Caution...this is very long. I'll post some pictures soon.
So. Gameday. Holly, Bryan, Ashley and I, along with Cap’s son Benjamin, drove to the University of Tampa, where the volunteers were parking and loading the busses, around 11 a.m., making our usual Starbucks stop along the way. There were people there who had organized everything and set everything up, so all we had to do was put up our couple of little signs and wait for our people to show up. There was a long walk from the parking lot to check-in and about halfway through people started telling us that the parking lot was full and they were parking Wal-Mart and worried about getting towed. As sorry as we were to hear that, there was nothing we could do about it. The people in charge of parking did make some calls—to Wal-Mart for example, and made sure the cars would be OK.
After check-in the vols all gathered in a large gym. In addition to our 450 stage crew there were 2,000 field cast, so it was pretty chaotic. One of the folks in charge of the cast made the announcement that they were not allowed to bring their cameras or cell phones with them and that they had time to take them back to their cars. Unfortunately, some of our stage crew thought that that also applied to them, so they walked back to their cars and were not back by the time were loaded our busses. Actually, we only left three people behind, and they caught the next wave of cast busses, but it made some of our vols a little frantic.
We rode over to the stadium, where they held us on the busses for about 15 min before letting us off, because the magnetometers were too busy to let us through. When they finally let us get off, we made our way through the craziness outside the stadium about 30 min before the game started. We took the vols to gate S2, which is where we’d been instructed to go. Holly was at the front, I was at the rear, with Ashley somewhere in the middle. We wound our way back and forth through the line—like at an amusement park, or airport security. Holly got through with some of the people at the front of the line, but somewhere in the middle they started turning people away, saying we were going through the incorrect gate and that we had to go down to S3. Total confusion.
So we went down to the other gate and had to wind our way back and forth through the long line again. Our one volunteer with a cane was having a hard time so I got the people to let her cut through on a straighter path. Finally we all made it to our compound. After such a long time on the busses and the long lines at security, everyone had to go the bathroom, which delayed our gathering in the halftime tent and Cap was antsy to get going, since we were starting to run late at that point.
He gave his riverboat speech, which includes John Hartford, but I didn’t get to hear the end of it because the three volunteers that missed our busses came on the cast busses and I got sent back outside to retrieve them. So I ran back out to where the busses unloaded only to find that they weren’t out there. So I had to assume they found their way to the tent on their own, and I just came back in, though the mags again. By that time the vols had moved to their carts, which were already lined up in the two tunnels. I rushed around failing to find my headphones for my walkie and decided to head down to the stadium anyway. Holly called me on my way down there to say that she had them, so it was all good.
Then there was just the waiting. We stood with the carts—some of them were inside the tunnel, some were outside, for the first half of the game. There was a lot of nervous energy. Apparently a stranger decked out in Steeler gear tried to sneak on the field by pretending to be one of our volunteers. He got kicked out as soon as he was discovered.
I was at the end of the line in one of the tunnels, so I didn’t hear the countdown or the word go, but suddenly I could see we were going. We ran onto the field and the volunteers were so excited they kind of slammed the carts together, so it was hard putting the stage together. (I hear this from the guys on the crew, since I don’t have anything to do with actually assembling the stage.) But we got it all done in the fastest time yet and were ready when they went live on the air.
The show was killer, as all of you who watched it probably know. The bit with the referee at the end was a little cheesy, but Bruce rocked. The vols were over the moon, especially a couple guys who were down front and got a lot of airtime.
We got off the field in plenty of time with no major hitches. After we brought the stages back to the compound, we herded the volunteers back to the busses. The most interesting thing about walking back to the busses while the game was still going was seeing how many people were standing outside the stadium watching what they could see of the game. You could see the jumbotron from the parking lot, so lots of people just hung out there.
When we got back to the gym at University of Tampa, the vols got their souvenir halftime show baseball caps, and another boxed lunch. I was SO hungry, but the sandwich in the lunch was so soggy and gross I couldn't even eat it. I did eat the chips and cookie, which tided me over. We saw the last 7 min or so of the 4th quarter, and an amazing end of game it was. Right about the time it ended, Cap came with the DVD of the halftime show setup, and the show itself. We showed that to the folks who had stuck around and when it was over they cleared out pretty quickly, which we were glad of, because all of us were dead tired.
We headed back to the lame but close hotel bar for beer and food, unwound a little bit, talked over the show, and headed to bed. Today has been a rainy packing up and loading out day. We ate one final lunch at Mom’s Place, the diner near the stadium. We’ll all miss that place. We’ll have our group supper tonight and then most of us fly home tomorrow. Back to our regular lives, all hoping that we get to do it again next year in Miami.