I woke up the morning after Super Bowl on Sunday with a bolt of dread.
Dancing through my noggin were unholy visions. Visions of yet another 1,500-mile drive of doom - this time in reverse - from sun-baked Phoenix through the frozen tundra back to Spokane.
I’d rather be Troy Aikman walking in uniform through the anguished streets of Pittsburgh. It’s time to end this weirdfest.
No more mountain pass skating rinks. No more slip-sliding-away.
By the time you read this, Lord willing, I should be hosting the Snoozer Bowl in my own bed. That’s why I hopped a flight out of Las Vegas and left my two travel chums to finish the trek in the raspberry-red KZZU hypemobile.
For the record: I never made it into Super Bowl No. 30.
The Spokane pop radio station that invited me on this journey that began a week ago never came through with a ticket. Shifty-eyed scalpers refused to lower their prices past $500. I wasn’t about to explain that kind of payout to my wife.
So call me Mr. Outside.
I leaned against a fence 100 yards outside Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., listening to Hank Stram call the big game through my Walkman. A narrow glimpse of some of the arena’s 76,347 Steeler towel-wavers and arrogant Dallas fans was as close to live action as I got.
For part of the first quarter, however, this vantage was way cool.
Super Bowl officials graciously set up a gigantic television screen for the ticketless peons. Newspaper ads invited the public to come on down and soak up the free show.
The Super Boobs apparently never figured anybody would actually take them up on their hospitality. Not long after Dallas first scored, the mega TV was rudely switched off, supposedly because the crowd was getting too big and unmanageable.
An act of pure sleaze.
Al Airesman was one of the fans hosed by this video betrayal. The Pittsburgh firefighter came all the way to Tempe with his wife to root for his team. Unwilling to meet the scalper demands, the Airesmans set up chairs in front of the behemoth screen early Sunday and hung around all day to guard their position.
“Just terrible,” mutters Al Airesman at the useless screen.
Mr. Outside spent the third quarter dining inside the swank Mission Palms Hotel. The restaurant didn’t have a TV, which explained why it was the only empty restaurant in Tempe.
Hah. Nothing stops Mr. Outside.
I positioned a table so I could see the game on a big-screen television that was set up in a packed lounge about 20 yards across a veranda. It took some squinting, but the lasagna buffet was tasty and the Walkman gave me an idea what the ant-sized players were up to.
Then it was on to the fourth quarter. Mr. Outside caught the super thrilling finale from a sidewalk, peering at a TV through the window of the packed Paradise Bar.
Mr. Outside felt disenfranchised, but not at all bitter.
The Super Bowl, I discovered, is really just an excuse for the nation to hold an annual bash of near-orgasmic proportion. Partiers choked every street corner. Watching the loon parade was more fun than seeing bejeweled Dallas chalk up its third win in four years.
Whoa, the humanity.
There were the legions of Super Fans of both Steeler and Cowboy denominations. Face-painted, wearing silly hats, they hooted and butted up against each other like rutting elk.
Near the stadium, a street preacher stood atop a milk crate spouting Bible verses. Another zealot farther up the street carried a sign proclaiming God’s wrath on Phoenix.
Two men strolled by in chicken suits.
Animal rights activists passed out literature. I didn’t read any of it, but it could have had something to do with those chicken guys.
An Hispanic contingent protested the police shooting of someone named Rudy Buchanan Jr. Ron Long of the Black United Fund advocated a boycott of the National Football League. Drunks ruled the day.
And on. And on. …
Hosting a Super Bowl pumps millions into the local economy. But after a month of preparing for such craziness, some Tempe merchants were showing signs of strain.
“This is super nuts,” groused the owner of a Mill Street antiques shop. “And I’ll be glad when it’s super gone.”
Mr. Outside can take a hint. Mr. Outside is outta here.