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Troops celebrate Super Bowl a world away

Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Central Command, performs the coin toss before the game.

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Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Central Command, performs the coin toss before the game.

TAMPA — Troops in Iraq got a treat in the mess hall for the Super Bowl: two beers apiece.

That's from the mouth of Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, who conducted the coin toss for Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Troops in Afghanistan weren't able to drink, but it was quiet enough in Iraq for a brew, according to the general. Kickoff time in Tampa was about 2:28 a.m. in Baghdad.

"It's a real honor to represent our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and all around the world at this real American classic," said Petraeus, a New York Giants fan.

Some people have all the luck

Jerry Cummins of Chicago was vacationing in Fort Myers when he decided to head to Tampa and see if he could get a ticket to the big game.

The 71-year-old Bears fan stood for three hours holding a sign seeking one.

"I never got a bite," he said.

Then, a woman walked up to him with an extra and said it was his. For free.

"Can you believe it?" Cummins said from his cell phone, inside Raymond James Stadium near the 30-yard line, 24 rows up. "I can't believe it!"

On his way in, someone offered him $1,000 for his ticket. He wouldn't take it.

Folks from 2009 host Miami check out scene

After the NFL rolls up the carpet in Tampa, the Super Bowl looks toward South Florida, where the game will be played Feb. 7, 2010. It's the Miami area's 10th Super Bowl, but organizers still spent the week in Tampa, gathering dos and don'ts.

"As many times as we've done it, the game evolves," said Bill Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The new ideas they generate here, we'll copy them."

There she is …

There's one way to stick out on a media shuttle of sportswriters to Super Bowl XLIII.

Be Miss America.

Yes, Katie Stam is completing a whirlwind month with a surprise Super Bowl ticket. Stam, 22, Miss Indiana, was in Tampa for the week's festivities and on Saturday night, at the Taste of the NFL Party in St. Petersburg, got tickets to Sunday's game.

Stam posed for photographers in front of the Tampa Convention Center before boarding the bus to Raymond James. The photographers said they'd be following her around all day. They probably weren't the only ones.

Capitalism comes alive on Dale Mabry

From the twins trying to sell parking spaces to get cell phone money to the Temple Terrace Papa John's that dispatched mobile pie sellers to the stadium, lots of entrepreneurs were trying to cash in on Sunday's game. How was business? It depends.

Bill Edington, area supervisor for Sonny's Bar-B-Q, said business is similar to that for a Bucs game, though thousands more people are walking on his restaurant's property.

"It's hit or miss," he said. "The locals sure aren't coming out."

Rod Cunningham, meanwhile, was selling Barack Obama posters, hats and a "Barack Star" tank top from a prime spot on Himes Avenue. Football fans weren't that interested.

"It's mediocre," he said. "I don't think this was a day for Barack. Everybody's looking for Pittsburgh Steelers merchandise."

Who needs the game when you can crash?

Balint Varga of St. Petersburg found a creative way to keep himself entertained.

He arrived to tailgate dressed in a helmet, shoulder pads and a Jerome Bettis Steelers jersey.

Then he got a shopping cart and hopped in.

Varga's friends took turns racing him down W Ohio Street, dodging limos and revelers.

"We're just trying to get into anything we can get into," he said.

The fun lasted until K.C. Tolson decided to play strong safety and lowered a shoulder into the shopping cart, sending Varga into a parked car.

Turned out he needed that helmet after all.

Strange sights

• NASCAR truck series champion Johnny Benson buying a beer and toting a sweater around in a plastic grocery bag. It was chilly, but wouldn't a racer's fire suit be warmer?

• A woman in a Cardinals jersey jumping in front of a tailgate of Steelers fans posing for a photographer … and all of them having a hearty laugh about it. Eagles fans would have chased her down Himes Avenue like a scene out of 28 Days Later. Cardinals fans seemed genuinely happy just to be here, and the Steelers legions were a pretty amiable lot.

Compiled by Times staff writers Janet Zink, Greg Auman, Rebecca Catalanello, Joe Smith, Justin George, Rodney Thrash, Bill Varian, and Brant James.

Troops celebrate Super Bowl a world away 02/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 1, 2009 10:44pm]
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