Let’s talk about Phoenix, y’all! And tailgating and beer and blue-jeans and turkey legs and, most importantly, true all-American football. This year the Super Bowl XLIX is bearing down in the land of blazing sun, arid desert, and gorgeous mountains—a city that’s not only growing in size, but also culture and popularity.
And, although the “Deflegate” scandal is still fresh (the Patriots were accused of deflating the balls used during the game two weeks ago)—as well as the upcoming game on Sunday between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks—some of the most elite attractions are happening in downtown Arizona this weekend.
Take for instance the invitation-only soiree, which was partially put together by businessman and NBA’s Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban. The sultry R&B singer Rihanna will be performing at the event, which will be hosted by Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan. This swanky party will be held inside the Super Fan Stadium at the Pendergast Family Farm in Glendale, Arizona’s Sports and Entertainment District—across the street from the awaited game on Sunday.
This is only the beginning. If you love Coachella (that music festival where everybody wears flower crowns and pretends to like bands with names like “Cashmere Cats” and “Panda Bear”) and have the right connections, you may be able to land an invite to Coachella at the Super Bowl. For the first time in history, the legendary, celebrity-filled, music festival will be going from the dessert in California to the dessert in Phoenix.
Moreover, two of the most lavish nightclub chains in Phoenix, CAKE and TAO, have merged for the weekend and put together four over-the-top parties. Tables start at $25,000, but partying alongside Victoria’s Secret supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio, who will be hosting the event, is included.
But let’s step back for a second. Of the millions of people who find their way to Phoenix, only the elite few are going to be dining with Victoria’s angels. In fact, with last minute tickets staring at $8,000, the game itself is getting out of reach for most. That’s why the NFL puts together the NFL Experience, for lovers of the game like me to live out their football dreams. It’s essentially a theme park with interactive games, youth clinics, NFL legends and much more. It’s kind of like American family-style dining, big and too much for one sitting, or visit.
It didn’t take me long to realize what the fuss was about as within minutes of being there I was inches away from Odell Beckham Jr., the wide receiver from the New York Giants. The man did set the record for one-handed catches in the NFL after all.
Then I walked by Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, who despite his team’s poor season was all smiles.
I thought it was childish for adults to be gawking over professional athletes as if they were superheroes until I found out that that Antonio Cromartie, my favorite, all-time Arizona Cardinals would be at the Play 60 Zone (where all the youth clinics were being held.) I resisted pushing kids out of the way and slowly made my way to the front. I listened to some words of wisdom from my hero and actually left uplifted with a moment I will cherish forever.
Feeling inspired, I decided I would test my shot at the passing accuracy challenge. I tried coming up with a whole bunch of excuses as to why the 9-year-old kid next to me had better results than me. In the end I just admitted defeat and decided to stick to writing as a profession.
Having lost some of that inspiration from earlier, I then came across the sacred Puppy Bowl. If you’re not familiar with what the Puppy Bowl is, I want you to know you’re probably not living the life you hoped for as a child. Puppies of all breeds are given their own section and a mini football field to compete with one another in their own Super Bowl. If you aren’t convinced, ask the 14.5 million people, who turned into Animal Planet last year to watch it.
I left feeling elevated with gridiron excitement and Uncle Sam-like pride, like I could have started tailgating and pounding Budweisers right then and there. The action is everywhere and the possibilities are endless, depending on what you are willing to pay. Personally, I still don’t have a ticket for Sunday’s game or a table next to Mark Cuban. I haven’t ruled out anything, but my expectations are to be watching the commercials -- I mean the game -- from my couch with some buffalo wings. Still, even if that’s as far as I get, I can say that I’ve left with a Super Bowl experience that has no price tag.