St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

For some, it's the party, not the game


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001

TAMPA -- Greg Anderson didn't waste any time once he learned the Giants were heading to Super Bowl XXXV.

"We're going to Tampa," he told his buddy, Brian Thompson.

"What about tickets?" Thompson asked.

"We don't need no stinkin' tickets," Anderson replied.

So Anderson left Vermont and drove to Connecticut to pick up his buddy. Together, they headed to South Carolina to pick up another friend, Stuart Jacobson.

Sunday morning, they staked out a piece of pavement in the parking lot of Tampa Bay Center. They set up an inflatable couch, hooked up a portable television to a cigarette lighter and bought a football at Sears.

"We have got 12 hamburgers, 23 hot dogs, a half-gallon of vodka, a half-gallon of rum, a case and half of beer and a roll of duct tape," Jacobson said. "Don't ask what the duct tape is for."

Like most of the people gathered outside Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon, for these Giants fans, a ticket to the show really didn't matter.

"We're here to party," Thompson said. "After all, that is what the Super Bowl is all about, right? One big party."

Joel Richards and some buddies from the University of South Florida went to Gasparilla on Saturday, partied until 4:30 a.m. in Ybor City, then headed straight to the stadium.

"We hung out for a couple of hours, then they kicked us out at 6:30 a.m.," Richards said. "So we waited outside for an hour or so, then they let us back in and we picked up where we left off."

At 1:30 p.m., Richards' crew took its first casualty when one of his friends passed out on the pavement and immediately became a toy for fans of both teams.

"He posed for about 800 pictures, none of which he will remember," Richards said. "We made sure we told everybody that he was a Ravens fan."

Tom Kelly and Ray "Big Dog" Szech were in the minority Sunday, not because they rooted for the team from Baltimore but because they were among the select few partying in the parking lot who actually had tickets to the game. The co-workers spent the past year fixing up an old Volkswagen van just for the occasion.

"Originally, I was going to paint it like an old hippie van, but then I realized I was too old to be a hippie, so I painted it in Ravens' colors," said Kelly, who owns a body shop in Maryland.

The van, nicknamed "Purple Pain," still has the peace sign on the front hood, but in keeping with the Ravens' style of defense, Kelly added the phrase "No Peace" above it.

"The cops stopped us in South Carolina for no reason other than to have a look at the van," he said. "They obviously weren't Ravens fans."

But most of the fans who turned out Sunday were happy just to watch the game on the fuzzy screen of a battery-operated television.

"This is my third Super Bowl I have been to," said Scott Mulligan, a Maryland transplant who lives in Melbourne. "I never have a ticket. I just come for the party."

Dwayne Cotton and Renardo Smith, both Ravens season ticket holders, decided to head to Tampa once they learned their team was going to the big game.

"Tickets or no tickets, we were going no matter what," Cotton said. "So we hopped in the truck and headed south."

They arrived Saturday afternoon, staked out a parking spot across from the stadium and fired up the grill.

"We have got plenty of food and beer, and a TV," Smith said. "What more do you need?"

A ticket to the game.

"What about that press pass?" asked Anderson, the Giants fan who drove 27 hours from Vermont just hear the fans roar. "Couldn't you just let me borrow it when you are done?"

Disappointed at the answer, Anderson said it didn't matter. He said he and his buddies would wait until the game ended, celebrate in the parking lot, then head to Ybor City.

"Then at sunrise," he said. "We'll think about heading home."

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.