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Event Spotlight:
Super Bowl Eludes the Birds In a Dream Season

Wednesday, February 5, 2005

By Mike Costantino
SJSports Staff Writer

This season with the Eagles was a special one and an enjoyable ride, from sweeping our division opponents to exacting revenge on the Panthers, to finally winning the NFC Championship game. I was fortunate enough to make the trip to Jacksonville to see the Birds in the Super Bowl and outside of winning the game it was a memorable trip.

With the task of obtaining tickets in my boss’s hands, my first order of business was lodging for our group. As many fans can tell you, unless you booked over six months ago, finding available rooms was impossible. Most of the hotels booked by the NFL, required a 50% deposit by December 1st. With this knowledge, I started calling on December 1st and found some rooms in St. Augustine, about 30 miles from the stadium, but at least it would accommodate our group in the same hotel. Next was finding airfare. Jacksonville has only 2 terminals, and the memory of trying to get out Houston after last year’s Super Bowl was still fresh with typical overbooking, delays and standbys. I decided to fly into Orlando. Despite the two-hour drive to St. Augustine, it was definitely the way to go.

This was my second Super Bowl. Last year I was awed by the camaraderie of the New England fans and the celebrities. Although Philadelphia fans absolutely outnumbered New England fans, they are still a class act, just like the Pats.

But for me, the most memorable celebrity I met was little Timmy Kelly, the dynamic young man who sings the national anthem for the Birds and has become the unofficial good luck charm for the Eagles. Blind since birth and with a life rife with medical problems, Timmy is a ray of sunshine. He is charming, intelligent and as if his natural talents weren’t enough, he attends his local neighborhood public school as a mainstreamed student. Timmy is great kid.

WPVI channel 6 gave the Kellys a pair of tickets so that Timmy could attend the game. Accommodations and airfare were donated and Timmy and his parents were on their way to Jacksonville. So our Friday began with the hotel’s continental breakfast and that’s where I first met Timmy personally as he was hanging out with his dad. I introduced myself and told him how much we Eagle fans appreciate his talent. We took some pictures then and crossed paths with Timmy and his parents throughout the weekend, since we were all booked at the same hotel.

After breakfast we ventured into Jacksonville. The ride was only about 35 minutes, and we headed right for Eagleville. Looking back there must have been thousands of fans that came without tickets, because all weekend, no matter where you went, we Eagles fans out-numbered the Patriot fans, by at least 8-1. Walking around Jacksonville landing, along the waterfront, which is where everything was happening, all you saw was a sea of green. The problem was it was so crowded it was difficult to move around.

Our pre-game time on Saturday was booked during the day with waterfront partying with Eagles fans and in the evening with an invitation to Hugh Hefner’s Invitation Only Playboy Party. Here there were many celebrities and more beautiful guests than I could count and all were as generous with the photo ops as they were gorgeous. The invitation stated that the dress attire was “Lingerie and Swimsuit”, neither which I had, so I wore my Dawkins jersey with a sport coat. It worked.

This party ran into the wee hours of the morning. To try and describe the hundreds of women that were in attendance would not do them justice, however we were able to take a few pictures, very tasteful and classy, hopefully they will get approval from the editor and you can see them at the end of this article. After arriving back at our hotel after 3:00 AM, I think it’s safe to say we all slept restfully.

We all slept late on Sunday and by the time I came down to breakfast, I had missed another amazing feat my boss had done. Let me digress for a minute, one thing that was constant in our hotel all weekend was a ticket broker who had set-up his laptop in the lobby and was busy buying and selling tickets to the game. By Sunday the price to just get in the gate was at $4,000. It seems that Mr. Kelly was scrambling to get a ticket for Mrs. Kelly to the game and was not having any luck. And at the last minute one of our guys that was coming in on Saturday night, cancelled at the last minute, so there was an extra ticket. After overhearing the phone conversation of Mr. Kelly, without hesitation he offered the ticket to Mrs. Kelly. Needless to say the family was overwhelmed and couldn’t thank him enough. I’d like to think that most of us would have done the same thing, pass up at least $4,000 without hesitation, but I am not quite sure.

After we ate a hearty breakfast we took off for the stadium at 12:30, wanting to soak in as much of the atmosphere as possible. We stopped along the way and had some beverages with fans from the Northeast (Philly) and a few from Havertown, neither had tickets. Once we arrived in the stadium we split up, as our seats were not all together. Fortunately 8 of us were sitting 12 rows from the field at the 50 yard line, surrounded by a mixture of Eagles and Patriots fans, among them former Eagle Bill Romanowski, looking very slender.

The game was great until the last five minutes, but not taking advantage of our opportunities in the first half is where the game was lost. Once McNabb threw his third and final interception and Brady knelt down on the last play, in unison we grabbed our stuff and exited the stadium in silence. Mistakenly we tried to find a place to eat and surprisingly on a Super Bowl night at 11:00 most places were closing. We decided to call it an evening and headed back to our hotel and pack our bags, as we needed to be on the road by 8:00 AM. Sitting on the plane, feeling empty and miserable, I tried to think back over the year that we had and take some comfort in the fact that we had finally made it back to the Super Bowl and that we were one of only two teams left playing on the last day of competitive football, but the hurt was still fresh. After we landed back in Philly and were saying our goodbyes, I thanked my boss for the time of my life and some unforgettable memories, he starts thanking me for taking care of the arrangements.

Final thoughts: Can we get Paul McCartney to do the halftime show every year? His performance was awesome and I can brag that I performed Hey Jude with Paul and about 78,000 other people. Should the Birds make it back next year, will many fans make the trek to Detroit?

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