7:38. I hop out of the cab and am directed by the driver to walk “that way.” This is the same driver who just finished telling me that Ybor City, where he’s just dropped me off, is a bad part of town because “all the gangs come in from Saint Pete.” It’s also raining. After walking several blocks with no luck, I ask a bouncer where the Honey Pot Nightclub is. “You know that’s a gay bar, right?” Clearly, we’re off to an auspicious start.
7:51. I make it to the gay bar, which apparently is a straight bar tonight for the Madden Bowl. I order a Newcastle (open bar!) and set-up shop in a spot where my awkwardness will be the least palpable. Seriously, going to a nightclub for a Super Bowl party by yourself is uncomfortable. Beers will help ease this.
8:29. Yep, everyone is still just standing around, waiting for the grand honor of watching athletes play a video game on stage while Trey Wingo provides play-by-play overtop of pulsating club bangers. I’m starting to wonder why I’m here. But the crab cakes are good and the beer is still free. I’ll stick around.
9:16. Oh hey, there’s Jaws! Right there next to me, enjoying a Bud Light. (Really, Jaws? It’s an open bar and you pick a light domestic?) I let him know that he’s the best NFL analyst ESPN has. I realize this isn’t saying much, but he seems to appreciate the compliment. He tells me the key to his success is actually studying the NFL Films footage, something some of the ESPN guys aren’t willing to do. Imagine that.
9:27. Trey Wingo takes the stage with his DJ Noname sidekick. These two are the Abbott and Costello of suck. Wingo lets us know that someone outside told him not to use the same, tired jokes he’s used the last three years. He then proceeds to use the same, tired jokes I heard last year in Scottsdale. “You know this is a video game ‘cause Sam Hurd just scored!” ZING!
9:35. I’m remembering why I hated the Madden Bowl last year. Aside from Wingo -- and the music -- the players are sitting on couches with their backs to the crowd. You have a great view of the video games being played though!
9:42. Edge introduces his son to the good life at an early age:
9:50. Trey Wingo really isn’t going to ever shut up, is he?
9:53. Goodness, Giants have impressive time pieces. This is Justin Tuck’s:
10:01. Matthew Stafford really needs to do something with that hair before draft day:
10:12. Man, the waitresses are awfully modest:
10:17. Alright, I can’t take anymore Wingo. There is a third floor where media is allowed for reasons I still don’t understand. I’m headed there.
10:22. Ah, this is much better. You can actually interact with athletes up here and there’s no Wingo or blaring music. The open bar and crab cakes remain, however. Perfect. I will not be going back downstairs, which also means I’ll never find out who actually won the Madden Bowl. Nor do I care.
10:38. Santana Moss and his friends post up right next to me. I have my second fanboy moment of the week. (The first coming when John Riggins walked onto the same elevator as me in my hotel.) I let him know I’m a big Skins fan and ask if I can take a photo. He obliges despite being terrified of me.
I’m not sure if that’s the shocker or “21”. I’m hoping it’s the latter.
10:42. Santana Man settles into a game of Madden against one of his buddies. Drew Rosenhaus lets him know that this isn’t in his contract.
10:50. Is it racist for me to say white guys cannot pull off the sunglasses indoors look? I hope not, because, man, white guys really cannot pull off sunglasses indoors. Also, that’s Evander Holyfield:
10:58. Dwyane Bowe shows how it’s done:
11:05. The other half of this third level is VIP only. This is where the players go once they’ve made their way through the media half of the floor. Despite not having the proper wrist band to gain access to the VIP half, I BS my way in by saying I’m just going to talk to Michael Silver. That man has serious clout for a writer.
11:22. I introduce myself to Scott Van Pelt, who is apparently somewhat familiar with my bloggish ways. This leads to a 20-minute conversation about blogs vs. the mainstream media, what sucks about ESPN, which sites give sports blogging a bad image, and who Maryland is going to hire if they fire Gary Williams. As you’d likely expect, Van Pelt is a funny, down-to-earth guy, who remains one of the few bright spots at the Worldwide Leader.* We exchange numbers. He says he wants me to be on his radio show. He’ll soon find that I’m far less interesting to speak to when I haven’t been enjoying an open bar for four hours. *I'm not saying that just to get on his radio show.
11:48. Chad Johnson’s glasses, for the win (that’s Ray Lewis’ formidable back):
12:22. Donovan McNabb thinks you are hilarious:
12:48. I can’t believe I’ve been here this long. It’s pouring out at this point, but it’s really time to go. As I’m leaving, T.O. is entering ... with an entourage of no less than 12 extremely attractive women following closely behind him. I would’ve snapped a photo, but I was too busy applauding.
I venture into the rain, wait under some cover for about a half-hour until I finally find a cab. Thankfully, I don’t get mugged.
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.