55 observations on attending Super Bowl 55 in Tampa

A home team in the Super Bowl during a pandemic. What’s that like?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs fans watch their teams playing in Super Bowl LV under the Wing House watch party tent located near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday, February 7, 2021.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs fans watch their teams playing in Super Bowl LV under the Wing House watch party tent located near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Sunday, February 7, 2021. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Feb. 8, 2021|Updated Feb. 8, 2021

• The best deal on Super Bowl parking was a gentleman with a pit bull, sipping a Corona, who was letting cars park on some kind of industrial lot behind a strip club off Dale Mabry for $20. “He’ll guard your car,” he said, pointing to the dog. Done.

• The strip club, Odyssey 2001 (the one with the flying saucer VIP room on the roof), was charging $50.

• Lots of entrepreneurs were out near the stadium taking advantage of the crowds, including the Canna-Bus (a bus where you can get a medical marijuana prescription from the doctor on board), and a guy with a cart full of USB drives, which he said had “mixed” music on them. He was blasting a song that blended Kung Fu Fighting over a Busta Rhymes beat.

• Overheard in the crowd outside the stadium, while passing a group of folks wearing Kansas City Chiefs sombreros: “Woah, that’s like cultural appropriation bingo.”

• Tailgating was not allowed at Raymond James Stadium, but there was heavy tailgating going on at a nearby Sonic.

Fans and tailgaters gathered outside Raymond James Stadium to get close to the Super Bowl.
Fans and tailgaters gathered outside Raymond James Stadium to get close to the Super Bowl. [ Margo Snipe ]

• Best bootleg T-shirt design seen sold on the street: a screen print of an actual goat wearing a Tom Brady jersey.

• Surprisingly few people dressed up like pirates, but Keith Marks from Cape Coral did. He chugged American Honey whiskey from the bottle while lounging on a beach chair outside a Chinese restaurant near the stadium.

• “Don’t everyone go through at once, they’re gonna catch us,” yelled a woman, directing a group of fans who were “sneaking” through a gap in a chain link fence outside the TikTok Tailgate as Miley Cyrus performed. (The only thing on the other side of the fence in that area was a retention pond.)

• A group of fans who did not have tickets were sitting on the grass, staring at an opaque fence, singing along passionately as Miley Cyrus performed Wrecking Ball on the other side, and could not have looked happier.

• A guy in a Chiefs cape was nearly hit by a bus while running across Dale Mabry.

• With all the closed roads and dead ends, it took just over two hours to walk from the spaceship strip club to Raymond James stadium.

• Upon entering the stadium’s media entrance was a row of port-a-pottys labeled “halftime cast.” That must be the one The Weeknd uses!

• It was pretty stunning to walk up the ramp to the level where the press box is and see that giant Buccaneers flag flying over One Buccaneer Place, a stones throw from the “neutral” Super Bowl site.

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• The absolute longest lines at Raymond James Stadium were for the NFL shop. Hundreds in line. Seems like you could wait and get that shirt later, but maybe you have to get it on site or it doesn’t count?

• Mask compliance inside Raymond James Stadium is about on par with my local Publix. Nearly everyone was being cool, but even at the Super Bowl there are those people who think it doesn’t apply to them.

• The lady at the Super Bowl with just her nose out is somehow slightly worse than the lady who has it pulled all the way down.

• It felt like the sports reporters in the press box were all wearing suits. I don’t know if that’s every Sunday, but I get the feeling this is like prom for them.

• Overheard in the concourse, from one police officer to another: “I wouldn’t pay it, but okay!”

• Seen on a sign: Keep 6 feet of space, or “two jump ropes.” Weird example, but okay NFL.

• The sail on the pirate ship has been changed to read “Super Bowl LV,” but it’s a pirate ship. This really feels like a home game and it is.

• When President Joseph Biden came on screen to ask for a moment of silence for those lost in the pandemic, and the stadium went quiet, instant chills.

• When they did the fan-noise check to see which team had more fans here, it really was way, way louder for the Bucs.

• The press box feels hermetically sealed. Note to the NFL: If the pandemic continues through the next season, maybe a name change? Last place you want to be in a pandemic is sealed in a “box.”

