Finally the day has come for us to rehearse INSIDE Sun Life stadium, enough of the cold bumpy field. Plus I think they had enough faith in us -- finally.
Day 4, Friday night, started the same way that day 1 through 3 did. Although the volunteer crowd seems to be getting thinner. I think many people came to the first couple of rehearsal days and bailed on the rest -- and of course it was a Friday night. Who knows. The way that it is structured is kind of loose. I guess when you get unpaid people to help with an event that is making billions (and costing billions) of dollars you aren't too picky.
At check in on day 4 we were "wristbanded" so we could enter the stadium. Once inside the fenced field where we have been the last 3 rehearsals, we again went to get our "box lunch" and took a seat on the bleachers. One indication that we are really getting closer to game day is that our "box lunch" was different -- and better -- than the past 3 rehearsals. They actually had roast beef sandwiches left by the time I got there, which tonight was actually on time. But instead of just a bag of chips and 1 cookie, these boxes had a two-pack of Oreo cookies, chips, an apple and a fruit cup. Not sure what's up with all of the fruit and the beefed (no pun intended) up boxes but we all just assumed that they want us to work harder this time!
We started much more quickly and had no "old guy stories" from our fearless leader Cap. Whew! We were saved! Marcus, or one of the other top dogs told us all to walk over to the stadium at about 6:40 or so -- again we were early since the past 3 rehearsals didn't get going until 7 or 7:15. I almost missed what we were doing since they only had a bullhorn and not a mic and speaker system. I was hanging out drinking more Gatorade and talking to my crew-mate who knows my next door neighbor (in my previous blog I think I mention how small a world it really is!).
We walked over to the stadium and right inside the dock and hallway that we were planning to bring the carts through on game day. Now being on the turf -- and tarp since they had to protect the grass -- inside the stadium was really a trip. Just looking up and seeing the 75,0000+ seats, the lights, screens, etc. was a little overwhelming. We were taken to a lower part of the stands to all sit in seats. Now I know where the mic and speakers were -- inside the stadium ready for us.
Once all of us (there probably was only about 300 max) sat down Cap come on the talk. Again, no old guy story (amazing!) but he did introduce us to the grounds keeper who was 81 and has been the grounds keeper for all 43 Super Bowls, and now 44 -- that's a lot of grass to take care of. Apparently the grass is grown in North Carolina but this year with the cold weather it was shipped down to us much earlier where it froze down here - not good. I am sure that this fellow had many a sleepless night worrying about his beloved grass for the Super Bowl (and Pro Bowl I assume). The area where the tarp did not cover was amazing. The grass was perfect - not a dent or yellow blade in the entire thing. Cap did mention that he has seen him on his hands and knees plucking out dead blades of grass! Now that's perfection!
We had a little talk from him, which I kind of zoned out on: I can't tell you what he said. I was a bit pre-occupied just taking in the stadium with all the set-up people doing "things" and also I was just so focused on this 81 year old's stature. He was about the shortest man I have ever seen -- he really, seriously looked like an aging jockey. Not that I have ever met a jockey in person. When I say he was short I mean he was really short, probably 4'8" or something. Well, I knew I should have paid more attention since it was kind of cool meeting and hearing from this legend -- even though he is a grounds keeper.
Once Cap told us a few things about logistic (again I'll have to kill you if I tell you details) he said that they shuffled us in to "gawk" at the stadium before we were guiding our carts. Being distracted while being responsible for 2,000 pounds of very expensive equipment -- not to mention the safely issues -- is not good. We gawked and talked and touched the grass -- it was all good. Again, not that I remember anything of what was told to us by the organizers.
We then went to our cart leader on the field and walked with them back through the tunnel and out the loading doors to our cart. We are kind of bonding with our cart at this point and we all seemed happy to see it. The young guy that was supposed to bring the lobster mascot didn't come through so we are mascot-less. I also was thinking of bringing down something my son has in his multitude of "little guy" things but he and I forgot to select something when I ran out the door (always running late and worried about traffic).
Once we found our cart we discussed any more changes they had made during the day. We ended up seeing more tape, more equipment and some more handles thankfully. No joking when I say that these things are really sharp, cold, bulky and just plain dangerous. Of course we signed our life away on the 5-page waiver form we had to complete at the beginning.
