The Super Bowl Week Orgy, Through The Eyes Of An NFL Player

Every player in the NFL can buy two Super Bowl tickets at face value, if he so chooses. All he has to do is contact his club's ticket guy and arrange for the pickup. Some teams require rookies and second-year players to pick up the tickets at a location in the host city. Presumably, this policy is intended to deter the young bucks from buying their tickets in advance and flipping them for a profit. All it really does is give them a reason to go to Dallas and party their balls off.

The number of players who will go to the game as spectators is something like zero. So what will they do with their tickets? Give them to a friend, family member, sell them at face value, donate them to charity? Maybe. But they also might test the open market, where the markup is 300-500 percent, depending on the teams playing and the state of the economy. And if you choose that route, although it's technically illegal, it isn't hard to find takers. The Super Bowl is crawling with ticket brokers who are buying up as many tickets as they can, hoarding them, driving up the market, and hoping the bubble doesn't burst.

Fat wads of cash are changing hands in hotel lobbies and parking lots all around the Dallas-Fort Worth area this week. A nod, a handshake, a cursory conversation, a new wad of cash concealed. The amount of money circulating right now in Dallas is obscene. Pennsylvanians and Wisconsinites are paying up to $2,500 a piece for nosebleeds.

Meanwhile, the rich and famous who go there to party won't spend a dime. The dichotomy is fucked. The people with money to spend get everything on the house. Everyone else pays a markup. And of course the parties cater to the former group. Unlike most nights out on the town, the Super Bowl parties are all about getting in to the event. That's it. You get in and you win. Every party is open bar, free food, beautiful women, and weird men. But it's the getting-in part that proves to be difficult.

Playboy, Maxim, ESPN. Those are the big-ticket parties, and outside there is always a buffet line of gorgeous women who will never have any problem getting in. But behind these women are hundreds of men who won't be so lucky, because for power-hungry bouncers and promoters, this is their Super Bowl, too. Buoyed by their sense of importance, they find arbitrary reasons to deny or delay the entrance of partygoers. Even if your name is on the list or you have a ticket in your fucking hand, there are no guarantees. I watched Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers get turned away from an NFLPA party in Houston because the place was apparently filled to capacity at 9 p.m. 50 Cent was on stage inside. The dudes in fur coats were stuck outside, listening to the bass.

I showed up to the Playboy party in San Diego in 2003 without a ticket, assured by my friend that I would have no trouble finding one. This was my indoctrination into the world of Super Bowl parties. It was a clusterfuck. A few people were selling their tickets to the event for $1,500. I wasn't going to pay a dime to get into this place. That goes against the spirit of the event. It was a cat-and-mouse game. There had to be a way in. After a few failed attempts at weaseling past the door man in a group of people just granted entrance, I decided to try my luck at the will-call table. I knew I wasn't on the list, but maybe the girl at the desk would like me and give me a ticket. Yeah, right. But it was all I could come up with. I strolled up to the table and tried to flirt. She was stoic, unmoved. No chance. I'd have to take a cab back to the hotel, alone, and spend the rest of the night wondering what life was like on the inside. She asked me my last name. I guess it couldn't hurt.

"Jackson," I said.

Her finger ran down the list of the J's, and stopped halfway down the page.

"Tom?"

Well, why not?

"Yep, that's me!" And she handed over my ticket. The adolescent in me rejoiced. I was in. Sorry, Tom.

But once you're in, it quickly becomes apparent what you're dealing with: a lot of fancy-looking people looking around at each other, waiting for something to happen that never does. Dudes in shiny t-shirts and hair plugs and oversized veneers are everywhere, lurking, smirking. The handful of Playmates required to be there are dressed identically, in uniform, and move in packs. They giggle too much and they stay mobile, presumably to avoid the veneers. If they stay in one place too long, the creepers congregate on the outskirts of their conversations, pretending not to pay attention, but ready to pounce.

These parties are 1 percent Playmate, 20 percent wannabe Playmate, 10 percent wanna-not-be Playmate, 29 percent athlete/actor/musician/agent/manager/publicist/financial adviser, and 40 percent creeper. The creepers and the wannabe Playmates are the most eager to make an impression, exaggerating their laughs and their sex appeal, all darting looks and long bites of the lip. No one knows who anyone is, but if they're at the party, they must be someone, right? That guy over there in the fedora — I think that's LeBron's agent. But he's not an agent. He's a friend of the corporate accounts manager for the tarp company that set up the smoking section at the party. But no one needs to know that. Inside these doors, everyone is LeBron's agent. This is how the myth of the Super Bowl party is perpetuated. The guy in the fedora goes back to work on Monday and tells tales of glamor and glitz, Playmates and champagne. Of course it was amazing! It was off the hook, bro! I got hammered with LeBron. Sure you did, bro.

Hype is the spirit of the weekend. You can have fun if you understand this. But if you expect anything novel, you'll be disappointed. When Sunday rolls around, the partygoers will skip town, tired of laughing at unfunny jokes. They'll be gone before the game even starts. The game. Oh, yes, that's what this whole thing was about.

The Super Bowl Week Orgy, Through The Eyes Of An NFL Player

Nate Jackson played tight end for the Denver Broncos from 2003 to 2008. His writing has also appeared in Slate and The New York Times.


Art by Jim Cooke.