It proved to be an eventful few days for former Waringstown man Neil Anderson when he travelled to New Jersey to watch his beloved Denver Broncos play in the Super Bowl XLVIII against Seattle Seahawks.
Not only were Neil’s team on the receiving end of a heavy defeat, but his travel to and from America was far from smooth. His flights were delayed both ways and his luggage was lost both on the outward trip and the homebound journey.
Given the travel problems and lack of internet availablity only now has Neil been able to talk to the paper about his incident-packed trip.
He told the ‘MAIL’: “I first discovered American Football when I accidentally stumbled across a replay of Super Bowl XXII on RTE in 1988.
“The Denver Broncos lost that game 42-10 to the Washington Redskins. I’ve been a Broncos fan ever since - I have a plaque saying ‘Die Hard Fan’ on the wall of my apartment in Wellington, New Zealand.
“The first NFL game I attended was in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 2007. I visited Silicon Valley with work, and got to see the 49ers play the New Orleans Saints.
“It was on that trip that I met my then-colleague, Ty. We instantly hit it off and have remained in touch ever since. Ty has since moved to Seattle and is a Seahawks season ticket holder.
“As both of our teams were early favourites to make this year’s Super Bowl, we said that we’d have to go if that happened. When it did become a reality, we followed through with our plan.
“Ty was able to buy a block of seats for his Seattle friends, including his wife who is due to give birth in March, some friends and myself.
“I organised my own flights and accommodation and travelled out to New York on my own.
“I left Wellington on January 30 and flew back on the Monday after the game, getting back to New Zealand on February 6 after some delays.
“I caught up with Ty on Saturday, and it wasn’t until Super Bowl Sunday that I got my hands on the ticket. It was like opening a winning bar of Wonka’s chocolate!
“Going to a Super Bowl is something not many Americans, let alone other nationalities, get to experience. The atmosphere was incredible with more than 80,000 other fans present.
“Our seats were perfect with a great view of the game. The weather was a lot warmer than forecast.
“This was the first ever cold weather outdoor Super Bowl, so we were all prepared for temperatures as low as -20C, which made the above zero temperatures seem tropical.
“The halftime show was great, with Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers performing.
“One of the highlights was the LED hats provided that were wirelessly synced up to light up in time to the music. It was surreal to be at an event watched around the world by over 111 million people.
“My family at home tuned in for a bit, and some of my friends in Wellington took the afternoon off to watch it live - it was a truly global event.”
Of the game itself he said: “Super Bowl XLVIII was billed as a classic match-up, with the league’s best offence in the form of the Denver Broncos, taking on the leagues best defence in the form of the Seattle Seahawks.
“As a Broncos fan, I was confident that coming off the back of a record-breaking year where the offence scored more points than any other team in history, that we’d at least be able to hold our own against Seattle’s fearsome ‘Legion of Boom’ defense.
“That did not work out as planned. Right from the first play, things didn’t go Denver’s way and they lost 43-8. It wasn’t even close, and Denver were never in it - only managing to even score once late in the game.”
While obviously deflated at the loss, Neil said he enjoyed his first Super Bowl. He commented: “I was gutted about the defeat, but that didn’t take away from the experience. It was truly amazing.
“Although I wish the Broncos had prevailed, it was also great to share the Seahawks win with my friends from Seattle. It was their first pro sports title since the Super Sonics in 1979, so they’ve waited a long time for it.
“It’s a bit ironic that the last game I saw finished in a similar fashion to the first game I watched, 27 years ago.
“As I walked through JFK and LAX airport wearing my Peyton Manning jersey, you could be forgiven for describing it as walk of shame in front of all the victorious Seattle fans. Not for me though. I’m a true fan, not a fairweather one and I’m proud of what my team achieved this year.”
To add insult to injury Neil didn’t have the smoothest of trips there and back.
He explained: “The trip didn’t all go according to plan. I arrived in New York after flight delays and without luggage.
“I was forced to buy clothes for my time there. The airline failed to deliver my case to me and in fact, I just got it back on February 8.
“Travelling back, wasn’t much better. I had a 23 hour delay in LA in which time the airline also lost the new luggage.
“I also got it back on February 8. At least after asking about 30 people, I finally was able to resolve things.
“It left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, given the expense of flight tickets from New Zealand. I will say one thing - I won’t be flying with Delta airlines again after what happened. There was a sticker on the side of the plane saying that Delta were on the Forbe’s list of the world’s greatest companies. By the time I was flying back, reading that was like a slap in the face.”
He concluded: “Will I go to the Super Bowl again?
“I’d love to. All up, the trip cost close to $10,000 though, so even if they do make it back next year, I think I’ll support them from the local American sports bar!”