Thursday, February 4, 2010

Super Bowl Memories

In my previous business, I consulted with NFL teams' marketing departments and corporate sports sponsors. Actually, in those days back in the 80's and 90's, only about half the teams were doing any marketing at all. To call a one or two person staff a "department" would be generous. The personal relationships that I had with marketing people at teams like the Packers, Lions, Chiefs, Giants, Bears, Oilers, Saints, 49ers, and Bucs were all of the friendly, first-name variety.

As marketing staffs and budgets grew, there became many more people, more levels, and the less personal relationships came to mean in doing business with NFL teams for sports marketing programs. It's one of the reasons that I got out of that business and started the Harlem Ambassadors. But it was good while it lasted.

Each NFL team gets a allotment of Super Bowl tickets regardless of where they finished in the standings. In the marketing programs that I would arrange, I always included the rights to purchase Super Bowl tickets into the deal. As a result, from
1990 in New Orleans through 1996 in Tempe, Arizona, I had tickets and attended every Super Bowl. I skipped 1997 back in New Orleans and then attended the 1998 Super Bowl in San Diego as my last.

All told I was blessed to attend Super Bowls in eight different cities (New Orleans, Tampa, Minneapolis, Pasadena, Atlanta, Miami, Tempe, and San Diego). By far the most memorable was in 1991 in the "Big Sombrero" in Tampa. The first Gulf War had just started, helicopter gunships circled the stadium, and security was super-tight. Whitney Houston sang one of the most spine-tingling national anthem renditions ever and US flags waived when fighter jets flew over in formation. The game between the Giants and Bills was one of the best ever, concluding with Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood's wide right miss.

Not only was I fortunate to attend these games, but through various connections (often good friend Tim Pearson at NFL Films), we were able to attend many of the NFL Properties parties. I had my picture taken with Diana Ross, Queen Latifah, and Muhammad Ali. I saw the Temptations, Fats Domino, Wilson Pickett, the B-52s, Fleetwood Mac, the Allman Brothers, and many others. I grazed on some incredible buffets. It was great while it lasted.

Big sporting events have morphed into mega sporting events. Those tickets that I got every year for $75 or $100 face value are now $500 face minimum. I have no desire to go back. This sounds self-serving but in this day and age, I would rather see the faces on young children meeting the Harlem Ambassadors in a high school gym in Kansas or Mississippi. I rather see a parent who is spending quality time with his or her family in Oregon or Michigan. Grassroots entertainment and sports events have their place and I'm happy to be a part of it.