Countdown to Kickoff
Blimps ahoy! It's almost kickoff time
Posted: Sunday January 31, 1999 06:01 PM
CNN/SI senior writer John Donovan is on the scene at Super Bowl XXXIII. He filed two reports an hour in the 120 minutes leading up to kickoff. Check back during and after the game for complete coverage on CNNSI.com
OUTSIDE PRO PLAYER STADIUM, MIAMI -- The sky is starting to turn a bit overcast, but that's not why everyone is looking up.
High above Pro Player Stadium, planes and blimps and helicopters fill the air. It's an air traffic controller's nightmare.
It's also the reason the Federal Aviation Administration decided to put a small box at the top of PPS for this game. It acts, essentially, as a control tower for the Bud, Tommy and Blockbuster blimps, and all their little friends.
Other things we have seen outside Pro Player while we've scoured the area for the Last Pregame Internet Super Bowl Notebook Before the Millennium:
Which reminds us: Got a call from Bruce Raffel (see the bottom of this notebook) about an hour ago.
"We just got in," he said. "I can't believe it."
Seems he and his son finally found a kind soul willing to sell him two tickets, about 10 rows up in the end zone.
For $600 apiece. Face value, by the way, is $325.
Such is the excess of the Super Bowl, a game for the high rollers as well as the more grounded among us.
Kickoff is about a half-hour away.
Now these guys are really fans5:25 p.m.
OUTSIDE PRO PLAYER STADIUM, MIAMI -- Now these guys are fans.
Not football fans, maybe, but fans nonetheless.
Three long-haired, black t-shirt-wearing guys from Germany traveled -- what, three, four, five thousand miles? -- to Super Bowl XXXIII for one reason.
"Keess," says one in broken English. "Beeg fans."
Kiss, one of the legendary bands of the heavy-metal ilk, is one of the pregame acts here at an event that features Cher singing the National Anthem and Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan at halftime.
These guys, though, want nothing to do with those other acts.
Stefan Dieckmann, Oliver Straup and Thomas Auerbeck have traveled from Hamburg solely to see their tongue-wagging, leather-wearing, paint-faced idols.
There is one problem, though.
"No teeckets," says Dieckmann.
The green, green grass of Pro Player Stadium4:57 p.m.
PRO PLAYER STADIUM, MIAMI -- This may be the greenest field you'll ever see.
The Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons play tonight in Super Bowl XXXIII, with millions on television and more than 74,000 here at Pro Player Stadium (formerly Joe Robbie) watching. So the NFL wants to make sure it has its best face on.
Which means, evidently, lots of makeup.
Golfer Greg Norman provided the sod -- officially, it's called GN1 -- from his Florida sod farm. Turf specialist George Toma has nursed it into its best natural state.
And now, gallons and gallons of paint have been used to liven up the grass at PPS.
Actually, walking on the field has been forbidden for most of the week, as the painted end zones and touched-up grass dries. Now, though, players are starting to filter out onto the field for pregame warmups.
It's hard to tell whether the grass -- make that paint -- is still wet or not. We'll be able to tell soon enough, though.
The Broncos are wearing white.
Fans pumped up, ready to go as gates open4:24 p.m.
INSIDE THE GATES, PRO PLAYER STADIUM, MIAMI -- The gates have opened here at the site of Super Bowl XXXIII. Game time is now just a little less than three hours away.
The early arrivers are already plenty whacked-out.
Camera crews are cruising the stadium, trying to get the last pieces of pre-game color for their early telecasts. A group of Atlanta boosters, dressed in black in the humid, mid-afternoon Miami sun, does a spirited version of the "Dirty Bird."
These early birds were stuck in lines that went some 50 people deep before the gates were opened at 3 p.m. ET. While they were there, they were hawked to, beeped at, jostled and generally worked up.
And they were talked to -- a lot -- as if they couldn't have predicted that. FOX celebrities have taken over the public address system here, filling in fans about the stadium's no-smoking policy (a supporting actress on the FOX show "Ally McBeal" did thos e honors), warning them about what they can and can't bring in and otherwise trying to keep the crowd in order.
More than 74,000 people are expected at the game. Seems like that many may be here already.
Scalpers, sun and swap-meet atmosphere4:05 p.m.
OUTSIDE PRO PLAYER STADIUM, MIAMI -- It's still several hours before kickoff for Super Bowl XXXIII, but Bruce Raffel and his 12-year-old son, Brandon, are already beginning to get a little discouraged.
Raffel & Son flew down from Baltimore this week without any tickets, looking to score a couple for the big one between the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons.
But, so far, after a couple of hours of dealing with scalp-hunting scalpers, they've had no luck.
"We thought we'd get lucky," Bruce says. "But what people are asking for these ..."
The Raffels, both Ravens fans wearing Ravens T-shirts, are both carrying cardboard signs saying "We Need 2 Tickets." Just to get into the spirit of this particular game, though, Brandon's sign has "Go Falcons" written in one corner. His dad's says "Go Bro ncos."
"I thought it would be cool, especially for him," Bruce says of the trip. The two used frequent-flier miles to get to Miami and are staying with family, so Bruce says he's willing to spend $500 or $600 a ticket. One of the first things he wants to do -- i f he and his son get in -- is call his wife on his cell phone from inside the Super Bowl.
"Everyone says we're crazy," he says. "But to me, that's just more ammunition."
While talking with the Raffels, a man comes up with four tickets in the upper end zone. He wants $850 apiece.
Bruce passes on the offer.
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