MINNEAPOLIS — After a week of hype and pre-game festivities, the game itself finally became the focus of the Super Bowl. There were long runs, deep passes, missed tackles, a pinball interception, missed kicks, a touchdown reception by a quarterback.
And there were big swings in emotion among the partisan East Coast crowds filling a Midwestern stadium. There were thousands of Patriots fans, even more Eagles fans and more than a few Vikings fans.
"I'm getting tired watching this," said Mike Drummer of Mankato midway through the second half. "This is historic offensive numbers. Amazing plays on every series. This will come down to a turnover."
Drummer, a die-hard fan of the Vikings, made a last-minute decision to buy a ticket and watch the game as a fan of football and was rewarded.
"Every play is now a highlight," he said midway through the second half. "This is unreal."
The game was just up the road from Mankato and turned out to be one of the greatest Super Bowls of them all.
"For sure," Drummer said. "That was an amazing game."
Not surfeit, but in the minority
Even after seven previous trips to the Super Bowl, five of them wins, and championships in baseball, basketball and hockey, Bostonians can still get wound up for another one.
"I know how fortunate I am to be in the city of Boston because we've won a lot of championships in my time," said Brian Wnukowski, 38. "... I have to say, it never gets old, man. The feeling never gets old."
But Wnukowski, attending his first Super Bowl after watching the previous Patriots appearances on TV, understands that Eagles fans probably needed it more. And they wanted to be in U.S. Bank Stadium more.
"I feel a little outnumbered today," he said. "It feels like an Eagles home game."
Among the Eagles fans were Stan and Anita Grieco, season ticket holders from South Jersey who decided to take a February vacation to the northern tundra. The price was steep, but their 50th anniversary is coming up, so they made the trip their mutual anniversary gift.
Sharing their seats was "The Little Man," the Santa-like doll — with a green felt hat bedecked with the Eagles logo — Stan got for Christmas from their daughter.
The Little Man has attended Eagles home games ever since, the results have been positive, and the Griecos were hopeful they could get the good-luck charm through tight security Sunday. They did.
Still, they've seen disappointing endings to every Eagles season since 1960. So when they were asked if they were nervous, anxious or excited, Stan responded: "Yes to all of the above."
Eagles fans, by the end, were simply champions. A pair of them, though, might have voted for co-MVPs, having quarterback Nick Foles share it with The Little Man.
The Packers fan blew it
A Vikings fan, a Cowboys fan and Packers fan were playing cards in Iowa in 2014. Suddenly, the Vikings fan said: "We're going to the Super Bowl." The Packers fan said: "You're crazy." The Cowboys fan said: "OK. I'll go."
It's not the start of a joke. It's how Kathy Hobbs and Al Nash of Rudd, Iowa, ended up in Minneapolis this week and in U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Hobbs is the Vikings fan, and her husband is the cheesehead. Nash, the Cowboys fan, is friends with the couple and was on hand when Hobbes decided she needed to take advantage of the news that football's biggest game was going to be held just one state to the north.
"My husband wouldn't go," she said, but he encouraged Nash to accompany her and he was game for the game.
Four years later they could hardly be more thrilled, despite ticket costs that topped $5,000 each.
"It was on my bucket-list, and I said I'll never live long enough for my Vikings to be there," Hobbs said.
By the time Hobbes got to the stadium, she said she was "overwhelmed with excitement."
"I'm having a blast," he said.
Mankato West High School alum Kevin Krahmer, a member of the University of Minnesota Marching Band, wasn't taking any chances about messing up his opportunity to perform in a Super Bowl halftime show. The band members who accompanied Justin Timberlake in the always-hyped, always-heavily-watched mid-game extravaganza had to sign confidentiality agreements.
"Huh, that's an interesting rumor," Krahmer texted in response to a Free Press reporter's request for an interview last week. The reporter persisted, but Krahmer remained opaque.
"I would love to talk sometime next week, might be pretty busy until then," he wrote.
And people associated with the Mankato Children's Chorus might have been paying extra attention to pre-game performance of "America the Beautiful." Larry Kuyper of Mankato almost certainly did.
Jonah Wills, a former member of the Mankato Children's Chorus and Kuyper's grandson, was part of a choir picked to perform with vocalist Leslie Odom, Jr. on the pre-National Anthem song broadcast live by NBC.
"He is thrilled with the opportunity to sing at the Super Bowl, even though he wishes the Vikings would be there too,” said his mother, Christie.