We also found out (the previous night) that we all get a long sleeved t-shirt, that is unique to our group, to wear onto the field on game day. This is kind of cool since we are all hoping -- and talking about -- these shirts will really be a great way to remember our experience.
Once we got to the cart and waited for the cars ahead of us we pushed off and walked -- calmly -- through the tunnel, which has a jog in it, and out past the goal post onto the field. By now we know our spot and can just head off to it quickly. When we get past the goal post they tell us to pick it up and get to our spot as quick as possible. Now running with a 2,000 lb. cart is not small trick. I am positioned near a kind of sharp bar that is shoulder height. And it's really a shoulder knocker. Thankfully a union roadie (not our roadie leader Steve) overheard me talking about my shoulder and he taped off the metal part that is banging into me. Nice, they are really all just plain nice guys (and like one girl).
Another really nice guy is our electrician from Iowa. He is from Cedar Rapids and sorry to anyone who is from/has lived there -- the one time I had to travel there for work was horrible. It was winter, freezing cold and snowy, I had to fly in a tiny plane to get there (bumpy!) and the hotel was really bad (the nicest hotel in town). Not to mention the John Deere dealership next to the hotel being the largest thing in town. Anyway, this electrician is really nice and always takes time to chat about random stuff. Apparently he has 3,000 acres in Cedar Rapids and grows crops - a really nice quiet life. Not that I would like it.
We had a heck of a time with the "whale tail" with our first run through. These things are not good. Not good at all. They are just too wide and it is just too hard to get them to all fit while rushing to get our carts in position. I just had to say something, and of course did to Cap, our fearless leader. Now he's just about the crustiest guy I have ever met -- well, showbiz crusty -- and a little intimidating. Not that I am easily intimidated. He happened to be walking near me so I told him that I had an idea. On day 2 he mocked someone who raised their hand with an idea. He basically said that unless it's earth shattering to not mention it -- that "we have done this for 10 years, blah, blah, blah". OK, now I am also experienced in my occupation, as I am sure you all are in yours (yes, I have been doing marketing work for 25 years) but I would never mock anyone who has an idea. You just never know, someone may look at something so different than you do -- and have a great outside perspective. You may learn something from them: I never discount any ideas, they all lead somewhere and may lead your mind to something great and new. His comment made me lose immediate respect for him I am sorry to say.
When I stopped Cap to tell him my idea he did say, very demeaning, "should I get a pencil and paper?" Geesh, this crusty old guy is really full of himself, really. Then he said "what's your big idea?" -- again mocking me. I just looked him in the eye and said "no, it's just a little idea..." and then I told him what it was. Really, not earth shattering but an idea that must be considered at this point in my mind. OK, maybe working on events for 25+ years has provided me with some insight. Funny, but he seemed to light up some and really like the idea -- again, I thought it was just a little idea. He ended up asking my name (not that he cared about any of us before) and called over someone -- not sure who Steve was but I think it was all good. Cap then said that when we return for rehearsal 5 that "I may get lucky" and my idea will have been put into place. Of course Steve had to explain that there were computer issues to my idea and that they need to figure all of those out. Well, I tried.
The second run through was much better. The whale tails were not on top of each other and we did it much faster. Thankfully we were all excused early again - yeah.
The spot that we go to on the field during the show kind of stinks -- although I do think I am were the band will be entering the stage. No elevator or dropping in from above going on here. They just will be walking out of the field and up the steps -- and may be my set of steps (remember that our cart is against the walkway). I just hope that Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend turn around some so us in the back/side of the stage get to see the show.
Once we did the second run through we had to "blowout" our carts and place the wheels on wood "pads" to protect the field. We didn't end up seeing it lit up as we had hoped, I am sure that they will test it out a number of times before we see it - darn. Our roadie union cart leader said that he was scheduled to work until 3 am this morning - yikes. Although I am sure that he was getting paid by the hour and didn't mind. I like Steve, he's a really great guy.
We left, really kind of in a let-down mode. Not sure why. I think the newness of it all had totally worn off, plus we are getting a little bored and tired. I just can't believe one of my cart mates drives from and back to Tampa (210 miles he said) for each rehearsal. I thought driving 36 miles each way was tough!
Thankfully I have a break and am not due back until Tuesday of next week...let's just hope we remember our mascot, get to see it all lit up and that they have completed my idea so we don't all chop off our fingers on show day. Do you think we'll get that luck?