An executive's generosity fulfills a father and son's dream of Super Bowl tickets.
By JOUNICE L. NEALY
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 30, 2001
After three hours of pacing Raymond James Stadium, Harry Repas was about to give up hope of scoring tickets for him and his 13-year-old son.
They already had endured a lot to pursue their Super Bowl dream:
A 12-hour flight from Baltimore that usually takes about two hours; driving another hour from Orlando, the closest airport they could get to; and then working the stadium for tickets.
They had only enough money to pay face value, hoping someone would have a heart. On Sunday, as a last resort, Repas and Nicholas stood along Dale Mabry Highway with a sign: Father and son need two tickets. Super Bowl dream.
"It's bumper to bumper, limos and police cars whizzing in with some of the players. I said to my son, "This doesn't look good at all.' He says, "No dad, just stay here.' About 10 minutes later, a black limo pulls up."
To the man inside the limousine, Repas and his son were a dream come true. The AOL executive was looking for a father and son to give the two his extra Super Bowl tickets.
"We stopped. I asked if he was still looking. I said, "Come on, jump in the car,' " said Jay Rappaport, chief operating officer of America Online Services in Virginia. "I gave Harry the tickets."
For Repas, the generosity of the man inside the limo was a dream that he still can't believe.
"When I got in the car, I just lost it," Repas said Monday from his mother's home in St. Pete Beach. "I was crying like a baby. I was shaking like a leaf. I offered to pay, they didn't want to hear of it."
Repas said he was willing to pay $325 for each ticket.
They also went to the NFL Experience before taking their seats along the 5-yard-line.
"I will never, never forget this, and I am an AOL supporter for life," said Repas, who already was an AOL subscriber.
And "they didn't know me from Adam apple."
Rappaport said two people backed out on him at the last minute. He actually had three extra tickets and gave one to the limo driver out of Maryland, Roberto Racedo, because it was his birthday.
Co-workers told him he could probably get $5,000 for the tickets.
But Rappaport said he "would really like to find a father and son. And you can never find them. You don't get that lucky."
He said he was deeply touched by the reaction of Repas and his son.
"You could just see that it meant everything to him," said Rappaport, who got Joe Namath's autograph for Nicholas, which he doesn't know about yet. It's in the mail.
"I wanted somebody to really enjoy it that much. Life is all about, in a way, karma. It's about being good to others, kind of like the movie Pay It Forward," he said.
By Monday morning, Nicholas had e-mailed Rappaport to tell him how much he loved the game and "by the way, my dad really liked it too."
Rappaport said he kept the sign (it's in his car) that Repas was holding, and he plans to frame it and hang it in his office.
"If you're kind to people, it'll come back," Rappaport said.