Super Bowl XXXVIII
February 1, 2004
"Houston We Have Contact!"
Well, I knew I would be in for a sleepless night and I was right. Of course I went to bed long after midnight as usual and got up at 5:00AM. Since I didn't sleep because of the excitement, it didn't much matter how much time I actually spent in bed. I worked the morning and fortunately, my students had gym and art in the afternoon allowing me to leave a little early. We were all excited and I kept jumping up and down!! The classic line came when one of my more excitable students actually said to me in the hallway "Calm down, Miss! You're embarrassing me!!" Talk about hyper!! After hugs all around I was off. However, when I got to my parking spot, someone had blocked me in... grrrr! After 1/2 hour and multiple pages on the intercom, I finally asked teachers parked along side of me to move so I could do some finagling. Thanks to Debbie from the office, I finally got out. I was sooooo ticked off and frustrated that I could feel the road rage setting in so she backed me out while I calmed down (not that I'm an intense person at all, mind you!)
Our trip to the airport was uneventful which was a good thing and after going through the maneuvers we promptly made our way to the TGIFridays to start our trip off right. The place was mobbed with Pats fans and we were all pumped ready for action. Our bartender from the last time (long story... stranded at the airport on the way to Houston in Nov....) remembered us which was cool. Somehow the subject turned to the Fan of the Year and some people recognized me. We met Paul and (sorry... forgot his name) from MA and hung for quite awhile. He whipped out the current issue of PFW (with my FOTY thank you letter in it) and actually asked me to sign it. LOL.. my first autograph! We exchanged numbers, took pictures and promised to keep in touch.
The flight down was fine and I watched 3 Games to Glory on my laptop causing quite the logjam in the aisle. People were literally standing around watching with me. Most of the flight contained Pats Fans and true to form, we all sported our gear proudly. When we arrived in Houston, we got in line for our car along with tons of Panther fans coming off a Charlotte flight. I had to laugh because we New Englanders gear up big time and they were all in plain clothes. A few guys did wear hats but not many of the women showed any team stuff. I found it funny because for the first time, I didn't have to bring tons of different shoes and things on a trip because my suitcase was filled with nothing but Pats wear. Tees, jerseys, sweats and sneakers and I was good to go.
We got our car and a map, headed towards our hotel and prayed we didn't get lost. Thankfully we made it fine and checked into the Hampton Inn. YIKES... NOT the kind of hotel that we are accustomed to AT ALL but we took what we could get. At least it was clean and straight down 290/610 to Zip's hotel and the Intercontinental. We called Zip, and headed out his way at midnight to meet for drinks in the lounge of the JW Marriott where he was staying. Big Al enjoyed the scenery while I enjoyed the conversation and Nutty Irishmans with Zip and Charts. We made plans for an early breakfast at the family hotel and called it a night.
The alarm went off at 6:30 but of course I was wide awake most of the night so after showering and gathering our things for the day, we set out to pick up Zip and Charts for breakfast. We enjoyed a delicious buffet at the Sheraton Suites and lingered over coffee for awhile since it wasn't too packed. When we left the restaurant, I ran into Bev sporting her Andruzzi gear. She told me that they would probably be hanging in the lounge that evening and to join them. The Chathams spotted me and we talked a bit as well. Joyce and Willie McGinest came down and we laughed once again about the Big Willie Hypnotq story.... Of course, I spoke to Joya for a bit and met her sister and mom. While we were there in the lobby, Heidi came by with the boys and stopped to talk to Zip. They're so cute... and not surprisingly full of energy!!
Having had our fill, we headed back to Zip's hotel for a bit and he set about shoring up the details with the Visa people. We had plans to go down to the Fox Sports Net Samuel Adams party at Brian Oneals (or Neal Obrians ... something like that... LOL) Irish Pub. Since there were 5 of us we decided to take cabs downtown rather than worry about parking etc. After securing them from the hotel we headed out. As soon as we got there, Zip and crew wisely grabbed a table on the "patio" because it was mobbed inside. Good move, since the closer to 4:00 it got, the more packed it got as well. It was great to meet up with the rest of the list crew as well as other NE fans that recognized us from the Patsfans.com message board and/or the various Media gigs that the FOTY duo have been up to.
