As the Big Game nears, excitement builds

February 4, 2018 GMT

Super Bowl Sunday!

Game Day!

Years of planning come to fruition in downtown Minneapolis today. No, it’s not the Vikings playing the first-ever home Super Bowl. And Millie’s not here. But a week of frosty cool events and some good old-fashioned Minnesota nice has made Super Bowl LII, a contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, a pretty sweet Bold North consolation prize.

Hours before game time, fans in green and blue jerseys took to the streets, their excitement palpable despite the frigid weather, while those lucky enough to have a ticket to the big game began boarding trains at the Mall of America that would take them to the stadium. According to StubHub.com, 982 tickets to the game were still available, starting at $2,448.

Inside the IDS Center’s Crystal Court, Hope and Bill Ross of Lancaster, Pa. made their opposite allegiances clear. Both donned jerseys and ball caps — his backing the Eagles, hers for the Patriots. Both thought they’d never be here. The story: Five years ago Hope said she wanted to go to the Super Bowl to see the Patriots play.

“I said ‘Fine, you know what? We’ll go when the Eagles play the Patriots.’ Thinking never in a million years would that happen,” Bill said. “Well, I wasn’t so lucky and here we are.”

“Well, you were lucky, we are lucky,” Hope said. “And one of us is going to be very happy, and the other one will be happy for the other. Hopefully he’ll be happy for me.”

Inside Brit’s Pub in the heart of downtown, football fans bedecked in red sang and chanted after their team, Liverpool Football Club, scored a goal. This was “real football,” they said — otherwise known as soccer.

Marlon Ferry was among them. The 57-year-old has been coming to the bar to watch Liverpool matches for over a decade. He moved to downtown Minneapolis from sunny Miami.

“I couldn’t stand the heat,” he said.

Asked how much he cared about American football, Ferrey said, “Not much.”

Andrew Bromage, 38, was visiting all the way from Liverpool, England. He’s a big Soul Asylum fan, and was able to catch them last night. He’s been visiting Minnesota regularly over the last decade, and always stops at Brit’s to catch a game.

“It’s like my second home, he said, adding that he’s enjoyed seeing Minneapolis getting media attention from around the world ahead of the Super Bowl, and that the area has done a “superb job” hosting, leaning into the cold weather.

“It’s really great that Minneapolis is getting international attention,” he said.

But football fans of the American variety also patronized Brit’s — and loyal ones at that. Gary McLaughlin and his sons Jason and Shaun, along with their friends were on a bar hop toward the stadium, which they described as “pregaming and“indoor tailgating.”

The McLaughlins piled into a Ford Explorer, put a twin mattress in back and took shifts driving on the 18-hour trip from Philly to Minneapolis. “It was a no-brainer. The Eagles were going,” McLaughlin, 59, said.

Staff writers Beena Raghavendran and Hannah Covington contributed to this report. James Walsh • 651-925-5041