Matthew Rush, 40, is a die-hard Steelers fan who spent over $4,000 to attend this year’s Super Bowl. That’s an awfully pricey trip to the sports bar, so he may sue the NFL.
Rush was among the 400 fans who showed up to the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas, only to be told that their tickets were no good. Super Bowl organizers were planning to build temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium to accommodate more people, but they weren’t completed in time for game. So these fans were forced to watch the game on monitors, in a bar tucked into the stadium, behind the Steelers bench. “It was like further torture to be in that bar in the basement,” says Rush, an e-commerce project manager who lives in Philadelphia, but grew up in Pittsburgh. “We were so close to the field, but we couldn’t see anything. There were a lot of miserable people in that room.”
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Rush may fight back. He quickly set up a website, suesuperbowl.com, to organize possible legal action. “This site will gather contact information for a planned lawsuit against the NFL, Dallas Cowboys and others,” it reads. “Please check back soon for more info.” Though he’s not attorney – or a web designer, the site is bare-bones – Rush has discussed the case with a few lawyers. “They breached a contract,” says Rush. “The question of punitive damages is on the table.”
To add to the indignity, on Monday the NFL announced that it was aware of the seating problem last week, but figured that the issue would be fixed by game day. A little heads up would have been nice. “Don’t put us through the wringer,” says Rush.”Tell us that there might be a problem when you get here, give us a choice to not risk it. This wasn’t our choice.” The NFL will refund these seats, which were either $800 or $900, at triple the face value. Plus, fans sent to the bar are being offered tickets to next year’s Super Bowl.
That’s a generous mea culpa. But is it enough? “This wasn’t some business trip,” says Rush, who left the stadium at the end of the third quarter, too irked to stay at a game he was attending, but really wasn’t. “This wasn’t a quick visit to the family. This is an irreplaceable experience. How do you put a price on that?” As for legal action, Rush allows that his emotions are still raw; he created the website as a starting point. He knows that, odds are, litigation won’t be worth the aggravation.
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Rush has received some half-dozen interested emails from fellow disenfranchised fans. He’s keeping everything in perspective. “If this is my biggest problem, I’m living a pretty good life,” he says. “But I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around it. The whole time we were in the bar, I was just waiting to wake up. Because it had to be a bad dream.”
Rush says that about three-and-a-half hours before kickoff, he went through the security line. After his ticket was scanned, he was notified of a problem, and instructed to walk across a lot to the Texas Rangers’ baseball stadium. There, he was told, the issue would be settled. After waiting in line at the ballpark, he was sent back to a waiting area outside Cowboys Stadium. Suddenly, a gate opened and elated fans proceeded to their seats, assuming things had been fixed. But once they got there, they were told they were headed to the bar.
The NFL was just piling on the pain. At a Monday press conference, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell accepted responsibility for the mishap. That’s admirable, but why not apologize to the people stuck in the basement directly? He, and other bigwigs, were an elevator ride away. “I said to myself, ‘why isn’t Roger Goodell down here?'” says Rush. “‘Why isn’t Jerry Jones down here? Tell us, ‘we screwed the pooch, we’re going to make you whole. Be a man.”
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