Share this article

print logo

Eric F. Torsell: Super Bowl experience on a shoestring budget

This time every year, I think back to Super Bowl XXV and seeing the game in person. My trip to the game began after a Monday night game in November 1990, which the Bills lost to Houston. However, they still had won nine of 11 games. This prompted my good friend, Dave, to say to me: “You and I are going to the Super Bowl.”

So, with an extreme sense of optimism, I purchased two tickets to Tampa from Eastern Airlines. The airline was in bankruptcy proceedings, but the tickets were guaranteed a full refund if the airline ceased to operate.

Next, I had to arrange for lodging. I called my mother-in-law, who lived in Winter Haven, about 45 minutes from Tampa. She said she would put us up at her house.

Then the waiting began. The Bills did their part by winning four of their next five games, and their division. They whipped the Dolphins 44-34 in the first playoff game, and met the LA Raiders for the AFC Championship. The Bills won 51-3, in one of the greatest games in franchise history.

At that point, all that remained – or so I thought – was to get our hands on two tickets to the game. Unfortunately, nine days prior to the big game, Eastern Airlines shut down, and I couldn’t find another flight from Buffalo. I called Dave and told him we weren’t going because I couldn’t find replacements for the tickets.

However, he was determined to go. After all, he had predicted in November that the Bills would be in the Super Bowl. He found two tickets to Daytona Beach at a slightly higher price and we were back in business.

Next came the most difficult part – obtaining the game tickets. Although we were season ticket holders, we did not get picked in the Bills lottery. However, I had a friend, John, who worked in Ohio for the DeBartolo Company. Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was the owner of the San Francisco 49ers. John said he could probably get me two tickets because the owners always had a bunch of tickets, especially if they were one of the teams in the Super Bowl.

Disaster struck when the favored 49ers lost to the Giants in the NFC Championship. John called and said, “Eddie’s in his office with the door closed and he’s not talking to anyone because he’s so miserable about the loss.”

Fortunately, John went to his boss, and he gave him the tickets we needed. John sent them overnight, and the tickets arrived with two days to spare.

That Saturday, Dave and I flew to Daytona, rented a car, drove to Winter Haven and took my mother-in-law out to dinner. On Sunday, we went to the game, where we first encountered heightened security because Operation Desert Storm had just started.

The national anthem, as sung by Whitney Houston, was the most patriotic I have ever experienced. Of course, we only enjoyed the first 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the game. We were seated in the NFC section and were about the only ones not cheering. At least we got a souvenir seat cushion out of it. But we’re no longer allowed to bring it to a Bills game.

The amazing thing was the cost to me of being at a Super Bowl game. The ticket was its face value of $150; the airfare was $290; the rental car was $20; and lodging was the price of one dinner. When I returned home, I sold my ticket stub for $75. My net cost for a lifetime experience was $385.