We had a great time there... although it took forever to get a beer because I think the Texans underestimated how many New Englanders would show up and just how much Sams we drink! Steve DeOssie pulled in on his Harley and passed out a few stogies. I took a picture with him and he was cool. Ordway was more reserved but the greatest guy there was Greg Dickerson. He actually hung with us for awhile and couldn't resist petting Ostend. (See, the golden child is not ONLY a chick magnet!) At one point I took off to try to get some beer and was gone for almost an hour. I ran into Scott Cordischi and then later Andy Gresh from 790TheScore. I spoke to them each for awhile then having secured a couple of brewskies thanks to the old guy with the VIP pass... made it back to the crew having missed the group photo.
Everyone was getting hungry and most of us hadn't eaten since breakfast so somehow we ended up leaving to beat the rush. We piled into various cars and I thought we were heading to the team hotel for dinner. Somewhere along the route, the plans got changed and we ended up at Craig's house to hail a cab. Most of the crew needed to head out to find tickets and we didn't so we wanted to head back. We called a cab and the rest of the crew headed out to a local Mexican joint to eat. We waited for hours and finally after they returned from their dinner, we were able to secure a ride back to our neck of the woods from George and Mark. Needless to say, we were starving, tired, and frustrated by the time we got back. We headed up to the restaurant at the Marriott and all ordered the Chinese buffet because it was ready. We wolfed it down so fast it was as though we had never seen food in our lives. Zip and Charts retired to their rooms, we headed over to the Sheraton had one drink and finding no seats and no Bev we headed back up the highway.
WOOOHOOOO... the day had finally arrived!! We geared up and left our hotel not planning on returning until the wee hours. Zip and Jim had arrangements to travel to the game with Visa so we picked Charts up and headed to the Sheraton for breakfast again. It was mobbed this time and buzzing with the anticipatory chatter of family and friends. We sat next to Joya and she enlisted Al to experiment with her new camera a bit. The entire Andruzzi crew took up the back wall and I spoke to Jen and Bev for awhile. Jen congratulated me on my FOTY status and also said she saw the news clip with Tedy talking about me and said... "Oh, Karen must be Happy!!" I stood in line next to TJ's brother(s) and kids.. Players family members were all around proudly sporting their jerseys. I'm used to seeing the McGinest and the Andruzzi crews jersied up but most family members generally wear regular clothes. Today, however was certainly different!
We set out to the stadium early and fought traffic and even saw Pires looking for a ticket. We parked, each took a couple shots of Hypnotq for Willie and headed towards the gate. I saw Kate and her Dad looking for tickets too and realized that they were really hard to come by and wondered about the rest of the listniks. The family busses all pulled in around the same time and we waited forever to get through security. Unlike usual situations, the women all got through first and we had to wait at least an hour for the men to come through. While waiting for the guys, I talked to the Andruzzis and the Chathams a bit between phone calls to keep busy. Tedy's wife, mom, sister and sister-in-law were waiting nearby but I didn't intrude. Finally, the guys came through and we headed in. I was so excited, and incredulous that I was actually at the Super Bowl! The 2003 Fan of the Year was about to witness her team win the big one!
We got inside and I was in awe... we had been there 9 weeks earlier and stated that we would be back.. sure enough, there we were! We scoped out our seats then noticed Tedy warming up on the field so we made our way over. He was waving to Heidi and Tedy Jr. when we were coming down the steps then hugged the woman who was sitting with Heidi. He went back out to the field and spotted us on the side line. Of course I yelled, TedyB! He smiled, waved, and gave us the thumbs up then yanked on his shirt saying "Nice Super Bowl Jersey!" That made my day! TBC came out and ended up right in front of us. He spotted us and came by to shake my hand and I wished him luck. Vrabel was out with his son, Big Willie and Phifer were running together and TJ came out as well. Mt. Washington took to the field then we left. In need of a beverage, we headed to the concourse in search of refreshment. I spotted a Fosters stand and in honor of my good buddy Ernie, and the good luck it brought us the first time in Houston, I ordered a kinger. We found our awesome seats and awaited the arrival of the Zipster.
When he got there we ended up trading seats with him so he could have the aisle. We moved down a few rows and I had the pleasure of sitting between Clint Mills (FOTY 1998) and Ed Johnson Sr. (FOTY 2000) aka the original Pat Patriot. It was awesome to meet them and we had some wonderful conversations about our favorite team and our love for them. As for the game itself, I still was in awe about actually being there. I was emotional all the way around but actually started getting choked up when we were up 21-10 because it hit me that I was at the Super Bowl and was about 30 minutes away from seeing my boys celebrate with the Lombardi. Then of course, we all know what happened during the 4th quarter... My heart was beating so hard that I literally had trouble breathing. I was so tense that I was having an anxiety attack. My emotions rode the roller coaster and I had to keep holding my chest to will my heart to calm down. I kept praying and clasping my hands all the while cheering my boys as loud as I could. When it came down to that field goal, Al and I held hands and watched it sail through the uprights. I was literally bawling and tears were streaming down my face. When Chatham put it to rest with his big stop, everyone was screaming, crying, hugging and high fiving. Seeing that confetti fly into the air and watching the guys celebrating on the field I yelled out "Thank You, Mr. Kraft!"
