By Pershelle Rohrer
February 23, 2020
Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.
At this time three weeks ago, I was in a car coming home from a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For eight days I had been in Miami, Florida with seven other Bowling Green State University students volunteering at the Super Bowl. This is an opportunity that I applied for through the university’s Sport Management Alliance. I spent much of the semester following the NFL and waiting to see which teams would make the trip to Miami to play in the big game in February. After an exciting playoff race, the battle for the Lombardi Trophy came down to the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. While in Miami, I interacted with both fan bases in the week leading up to the game as well as NFL fans from all over the world.
Just hours after our arrival in Florida the Monday before the Super Bowl, we attended Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins. The event was covered heavily by the media, as it was televised on NFL Network. Both teams were introduced on the floor, and interviews with stars like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Richard Sherman followed. We were each given a radio earpiece upon our arrival that allowed us to listen to different players while we walked around the concourse participating in different activities. We took individual and group pictures and met Miami Dolphins players Christian Wilkins and Charles Harris. Harris liked the Dirk Nowitzki shirt I was wearing, saying, “He’s my guy.”
Throughout the week I didn’t go a day without seeing a Kobe Bryant jersey somewhere. Bryant was involved in a helicopter accident the day before our arrival, and moments of silence were held on the plane as we landed in Miami and at Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park. Many players in the interviews were asked what Bryant meant to them or about his legacy. The media was able to unite the sports world by crossing football with basketball and covering two major events at the same time, and it was fascinating to watch up close. American Airlines Arena and a couple other buildings in Miami were lit up in purple and yellow that night as sports fans mourned the loss of an NBA legend.
On Tuesday, we went to Bayfront Park to work at Super Bowl LIVE, an outdoor fan experience in the heart of Miami. This event was covered on the Super Bowl Host Committee’s Instagram account in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, and it featured various places for photo opportunities, food tents, live music, a large football field, and carnival games for kids. While this event was the main thing covered by the host committee on social media, I did not see as many individuals from the media making their way around the park. The majority of coverage I saw was at the Super Bowl Experience in the Miami Beach Convention Center.
We were at the convention center Wednesday through Saturday, working multiple volunteer shifts on three of those days. The Super Bowl Experience was an indoor fan fest that featured football activities like field goal kicking, Hail Mary, and NFL combine events. It also included photo opportunities with the Lombardi Trophy, a Super Bowl ring display, autograph signings from NFL players, and other displays showcasing the NFL’s history that spans one hundred years.
The Super Bowl Experience is where I truly saw the media at work. One of my classmates ran the obstacle course with a Los Angeles television reporter, who recommended a Cuban restaurant that ended up being a highlight of our week. Media covering the Chiefs took footage of their cheerleaders and mascot trying out the course. I spent most of my time working at the Hail Mary station where fans threw footballs into nets at various distances, and we had several reporters participate for television coverage. The media ensured that the event received exposure nationwide, creating the potential for more fans to attend in future years. Fans were enthusiastic and enjoyed participating in the games and meeting current and former players like Lamar Jackson, Dan Marino, and Rob Gronkowski. While not everyone was able to attend the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl Experience permitted anyone in the Miami area to get involved in the celebrations leading up to the big game.
Super Bowl Sunday was a hectic, exciting experience. We worked On the Fifty VIP party for some of the highest paying guests in the stadium. Six BGSU students worked inside the party and two of us participated in wayfinding and ushering in fans. From my post outside of the party, I saw Bruce Matthews and several other members of the NFL 100 All-Time team, Venus Williams, and Urban Meyer. Joe Theismann and Dan Marino were a couple of familiar names inside the party. As game time approached, we switched into our new role of finding fans in the suites who purchased post-game field access. We directed them where to go and what credential they would need. After having a break for halftime and part of the third quarter, we made our way back to the concourse outside the suites to try to catch any straggling fans with post-game field credentials. While I was there, I saw Larry Fitzgerald, without any security personnel in sight, meeting with fans, and a World War II veteran celebrating his one hundredth birthday. Photographers were taking his picture and thanking him for his service, celebrating his milestone. Other media personnel followed celebrities that I couldn’t pick out as they made their way in and out of the suites.
With five minutes left in the game, I made my way into the stairwell to take my post for directing fans to the field. While there, I listened to the Chiefs’ comeback on the radio. Knowing what was coming, I prepared myself for the hundreds of excited members of “Chiefs Kingdom” as they sprinted down the stairs toward the field, screaming and cheering as they went. After our job was over, we took in the postgame scene from the stands. The sight of confetti on the ground, some of which I took home with me, and the Kansas City Chiefs colors lighting up the stadium was incredible to see, especially since I have watched the Super Bowl from my living room every year since I can remember.
Participating in the Super Bowl LIV experience is something I will never forget, and the interactions with enthusiastic toddlers to 100-year-old war veterans, fans, and celebrities helped me truly understand the influence that sports have on people from all walks of life. I would like to thank Bowling Green State University and SMA for granting me the opportunity to participate in the Super Bowl festivities. I am thankful for the chance I was given to represent BGSU, and I look forward to doing so as I continue to further my career in sports.