture and really there can be nothing better this weekend than tailgating at the Super bowl (Super gate) for four days. Sure I would have loved a ticket, but I still feel this was a great way to end my trip and I feel honored that Jay and Karen allowed me to stay on their R.V and invited me along to the party. I could not have wanted a more perfect end to my football trip, well maybe if the Cardinals won.