• Even at the Super Bowl, there are people who miss the opening kickoff while standing in line at the concession stand. Outside Section 314, it was one lady in a Mike Evans T-shirt, all alone, getting chicken fingers. She did not even glance up at the TV.

• There were also no less than 20 people in line waiting to buy a T-shirt during the opening kickoff. Again, some people paid more than $20,000 to be here.

• The only chant from the stands I can make out is a guy who keeps screaming “Let’s f--king go.” Over. And. Over. Bet you won’t hear that on CBS.

• The press box is extremely quiet, except for someone occasionally, very dryly stating the occasional fact, such as, “that was Brady’s first first-quarter touchdown in a Super Bowl.” (Checks out.)

• There is exactly one nose-out guy in the press box. You know who you are.

• If you paid thousands of dollars to be at the game, you get to see things happen about 10 seconds before people at home.

• You miss all the commercials.

• You inevitably end up staring up at the jumbo screens at the stadium, rather than watching the field. They are, at least, likely bigger than your TV at home.

• When Ronald Jones II broke the first big play in the first quarter, all the workers in one concession stand had leaned their heads out of the stand to watch the TV. They were going nuts.

• Someone is shooting off very professional looking fireworks outside the stadium every time the Bucs score. Again. Home game.

• If you drop an entire kielbasa on the carpet in the press box, no one will even notice.

• The whole mask thing really stops you from eating as many snacks. Maybe that’s good.

• It feels very special to be at the Super Bowl live, but missing the commercials feels like missing an important shared cultural experience.

• I mean, imagine if someone was talking about the frogs that say “Bud,” “Weis,” “Er” and you had no idea what they were talking about it. And you paid $20,000 for tickets.

• Rebel Wilson is here. Did they show that on TV?

• You know how sometimes at a football game if there are empty seats closer to the field you can sort of discreetly move closer. You can’t do that at the Super Bowl.

• Even during the Super Bowl, there is a big rush to the restrooms at halftime.

• They turned off all the lights in the press box for The Weeknd. Will there suddenly be a club vibe?

• Definite club vibe, if you’ve ever been to a club where many men stare blankly out of a window at the Weeknd and eat giant cupcakes with Super Bowl logos on them.

• From the north side of RayJay, you can almost see The Weeknd if you squint.

• Even as a small, red, blur, 150 yards away, it’s clear that the Weeknd is the coolest person on the planet.

• If you’re still reading this story, thank you, it seemed like a much better idea yesterday. 55 is a lot of observations.

• Overheard in the press box: “Springsteen was the last halftime show in Tampa. He kicked it off with ‘put away those nachos’. Great opening line.” Lots of combined knowledge up here.

• Also overheard: “Yeah, but Springsteen is no Weeknd.” If you can imagine the press box demographic, this was a good joke.

• From the upper level at RayJay, you could see fireworks going off all over the city when the Buccaneers scored to go up 28-9.

• Overheard soon after that: “Wow, the Bucs are actually going to win the Super Bowl. It’s about to get messy in Tampa.”

• By the start of the fourth quarter, random screaming in the concourses intensifies.

• Took a walk. Peeked inside a luxury suite. Only time there was not one mask in sight.

• Even at the Super Bowl, people leave early — even Bucs fans — to beat traffic. Again, $20,000 tickets.

• What you did not see on TV: The nearly naked guy executed an amazing slide to avoid being tackled by security. The sentiment here: If you’re going to streak, at least be fully naked.

• Bucs win, and the cannons are finally fired!

• On the way out, a very loud reality check from the NFL plays on repeat: Keep you mask on until you’re in your car. “Remember, we’re all in this together.”

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Super Bowl 55 coverage

TIMELINE: How the Bucs and Tampa converged for Super Bowl 55

ATTENTION SUPER BOWL VISITORS: Here’s our guide to Tampa Bay’s socially distanced attractions

PARTY PLANNING IN A PANDEMIC: How to host a safe Super Bowl party

FANS IN TAMPA: A first look inside the Super Bowl Experience in Tampa

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