Attending Big Events in the Valley of the Sun: the Super Bowl Circus and PGA Meets Spring Break

Moving up Diana’s surgery had a number of other effects besides her getting it over with sooner. After we arrived in Phoenix at the beginning of February, it occurred to me that we would be in town for the Super Bowl and all of the hoopla. In addition, I discovered a huge golf tournament at TPC Scottsdale within walking distance of our apartment. Luckily me!!

Super Sideshows

In addition to the main event, Super Bowl Week features concerts, parties, and other events. There were quite a number of distraction options before the game. I was interested in going to the Super Bowl Experience, an event held in the convention center featuring displays, history, games, and autograph signings. When I was getting ready to go, I learned the event was mobbed with fans, and the lines to do or see anything were long. I couldn’t justify the $40 ticket to experience long lines. I can do that for free at the DMV.

Instead, I went to see the Dave Matthews Band at Footprint Center, where the Phoenix Suns play. Although I am a fan of his music, the experience didn’t live up to my expectations.  The acoustics of the arena were quite poor and the food/drink prices at the concession were off-putting. I think my days of arena music may be over.

Another curious sideshow was the ESPN Main Street Tailgate in Old Town Scottsdale. ESPN set up an outdoor TV stage on the main drag in Old Town. The temporary pedestrian street was filled with backyard-style games, food, and diversions. Several On Air segments were shown throughout the day. I got to see a basketball-focused segment with Jalen Rose and Steven A. Smith. One of the other broadcasters shuffled slowly to his seat on the set, wheeling some kind of oxygen assistance with him. When the cameras turned on, though, he was fairly high energy. More of an illusion, I guess.

Ticketmaster Blues

[soapbox on] Allow me to “vent, share” some recent frustration dealing with Ticketmaster. Many of you will probably have heard the recent news about or personally experienced large “convenience” fees charged by Ticketmaster for events around the country. I wound up purchasing my Dave Matthews seat on the night of the show. Even though I was buying my ticket at the venue, I still had to pay a 25% Ticketmaster “convenience” fee because, I believe, they hold exclusive rights for ticketing there. Moreover, their involvement made the interaction less convenient…

These days, Ticketmaster can force customers to use tickets with the Ticketmaster app on a smartphone. You cannot even have your ticket printed and scanned. If you don’t have a smartphone, you’re SOL. If your phone runs out of juice while you wait in line to get in, you’re SOL. As happened to me, if you use a less common cell data provider, the app can decide you are sketchy and prevent you from accessing your tickets on your phone. That was why I had to purchase my seat at the venue and yet I still had to pay a “convenience” fee. Even there, I needed to find a workaround for my unusual data provider because the venue couldn’t provide me with a physical ticket I could scan.

Technical Issues with Ticketmaster

This technical challenge extends beyond just my data sim. While traveling abroad, I’ve tried to buy tickets in the US. Apparently, the Ticketmaster US website isn’t available in some countries. So, I put up my VPN to “be” in the US for the purchase, which I often do anyway simply to keep my login and personal info safe. Ticketmaster, however, denies me access. It seems the website “sees” a lot of traffic coming from one IP address, i.e. the VPN access point, and decides this is sketchy and shuts everything down.

As such, while abroad, I’m unable to purchase or manage any US tickets on Ticketmaster. Even using a VPN while I’m in the US triggers this response, another reason I had to try buying my ticket at the venue, where I effectively encountered the same problem. Between these technical and fiscal challenges, I’m sure hoping someone on Capitol Hill can stop posturing long enough to look into fixing this monopoly. [soapbox off]

The Phoenix Open

The Super Bowl wasn’t the only game in town that week. As luck would have it, across town and walking distance from our apartment, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, aka the WMPO or “The Greatest Show On Turf” was also going on. Being so close, it was hard to miss the temporary parking lots and traffic routing in place all week. It took a little effort to figure out how to drive Diana to her PT appointments. Their office was within the traffic control area.

I ended up attending the tourney twice. Once on Free Tuesday and again on Sunday, aka Super Bowl Sunday. On both days, I walked a short distance from our flat and hopped on a free shuttle bus. Safeway had a deal where if you bought enough of certain items, you could get discount general admission tickets, $25. When I asked about it at Safeway, a clerk simply handed me a slip with a QR code, no purchase necessary, and I was off.

Golf’s Version Of Spring Break

WMPO is like no other golf tournament I’ve been to. It seemed like a cross between Happy Gilmore and Spring Break. We noticed grandstands while driving around the course prior to the tournament, lots of them. The most attended day was Saturday, with over 200k spectators getting to and from and generally drinking and milling about all around the course.

Most of the grandstands require a special ticket to enter. The par three 16th hole is legendary on the PGA tour. Over time, it has evolved into the biggest party spot. Grandstands are set up on three sides of the green, forming a U around the hole. Whenever a great shot happens, e.g. a birdie or a sweet save, the crowd erupts, showering each other with $16 beers or whatever else is in their cups. I went by the 16th on Tuesday, a practice day. Things were fairly docile then. People even buy souvenir swag for just the 16th hole.

As it happens, many of the grandstands are not just for seating. There are numerous clubs all around the course you can buy into for food and drinks. As I entered the tournament on both days I went, one of the spectators leaving early handed me their club wristband. I wound up getting sloshed watching players tee off on the 18th hole. Happily, I was a short shuttle and stumble back to my apartment. On Sunday, I arrived just in time to see the kickoff for the Super Bowl. Not a bad day.

My Friend, Joe

As it happens, I have a friend (Joe) in the sports marketing business. For years, I’ve seen him post on Facebook while at the Super Bowl, the World Series, and some Grand Prix events. It took me quite a while to realize he wasn’t just spending his kids’ inheritance, but rather, this was business for him.

I didn’t realize until close to the event that we would be in town. As a result, he was too busy making money at some other Super Bowl event. His schedule did provide a glimpse into that world. Friday he was busy hosting an event for clients, followed by the NFL Commissioner Party and then to “some Drake show”. Saturday involved two brunches and the Gronk Beach Party. Diana wanted to go see Gronk, but her immobility and the $450pp price made it difficult to justify. Sunday, of course, was the big game. I’m sure Joe was looking forward to drying out and resting the following week. I respect that. It’s a hard life, but someone has to live it.

I Need A Break

Coming on the heels of Diana’s knee surgery, this first full week in Scottsdale had me running around a lot. It was a challenge to balance having these experiences I would probably never be near again with having to ensure Diana’s post-op needs were being taken care of. Happily, the weather was great all week, making for a much better time for all.

Still, as I imagined for Joe, I was happy to slow things down the following weeks and settle into a more sustainable rhythm. There is way more to do in the area during winter than I realized, so we have to be selective in what we choose to do to keep from burning out. This is meant to be a time of recuperation for future exploits, after all.

What famous sports events have you enjoyed attending?

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