MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota native Nick Bauman purchased Super Bowl LII tickets shortly before the Jan. 14 "Minnesota Miracle" touchdown reception lifted the Vikings past the New Orleans Saints and into the NFC championship game.
The euphoria was short lived, however, as the Philadelphia Eagles' convincing victory over the Vikings two weeks ago hit Bauman like a gut punch. Only one thought crossed his mind.
"Sell 'em," Bauman said.
But after a few days of healing, and knowing he already purchased a flight home from California and had a free place to stay, Bauman and his wife, Nena, a big fan of halftime entertainer Justin Timberlake, stayed the course and were in attendance Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium for their first Super Bowl, decked out in purple. They couldn't have been disappointed as the Eagles held on for a thrilling 41-33 victory in one of the highest-scoring Super Bowl games of all time.
"It's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so come and just enjoy it," Nena Bauman said.
The coldest Super Bowl in NFL history, with the game-time temperature at 3 degrees above zero and falling, was roasty and toasty inside for the Eagles' matchup with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Eagles fans, hungry for a first Super Bowl title and perhaps picking up a few stragglers from the anybody-but-the-Patriots camp in the crowd of 67,612, were decidedly louder. U.S. Bank Stadium catered to it, playing bits from the Philly-themed Rocky movie series (the stadium crew alternated themes, next playing a Patriots bit).
A lot of Minnesotans were cheering for the Patriots after the mistreatment of Vikings fans in Philadelphia two weeks ago, but clearly, based on jerseys seen around the stadium, most Vikings fans unloaded their tickets, with prices fetching more than $5,000 each.
Not the Baumans, who paid $3,400 per ticket, which came to about $4,000 each after fees through Ticketmaster (the actual ticket price was $1,250). If the Vikings would have made it, Nick Bauman figured, it would have been 10 grand a ticket. Even so, some tickets were going for more than $6,000.
"It was an OK risk," Bauman said.
Bauman said the Eagles fans he met around town tended to be more affluent, older and more mature than those who made the news two weeks ago.
"I was going to say Patriots 100 percent, but the Eagles fans who are in town have been classy, and they've kind of won me over a little bit," Bauman said.
Football is America's game, but Sunday's game was expected to reach a television audience of more than 100 million. It was reflected in the people you saw milling about.
Scott Hollick wore an Anthony Barr Vikings jersey, even though he's a Buffalo Bills fan, while his two friends wore Patriots jerseys; first-timers, all.
"It's very different than any game I've been to," said Hollick. "A bucket-list item."
The frigid temperatures didn't bother Hollick. He's from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They attended the pregame tailgate party at Target Field, and perhaps with a little antifreeze in the veins, didn't flinch.
"The weather is fine," Hollick said with a laugh. "Pretty similar to what we're used to. The entire event has been great."
On another floor of the stadium, two Patriots fans made the rounds with an Eagles fan. Impossible, right?
Chris Margin, the Eagles fan, and his buddies, Jack and Hunter Silk, hail from Melbourne, Australia, where the current high temperatures are in the 80s.
What's the only thing better than Super Bowl tickets? Free Super Bowl tickets.
Margin's father, who works for Super Bowl sponsor Pepsi, scored freebies to the big game six months ago.
That's not to say it was entirely free.
Outside, parking was as high as $160 when it's normally $30 or $40. Inside, it was $30 for pop, $18 for a walking taco and $35 for a J-Tea — a concoction of whiskey and tea named in honor of Timberlake.
While half of U.S. Bank Stadium was basically closed off, taken over by event and security personnel, the main entrance had a party going on. The likes of Darius Rucker and Sting performed in a nearby building.
Hunter Silk said Minnesota Nice was as advertised, helping warm an otherwise frigid but fun week in Minnesota.
"It's cold, but it makes the whole experience," Silk said. "It wouldn't be the same without it. We're happy to say we're at the coldest Super Bowl ever."