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‘I Got into the Super Bowl Without a Ticket’

A true story from the greatest hero of our time

There’s nothing NFL fans wouldn’t do to go see their team play in the Super Bowl. To wit, 10 percent of millennial fans would give up their job, and 13 percent would sacrifice a hand. Further: 80 percent of Minnesota Vikings fans said they’d get a root canal if they could watch their team win the Super Bowl, while 54 percent of Jacksonville Jaguars fans said they’d sit on a hornet’s nest.

But alas, attending the Super Bowl is costly — the average Super Bowl ticket costs between $2,500 and $3,000 — and getting past Super Bowl security without a ticket is like trying to rob Fort Knox with a disco ball on your head. And yet, one legend managed to skirt the system: His name is Tom Tiernan, and he snuck into the Super Bowl. This is his story.

I’m from Chicago, so I went down to New Orleans for Super Bowl XX in January 1986, when the Bears played the Patriots. It had been hyped-up, because the Bears were the best team in the NFL, and they had the Super Bowl Shuffle.

I got down there a few days ahead of time. I hit all the bars and hung out. I didn’t have a ticket, but I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on.

The night before the game, I was hanging out with some friends. They had two extra tickets, but they were kind of high up. The price back then was sort of cheap — I think the face value was $75. My friends offered me the tickets, but I said, “Y’know, I’ll try to get a better seat tomorrow.”

The next morning, I walked to the Superdome from the French Quarter with a buddy of mine. We figured we’d scalp some tickets, but I miscalculated: There were zero tickets available. I saw one guy put a ticket up in the area, and 50 or 100 people went running over to him. They all bid for it, and he ended up selling the ticket for $400 or $500.

At that point, I was screwed. It was right before gametime, and we had no way to get in. We were just standing there like fools. That’s when we saw a photographer come up with a bunch of bags that he was struggling with. And so, we asked him if he could get us into the game. He had a press pass, so he told security that we were going to help him carry his gear in and get set up. We paid him $200 a piece.

We split up as soon as we got his stuff to where he wanted it. We didn’t have seats for the first half, but the score was 23–3 Bears at halftime. And right after the second half, the Bears scored again and the Patriots fans started leaving, so I sat on the 40-yard line for the whole second half of the game.

Those were great seats.

— As told to Ian Lecklitner

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