As far back as I can remember I’ve never missed a Super Bowl. This year, I found out I’d be flying on Super Bowl Sunday. Which is just as “awesome” as it sounds. But there was no way I was going to miss the game, if I could help it. Here are ten highlights of my desperate attempt to watch the Super Bowl on an airplane.
1. Waiting at the gate
Seated on the floor, I’m stretching my legs before I have to strap into my airplane seat/torture device. As I watch the pre-game show, I’m mentally calculating how much of the Super Bowl I’ll actually get to see. But I remember: Virgin America offers DirectTV on their flights. (Perhaps, I won’t miss any of the game.) All initial signs are favorable. Waiting to board the plane, I watch the whole first quarter as it blows by in 23 minutes. The fastest in Super Bowl history. The downside: no one scores. Some passengers bond as they cheer and slap fives, which makes the airport feel kinda like a sports bar with no booze.
2. “WTF?! …They both scored? It was just 7-0!”
The game score is 7-0 with about four minutes left in the second quarter, when passengers line-up like cattle and head down the jetway to the plane. I choose to wait and be the last to board. (This turns out to be a mistake.) I figure how much can happen? Maybe one drive. In the time it takes me to get seated and turn on the screen in the headrest, the game is suddenly 14-14. Waiting in the jetway to board the plane, I just missed three scores?! Awesome!
3. Watching highlights like a crime scene
I try to figure out who exactly scored from the glimpses of highlights I see before the halftime show. A stranger turns to me, he missed the scores, too. We try to piece together what happened. I guess …Marshawn scored? …But then New England marched and …Gronk scored? And apparently, that Seattle WR who started the season working at a Foot Locker, he also scored. We’re like crypto-detectives comparing notes, as we try to find Bigfoot.
4. Wait …is Katy Perry riding the Lion King?
After my debacle missing three of the first four scores, the plane takes-off. I settle into my seat in time to enjoy Katy Perry’s halftime show. Yay. Because nothing feels like football quite like a pop star dressed in a fire dress, riding a giant metal lion.
5. I’d hate to see her cry!
I’m seated on the aisle. Looking down the center of the plane, you see: Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, on nearly every screen all the way to the cockpit. It’s strangely surreal, yet terribly modern at the same time. Everyone’s watching the same game on their own screen.
As we wait to taxi, our DirectTV service freezes. The endless parade of screens shows the same frozen shot: Katy Perry looks like a broken robot surrounded by upside-down dancers. A minute later, the screens freeze again. We all stare at what Katy Perry’s face must look like when she ugly cries.
6. Get a pedicure, get your hair did…
The undisputed highlight of the halftime show is … Missy Elliott! But right when she shows up on stage, the plane hits turbulence. The pilot interrupts the broadcast. Our screens flash “pardon the interruption.” The pilot announces there’s turbulence. (Thanks for the update.) We enjoy about ten seconds of Missy before Captain Obvious interrupts again to apologize for the bumpiness. (Not your fault, dude.) We get a little more Missy. But, now he wants to say that it shouldn’t last much longer. (Got it.) Another taste of Missy. But he interrupts again, to say he’s going to try to gain some elevation so we can get up above the… We get it, Captain! Seriously, no one cares about turbulence unless we fall out of the sky! We just want to hear Missy! Please shut the fuck up! (…is what I’m thinking.)
7. You know who really hates turbulence? Babies!
There are three (yes, three) babies aboard this plane. Which is all kinds of awesome. Most decent people feel bad for anyone flying with an infant. There’s little parents can do to keep a baby from crying (other than drug them, and that’s really frowned upon these days). Everyone knows babies cry. We know the parents feel guilty. Yet, this helps no one when a baby cries. As our plane jostles through the turbulence and freeze-frame Katy Perry closes out the halftime show, she’s backed by a horrible back-up trio of shrieking babies. In the plane there’s an awkward angry silence of dozens of people praying for the babies to fall silent. I make a mental note, “I think we’ve reached Peak Awesome.” (I’m wrong.)
8. Sexy Super Bowl ads just aren’t as sexy on a plane next to a stranger
The middle-aged Asian woman, next to me, is not watching the game, but she does keep watching the Katy Perry halftime show on my screen. Which is surprising, since, throughout the game, she’s seemed morally offended by the sexy Super Bowl ads. She shook her head at the briefly naked Mindy Kaling. When Kate Upton strides through the smoke-choked chaos of battle wearing a metal bustier in order to promote her breasts and the role-playing game Game of War, my seat-mate shakes her head like a bobble-head doll in a hurricane.
9. What’s the difference between an airplane and an over-priced Manhattan bar?
About 36,000 feet.
Most everyone likes to enjoy snacks as they watch the game. Some of us like to enjoy a beer or cocktail. On a plane, a bag of chips and two beers will run you 30 dollars. This pretty much kills the festive atmosphere of the Super Bowl. There are a few of us who are drinking. But it’s no party. On the other hand, it does keep the plane from smelling like beer burps and cheese farts. (Always look for that bright side, right?)
10. Why is everyone screaming and cussing?
At the end of the game, the Seahawks have the ball down at the New England four-yard line, thanks to a football miracle. But rather than hand the ball off to their stud, Marshawn Lynch, to punch it in, Pete Carroll opts to spit in the face of the football gods. The Seahawks throw the ball. The pass is intercepted! A wave of emotion grips the plane like an electric shock.
People wearing headphones and ear buds forget how loud they sound. The silence of the plane suddenly shatters as people all cuss at the exact same moment: “Fuck noo!!!“ "Holy shit!” and “What the fuck!!”
Of course, other fans are stoked for New England. One dude sounds like he’s suffering a spontaneous orgasm as he screams, “Oh my gawd! Fuck yeah!” It’s a strange mix. But my favorite is the wine drunk woman two rows back who yells, “That’s right. Fuck you, Pete Carroll!” Very personal. It’s a beautiful spectrum of the human experience expressed in foul language.
On the downside, the screaming adults wake up the babies, who, return to shrieking as the game ends. Which seems fitting. One by one, screens go dark. Losing fans don’t want to watch the trophy ceremony. But it still plays on at least half the screens. Some fans choose their eyelids over the sight of a smiling Tom Brady.
We’re somewhere over Iowa. With hours to go. And there’s a long line for the bathroom.
There’s nothing quite like watching the Super Bowl on an airplane. I’d highly recommend it … to your enemies.