Visitors to Tampa enjoy nightlife as game nears
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Robert Nelson was in a hurry to begin his Super Bowl partying, and nothing was going to slow him down - not even the huge suitcase he dragged behind him.
"I changed clothes in the bathroom at the airport," said the 27-year-old football fan from Chicago, apparently not wanting to waste valuable time by first checking into his hotel. "We're seriously going to rip it up."
As the clock wound down to the kickoff of Super Bowl XXXV, the parties across Tampa were cranking up, with the 100,000 fans and players celebrating into the wee hours.
The Super Bowl is serious business to some, super silliness for others.
Football-catching dogs tore through a downtown park Friday with Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn and Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware in tow. At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin named Sunset Sam was picking the Super Bowl champion at a local aquarium by deciding which team ball he'd rather toss to his trainer.
As Copperfield went through his appropriately dramatic process of writing the name and the score of the winning team and sealing it in a box, a voice shot from the back of the crowd:
"Hey, that's Mayor Dick Greco in the blue suit. I need to talk to him. I got a parking ticket last week!"
In normally celebrity-starved Tampa, catching a glimpse of a famous face is a citywide sport.
Miss America, Angela Perez Baraquio, joined officials from the NFL and local businesses as they unveiled a $3 million donation to build two new youth centers in Tampa's toughest neighborhoods.
Not to be upstaged are the stars of the NFL.
At one party, players spent the evening playing video games while people crowded around them. At the NFL Players party on Thursday, Sehorn squared off against Qadry Ismail of the Baltimore Ravens in a quick game of NFL Gameday 2001 on a stage.
Ismail triumphed 14-12, which might be an omen for Sunday's game. In the event's previous six years, the team that won the video game went on to win the Super Bowl.
The party also rolled on at Tampa's now notorious strip clubs, which have become essentially out of bounds for players after a strict warning from the NFL. The city has been cracking down on establishments that violate a no-lap dance ordinance.
A 24-year-old dancer with the stage name "Rose" traveled from Las Vegas to work the Super Bowl week in hopes of cashing in, but was making just a paltry $500 a night performing the banned lap dances.
"Normally, we'd have twice as many people in here on any other Thursday of the year," said Joe Redner, the owner of several clubs in Tampa. "With the Super Bowl, I'm doing better than I would ordinarily, but I'm not doing what I had expected."