When the crowd subsided a bit, we started heading out of the stadium. Unbelievably, I ran into Little Lucy's friend Rob in the concourse. Then when we got outside, we stopped to let Ostend do his business and Heidi stopped to talk to Zip again. They took a picture and introductions went round. Little Tedy was so cute... he kept repeating, "My Daddy is a Champion, My Daddy is a Champion!" I recognized Michael Strahan walking by and called his name. He noticed Zip and came to shake his hand... Too cool! We headed to the car, each had a celebratory shot and headed out. Unfortunately, we got lost leaving the stadium and took the long way around to get to the highway. When we got downtown, we spent about an hour in traffic around the team hotel. We finally parked in the Sheraton garage, walked through the rain to the Intercontinental and was told that we couldn't go on to the property without a ticket or room key. (I know that I could have gotten in as FOTY had I just made a phone call but didn't bother asking because I wasn't about to leave everyone stranded when we went there together.)
We went back to the family hotel to have a drink and regroup, but it was mobbed, there were no seats to allow us to get out of the lanes of traffic and drunk people were trying to pet Oz. The rest of the list crew was partying at the Hyatt and Zip wanted to say goodbye to Jose so we headed in that direction. Getting lost again delayed our celebration even longer... It was after 1:00AM and we were starving and dying of thirst. By the time we got there it was last call, we had one drink and left... (Definitely not the way I envisioned celebrating the biggest win of my life...) Once again, why I didn't call someone that I knew or tried to get in at that point is beyond me and I'm mad at myself for it. But, I can't change the past now... and I can't let that overshadow the events of the day... but I'll be honest here.... All who know me, know I have a hard time letting go. So, Big Al and I have yet to party and celebrate but it will come soon, I'm sure! They say that things happen for a reason, and I'm sure there is one here, but at this point, I've yet to see it...
Since our flight wasn't until 5:00pm we got up and headed back to the Sheraton for our final breakfast buffet. We sat leisurely drinking coffee for awhile and reveling in the win (and kicking ourselves about the party). We headed over to the Intercontinental to kill some time. We got to see some of the guys boarding the busses and I told Willie that the Hypnotq did the trick again! I kissed Lonie and TBC and hung with Joya and Nana for about an hour. When the boys pulled away we headed back to the Sheraton and sat down for a drink. Al and I were the only people in there and while we were watching Sport Center, I heard a voice yell "Hey, nice jersey!" It was Tedy's brother and we spoke for a little bit about games at Gillette and the last time we were down in Houston... His sister came in and asked about our SB hats but I told her that I thought we bought the last two in the hotel.
We headed to the airport, bought souvenirs for the kids, and grabbed a bite. Pats fans were everywhere and we all gave each other that knowing look and thumbs up having shared a glorious connection that we'll never forget. We sat next to Tom Curran on the return flight which was totally cool for me... of course we talked Pats all the way home! By the time we got home and got to bed it was after 3:00AM but I got up early for work as usual. Walking into work, I was met with huge cheers and hugs from my kids.... ending my adventure much the way it started!
I ended up sick this week as my ears were blocked from the flight and I was dizzy most of the time. I've also been having trouble with my heart racing... (must be the aftermath of all that adrenaline from the game and the stress from dwelling about the party!) Thursday night, we attended the rally at the Warwick Mall and it was a lot of fun! We sat with Bev inside the roped off area which was cool. (Pictures here.) Adam Vinatieri, Christian Fauria, Matt Chatham, Dan Koppen, Joe Andruzzi, Damon Huard and Matt Light were there. Light has an awesome singing voice and led the crowd in a roaring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. He also said he was dying to shave that beard off but they kept winning so he didn't dare! The boys were having a ball up there and each took turns at the mike, on the radio and answering questions from the crowd. Women were going nuts over Adam and Mr. GQ (Christian)! We headed out a little early to get home in time to catch the repeat of Inside the NFL... got chills again watching it and I still can't believe I was actually there! Friday night we headed out to The Rack and partied it up with Lonie all night.... finally celebrated the Big Win properly.... and just who was that young chick dancing up on the stage anyway?!