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IT ALL COMES DOWN TO WHAT YOU MEAN by at.¶ Yes, I was at Super Bowl XXXV, between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens in Tampa. If you were a Giants fan, you had to be there. Because you had sat four decades earlier, listening to the chipped black Bake-lite radio your dad lugged onto the dining room table, as Johnny Unitas drilled a hole through your nine-year-old heart that has yet to heal. As a writer for Sport magazine I'd covered Super Bowls, even helped award Terry Bradshaw his MVP prize, sponsored by the magazine, following XIII in Miami (Steelers over Dallas in a great game, 35-31). But this was different—this was revenge against a team from Baltimore.
So when the offer came in—a friend of a friend scored two tickets to the Super Bowl from a neighbor near his summer house—you vowed to witness revenge against a team from Baltimore, not over the radio but in the flesh.
We met in Tampa midweek before the game: Me, my friend Doug (not his real name; his real name is Dave) and Kirk (definitely not his real name), the genius who'd scored the tickets. Kirk was at a point in his personal development when an educational visit to the Greek sponge-fishing town of Tarpon Springs held greater allure than peeling off Benjies at a lap-dance club and wreaking pharmacological havoc on his body—so we spent little time with him. Doug and I were left to cope with our addled selves during what was not only pre—Super Bowl mania but also Gasparilla, Tampa's own annual Mardi Gras. In other words, two separate but equally powerful commotions capable of blowing common sense to hell.
And wherever we were, there was Dex. The Scalper. Slender, bent forward, even when walking, like a runner leaning for the tape, and stalking his terrain with no less determination in his eyes than Ray Lewis. "Tickets...Super Bowl tickets," Dex hissed from the forest of foam fingers, from the clattering beer glasses.
The nine-year-old Giants fan in me hated what his adult counterpart did the night before the Super Bowl. At some point the quest for healing a lifelong ache in a kid's heart was betrayed by a grownup's need for a fat slice of his daughter's tuition. Which Dex handed over in return for our tickets before vanishing into the crowd. Doug and I informed Kirk that we wouldn't be going to the game with him after all. Kirk erupted. "D'you know where I got those tickets?" he bellowed. "Paul Tagliabue. He's my neighbor in the country!" Uh-oh.
"You better find that scalper and get those tickets back," Kirk said. "I can't have just anybody walking in and sitting next to the commissioner at the Super Bowl!"
Doug and I were caucusing by the hotel bar when we spotted Dex trolling the mezzanine on his hourly sweep. We pursued him with what remained of our bankrolls and sobriety. "Tickets...Super Bowl tickets" Dex rasped when we reached him. He didn't seem to recognize us.
"Remember, you bought two tickets from us downstairs in the men's room before?" I asked. "We need those tickets back."
"Oh. Yeah. Don't have 'em," Dex said with a shrug. "Got lotsa others, though. End zone... 40-yard-line...."
"We need the two we sold you."