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Mob scene

Ticketless hordes outside stadium before game

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Posted: Sunday January 28, 2001 6:43 PM
Updated: Sunday January 28, 2001 8:45 PM

  B2 Stealth Bomber A B2 stealth bomber flies over Raymond James Stadium during the pre-game festivities. AP

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A few hours before kickoff, Norman Burns was scouring parties and parking lots outside Raymond James Stadium.

Holding a sign to show his plight, he was among the hundreds of fans looking for tickets to Sunday's Super Bowl. And like most, he wasn't having much luck.

"I'm scared," said Burns, from Detroit. "I'm afraid I won't be able to find a ticket and I'm scared that if I do, I might get arrested trying to buy it. They're definitely doing a lot of arresting here."

Fighting traffic and crowds, and finding tickets and parking seemed to be the toughest parts of the Super Bowl. Finding fun wasn't. With the excitement of the championship game, neither sky-high ticket prices nor traffic jams hindered the celebration before the New York Giants took on the Baltimore Ravens.

"It doesn't get any better -- or bigger -- than this," Burns said.

Unfortunately for people like Burns, the Super Bowl isn't really for the average fan anymore.

The NFL hands out more tickets to corporations and the teams than anyone else. Face value for tickets ranges from $325 to $400.

Parking also was expensive, and hard to find. Spots close to the stadium were going for as much as $100.

Smoke from tailgate barbecues grew with the crowd, which included thousands who didn't have tickets for the game but wanted to be in the center of America's unofficial football holiday.

They included Tom Januska of San Diego, who planned to use $500 he borrowed from his infant son's college fund to buy a ticket to his 12th Super Bowl game.

Januska, a Redskins fan, said scalpers were charging about $2,800 for seats at the top of the stadium, but he was willing to search all day for a better seat or a better deal. The cheapest ticket Burns could find was $1,200.

"These are people who are out to burn anybody they can," Januska said. "What I'm looking for is some businessmen who have an extra ticket they are looking to get rid of. It's beer and food money for them and they're usually good seats."

Dick Keyes had given up on trying to find tickets.

He rented a big tent, several folding chairs and had two 35-inch televisions set up for the game. Keyes, a Buccaneers season-ticket holder from nearby Indian Rocks Beach, also had plenty of food and drinks for his 50 or so guests.

"It's about just being here, having fun and enjoying the atmosphere of the biggest football game you could imagine," Keyes said. "If the Bucs had been here, I would have been here partying since Friday, maybe sooner."

Giants fan Charles McGuire and his college friend were tailgating and going to the game. They bought two tickets from a broker for $2,862.

Just across the street from the stadium, restaurant owner Diane Caputo and her 18 relatives and their friends were putting on a feast to rival the fanciest sky box spread inside. On the menu: bacon-wrapped filet mignon, pasta, antipasto and Maine lobsters.

A few hundred feet away, nine community college students from Fort Myers never dreamed of getting into the game. Instead, they had moved their living room into a dirt lot.

In a rented panel truck with a generator, they set up a satellite dish and a 58-inch television they watched from a worn leather couch.

"This is the next best thing to having a ticket," said Clint Gaither.

Related information
Super Bowl Day at a Glance: Come on, already
SI's Peter King: Giants, Ravens media opposites's From the Newsstand: Jan. 28 edition
SI's Peter King: The Five Things I Think I Think
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