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.
Bill Ruppel is a native of North Manchester, Indiana, and he has been a Colts season ticket holder since 1984. Ruppel attended the first home game with his family, including his youngest daughter, Linsee, on his lap. He graduated from Butler in 1970 with a degree in physical education. "I have bled blue and white my whole life, dating back to the Tony Hinkle era," he says.
In addition to serving in the Indiana House from 1992-2010, he worked 36 years in education, the last 32 in the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation in Akron, Indiana. Ruppel works on his farm raising sheep. He attended Super Bowl XLI in Miami, a 29-17 Colts victory over Chicago.
What did you think when you were contacted and what can you say about the offer?
"When they contacted me, I said, 'Okay, when do I pick them up and when do I pay for them?' When I was told I won the free (Super Bowl tickets) ones, it was hard to realize that I had. Someone called and said, 'I see you're one of the winners.' Then, it hit home. I had no shortage of friends last week."
Did you go to either of two Super Bowls (XLI or XLIV) when the Colts played?
"Yes, I went to the first one when we went into Miami and won. The experience there compared to here, the only thing that would have made it better was if the Colts had been playing, but Indianapolis just blew away Miami (in) everything from what was going on downtown to the experiences outside, the politeness of the volunteers, just everything. Indianapolis and Indiana put out its best foot and showed Hoosier Hospitality is not just a word, it's how we live every day."
How did you feel about seeing a Super Bowl being held in Indianapolis and in Lucas Oil Stadium?
"I was astounded. I was so happy for it. It was something I knew we could do. I worked the Pam Am Games, and I've done some of the other volunteer work. I knew when we got it, we could out-do anybody. We showed what we can do. Luckily, God helped us with the weather, and we really got to put on a great show. That's what made it more exciting because I figured I was going to be watching it from the outside. I felt great when we got the game after I had told everyone what a good place this would be. When I got the tickets, it made it all the more exciting that I would be there in person."
Did it seem like the same stadium to you, or was the experience different?
"It was different. The Colts' horseshoes were still on the seats. Seeing the Patriots coming out of the Colts' tunnel, I was not a happy camper with that (laughs). I wished it had been any other team. That was a hard part to swallow, but that's part of the game. Not seeing the names in the Ring of Honor was a little disappointing, but I understand the NFL runs the game. The rest of the venue was great. I had friends in from New York who said it was better than MetLife Stadium. They thought the facilities for fans were better than MetLife. I thought that was a real compliment, and they said our stadium was much better prepared. I talked to fans from Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland. Some of them had seen the stadium before, but they could not believe how everything was so great. They raved about the venue."
Do you think Indianapolis is a major league city and a football town?
"Yes. It took Mayor (Bill) Hudnut's challenge like in Field of Dreams, 'Build it, and they will come.' We built it and they (fans) came. Now, we have everybody coming."
What do you think about the Colts in 2012?"I think the coaching staff is great. I think everything is going great. I'm really excited for the coming year. There is a plan out there. Nobody knows what it is, but everything works out for the best for everybody. Sometimes we might not always agree why things happen, but in the end we find out why."
Does attending the Super Bowl rank up there with your greatest Colts memories, or is it in its own category?
"That win in Miami (Super Bowl XLI) is the one I really remember, sitting in the rain and having a Bears fan next to me. That was absolutely wonderful. This one being the host city and showing what we can do is right behind it."
What can you say about Jim Irsay as an owner?
"I think he is an owner players like to play for. He is someone I would like to work for. He expects to win. He expects to have the best. He expects players to give their best. As long as you meet that criteria, he's loyal to you. I think he's one of the better owners. He wants to give the people their (fair shake). He worries about putting a product out there, which is what you have to do. Looking from the outside and seeing what he does, he wants the best for everybody. He's charitable. He's a giving and caring person. He really helps contribute to why the Colts are successful."