Minneapolis got smaller and smaller as the plane got higher and higher last Friday morning. It was still dark out when we left at 5:55 a.m. I watched the skyline shrink from my window seat as I overcame the initial apprehension that I had once we finally took off. The worst part was sitting in my seat waiting for the plane to get up to speed knowing that I had crossed the point of no return. Once we got in the air it was okay and I was able to calmly sit back and check out the view. Then the plane started shaking around a little bit and I looked over at a woman who was fast asleep and thought to myself How can you people be so calm when we're all about to die in a fiery crash?! But C assured me that it was just normal turbulence so I sat back and admired the view, realizing that my God was just as sovereign up here as he is down there. We arrived in Houston about two and a half hours later, grabbed some breakfast, and then got on our next plane and arrived in Jacksonville at about 12:30.
As we got off the plane we were greeted by signs all over the place saying I NEED TICKETS. People were walking by asking anybody if they had any tickets to sell. We met up with Mr. and Mrs. R at the baggage claim and Mr. R hooked us up with a nice rental car. Then we headed over to the LaQuinta hotel about ten miles south of downtown got settled into our rooms. The only other time I have been to Florida was when I went to Orlando last year so I kind of expected Jacksonville to be the same thing. There are some similarities, like palm trees which I do not often see, but it's definitely different. Orlando is kind of like a woman who has had time to do her hair and get all made up, while Jacksonville is kind of like the same beautiful woman who has just gotten out of bed and is in her bathrobe smoking a cigarrette.
We headed on over to the Jacksonville Equestrian club that night for the Commissioner's party, which, I am told is like THEE party to get into the Friday night before the Super Bowl. They only give out 3,500 invitations and Mr. R had gotten a couple for us (#3,158 and 3,159). I had on some spiffy threads and was looking pretty sharp as we walked in. I couldn't help feeling like Leonardo Dicaprio in Titanic surrounded by all these big shots and being a nobody while no one was any the wiser. There was lots of old rich guys with their young trophy wives half their age. I kept scanning the faces for celebrities. I spotted Lynn Swann, who was getting jiggy with it out on the dance floor, Magic Johnson, and Sal Palentonio from ESPN. I kept hearing that Troy Aikman was there but I never saw him. We grabbed some food and found a table next to one of the stages where a girl who somebody said was on American Idol was singing but I didn't recognize her. I found out real fast that I don't like sushi and resolved to be more careful next time I went through the buffet line. The most interesting thing was the "living fountain" which was a woman painted up to look like a statue that had water shooting out of her head.
We decided to go downtown on Saturday and check out the festivities which was a mistake because the streets were absolutely packed and we both hate crowds. We walked around for a bit and then caught a shuttle back to our car. We stopped by a souvenier shop and spent about $100 each on random souveniers. Then we found a nice little Italian restaurant back by the hotel and had a nice quiet dinner.
SUPER BOWL SUNDAY
I woke up at about 5:30 for some reason on Super Bowl Sunday. I drove up and down the street and considered checking out one of the many churches while I waited for everyone else to wake up but decided against it. I headed over to the Waffle House for breakfast at about 8:00 and then spent the rest of the morning sitting by the pool with my Bible. C finally came out of her room at about 11:00 and we decided to head down to the stadium at about noon.
Mr. R had hooked us up with a free parking pass right across from the stadium and it's a good thing because as we were driving through the city we saw signs in people's front yards that said PARKING $50. We met up with Mrs. R at the building where Mr. R's company had set up their headquarters for the game. We took a few pictures of each other with the stadium in the background and then walked around the streets for a little bit. Suddenly a limo came cruising by surrounded by cops on motorcycles with sirens blaring which must have been either carrying George Bush Sr. or Bill Clinton.
The tickets we had were going for about $8,000 on the street. Mr. R had warned us about pickpockets and scam artists who will do anything to get their hands on your tickets. I kept mine securely around my neck in a protective case inside my shirt, up against my skin where I could feel it at all times. It's a weird feeling carrying around an $8,000 piece of cardboard that will become worthless in a few hours. At about 2:30 we headed over to the stadium with our tickets still safely around our necks.
The security we had to go through was even more elaborate than the airport security as we got patted down, took off our shoes, and walked through the metal detectors. I cringed a little bit as the gate people ripped the stub of our tickets to render them worthless as we walked into the stadium. We found our seats, which were awesome, about 25 rows up in the lower deck in the Patriots end zone about two sections away from where the Fox crew had their studio set up. Soon after we sat down Paul McCartney, George Bush Sr., and Bill Clinton all made their way to the studio to chat with Terry, Howie, Jimmy, and J.B. so I was able to get a picture of all of them.
THE SOVEREIGN HAND
The weather was a bit chillier than we were expecting so C decided to go buy a sweatshirt to wear under her jacket. She asked me to come with but I decided to remain in my seat--a decision that I would later regret.
A couple of hours passed and C had still not returned to her seat. I was getting pissed as I thought she may have just been spending too much time in the bathroom or chatting idly with her mom or something. I was getting ready to chew her out for taking so long. I tried calling her cell phone a couple times to yell at her but got no answer. So I just sat back and waited as Gretchen Wilson and the Black Eyed Peas began to perform. The sun was setting now and the temperature had dropped to about 55 as I zipped up my jacket to block the swirling wind. Kickoff was approaching and still no sign of C. Then, as Alicia Keys began to perform America the Beautiful I spotted her walking back up the steps with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her bag, along with everything that she had brought to the game had been stolen while she was in the bathroom. Her jacket was gone, her sweatshirt was gone, and her excitement over seeing her first Super Bowl was gone. I gave her my jacket and held her tight as she sobbed uncontrollably through the national anthem. As the flashbulbs went off all over the stadium signifying what must have been the opening kickoff, I just sat there and held her as she held her face in her hands and cried. I tried to watch the opening drive by the Eagles as I shivered in my T-shirt with one hand on C's shoulder and one on my binoculars. The Eagles went three-and-out and punted as C decided she had had enough and just wanted to go back to the hotel. I offered to drive her back but she said she didn't want to ruin the game for me too. I looked up at the game clock which read just over 12:00 to go in the first quarter and then I walked her back to the gate as the Patriots were beginning their opening drive. I offered to drive her back again but she insisted that she go alone. I gave her the keys to the rental car and stood there and watched her go through the metal detectors as the BEEP BEEP BEEP signaled her passing the point of no return. Then when she was out of sight I began to head back to my seat.
Suddenly, as I was beginning to walk back it hit me what I had just done. I had sent a beautiful, distraught young girl out into the street in a strange city all alone at a time when she desperately needed someone with her. I knew that she had trouble finding the car in that huge parking lot, not to mention the trouble she would have finding her way back to the hotel since I had done all of the driving up to this point. I stood there for a minute to think. Inside the stadium was the fulfillment of all my earthly dreams. I had longed to see a Super Bowl in person ever since I was six and now I was actually here. Outside the stadium was a distraught girl who needed me now more than ever. I was well aware that God had ordained this turn of events from before the foundation of the earth so I couldn't just gregboyd my way around it and go back to my seat and hope that God uses this situation for good. I thought about the mission statement of my blog, Jonathan Edwards' 57th resolution. I didn't have time to call up my Christian friends and ask for advice or go through a Bible and try to find some verses to support my decision. I had to make a decision right then and there, possibly the toughest decision of my life. Should I go enjoy the game and hope that God protects her or should I turn and run after her and trust that God has not willed the Super Bowl for my ultimate fulfillment????
Well, I'm tired of typing so I'll tell you tomorrow.