INDIANAPOLIS – Super Bowl XLVI, played last Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium, attracted 68,658 spectators.
Many were out-of-towners supporting the competing teams. Others were dignitaries and football followers who wanted to attend America's top sporting event.
A handful of those in attendance were there through the generosity of Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay. Channeling his inner Eddie Money, Irsay wanted to accommodate some loyal followers with two complimentary tickets to football paradise.
Tim McWhirter is a native of Camby, Indiana, and he has been a Colts season ticket holder for all but one season since 1984. McWhirter was with the team at the outset of its Indianapolis era, and he has cheered loudly for the team ever since, attending games with his wife, children and friends.
McWhirter is a senior quality control specialist-equipment representative for Eli Lilly. He attended Manual High School and IUPUI. He and his wife attended Super Bowl XLVI, and it was his first Super Bowl experience.
What did you think when you were contacted and what can you say about the offer?
"I thought it was a great offer, and I actually thought someone was playing a joke on me. Winning the tickets was out of the ordinary for me. I had never won anything at all. That was my first impression when I had the message on the phone. I called back and it was my ticket representative, and I thought, 'Okay, this is true.' My first words were, 'Right on, I love the Colts.' "
Did you go to either of two Super Bowls (XLI or XLIV) when the Colts played?
"I did not get tickets to either of those. If I had been picked, I would have gone. This was my first Super Bowl ever."
How did you feel about seeing a Super Bowl being held in Indianapolis and in Lucas Oil Stadium?
"I felt very proud of the whole city and how we handled almost every situation. The volunteers were nice and considerate, and they handled themselves in a first-class way. I can't think of one thing that happened that I would have changed."
Did it seem like the same stadium to you, or was the experience different?
"It seemed like it was a totally different experience. From childhood to this stage of my life, even thinking I would be part of a Super Bowl ever was not in my thoughts. Being able to see it and do it here in my own backyard, so to speak, was quite the experience. It was a little surreal, 'Someone pinch me, I am actually at a Super Bowl.' Going to a Super Bowl was on my Bucket List. I have gotten to take a big item off that list by going to the Super Bowl in Lucas Oil Stadium."
Do you think Indianapolis is a major league city and a football town?
"I do, and it developed that way through the years. We were basketball at first because we didn't have football. The Colts came along and everyone got excited. Peyton (Manning) came along and we had a winning tradition. The culture changed and people love football. When I started tailgating, there were about three-to-five people out there. Now when you go downtown and there's a home game, it's a sea of blue, and I love being in that sea. That's pretty awesome."
What do you think about the Colts in 2012?"I put in for my tickets right away, so I am in for the ride. I am embracing the change. I think I was ready for a change. We needed a new attitude to get the fans re-energized. I'm very much with it."
Does attending the Super Bowl rank up there with your greatest Colts memories, or is it in its own category?
"It is a memory in its own category. My greatest Colts memory is when we beat the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl. I had tears going down my face. In different sections of the RCA Dome I knew people. I took a glance up through the crowd and they had tears in their eyes, too. I knew what it took for the people to put the emotion they put into it – the tailgating, the years of support and now clapping hands. It was very cool. Words can't do justice to how I felt at the end of that game. At the Super Bowl, if the Colts had been the Giants, I don't know that I could have handled the stress. It might have been too much. Having the Super Bowl in my home area is a special memory."
What can you say about Jim Irsay as an owner?
"He's doing a very good job. He really surprised me with some of the gutsy calls he made. He made some very hard choices really quick and in a timely manner. I have to appreciate that. He is the right kind of owner for the city and the team."