How do you get past more than 70 local, state and federal agencies, 4,000 private security guards with metal detectors and X-ray machines, and the New Orleans Police department and their black tank vehicles to watch the most coveted sporting event in the USA for free at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome? You walk in, without tickets or passes, with a camera strapped to your forehead, that’s how.
(original story that follows by David Whitley, AOL FanHouse Columnist)
Kobe and LeBron are ready to come in from the cold. We’ll get to their real names in a minute, but first they’d like to make a statement:
“We want to apologize to the NFL and the city of New Orleans. We did not set out to embarrass anyone.”
That was Joseph Christian Roberts, a/k/a LeBron. He and his buddy Malachi Youngblood, a/k/a Kobe, had the nerve to do what millions only fantasize.
They crashed Super Bowl XLVII. With no tickets, they waltzed right in like they owned the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
What’s worse, at least for a red-faced NFL, is Roberts and Youngblood captured it all on a self-narrated video. They identified themselves only as Kobe and LeBron and be-bopped their way into a Level One national security event.
It seemed funny at the time, but now they’re worried. The video has gone viral. Kobe and LeBron are catching undeserved grief.
They’re being called criminals and cheats and embarrassments to their school. A USA Today story chided them for violating the gate crasher code of silence.
“Don’t give away secrets!” it said. “A magician never reveals his tricks.”
But here’s the beauty of it. Roberts and Youngblood aren’t gate-crashing magicians. They had no tricks. They didn’t even lie to security to get in.
Did somebody say security?
“I can stand here and tell you that without a doubt this weekend there’s no safer place to be than the city of New Orleans.”
So said Ray Parmer, special agent in charge with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It was at the security press conference four days before the game.
Yes, the Super Bowl is now so big the cops hold a press conference. It all sounded impressive, with pat-downs and metal detectors and the FBI, Homeland Security, 1,200 New Orleans police, 300 state and regional deputies aided by 4,000 security personnel hired by the NFL.
So how did a couple of fraternity brothers from Savannah State, a small university in Georgia with a reported enrollment of less than 5,000, end up standing next to 71,024 people, all of whom paid at least $850 to watch the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and Beyonce?
“We’ve been asking each other that every day,” Roberts said.
“It was just the luck of the draw,” Youngblood said.
It all started as a lark. The day before the game, a couple of guys got up and had nothing really to do.
“Hey, let’s go to the Super Bowl!” Youngblood said.
They hadn’t been studying diagrams of the New Orleans sewer system to find hidden access to the Superdome. They just wanted to hit the French Quarter and experience everything except the game.
They did that deep into the night, and then drove to Hattiesburg, Miss., to crash at a friend’s apartment. They got up the late next day and figured why not try to see the game?
“The Super Bowl is like one of the biggest privileges in America,” Roberts said. “It’s the pinnacle of Americana. It was a childhood dream.”
They got to New Orleans after kickoff. They approached the first security checkpoint.
“No credential, no entry!” a guard was yelling.
Roberts and Youngblood had brought a video camera to record their weekend. They didn’t expect it to come in quite as handy as it did. With no credential, they shuffled to a side. A security guard slid back a barricade.
He apparently assumed they just wanted to leave, and he pointed them in a direction that would lead them out of the secured area. Roberts and Youngblood thanked him, and then simply kept walking toward the Superdome.
They went down a public tunnel and encountered a sheriff’s deputy. The nerves kicked in.
“We honestly thought we were going to jail,” Roberts said.
The officer asked if they’d been scanned. He told her they were making a documentary of the event, which was essentially true. She told them to go to the scanning checkpoint around the corner, and then went about her business.
So did Kobe and LeBron. They wandered into a parking garage and down a couple of flights of stairs. They opened the door and walked into a large hospitality tent.
They sauntered through, entered the New Orleans Arena and out the other side. A line of truck trailers was parked against a loading dock.
“We walked between them, we turned right toward the lights, turned left and it’s Beyonce right in front of us!” Roberts said.
They were nervous but still enjoyed the show. They caught Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kick return.
Then the lights went out.
“We were honestly petrified,” Youngblood said.
Enough suspense for one day. They walked out the regular exit, the giddily stunned owners of a unique Super Bowl memory.
They got back to Savannah and showed friends the video. The buzz reached the local paper, which posted the video but didn’t write a story.
The exploit spread through the Internet with no context. The typical headline was, “Savannah State Sneak into Super Bowl.”
The guys at the Omega Psi Phi frat house thought it was pretty cool. Savannah State isn’t all that thrilled at such publicity. The comments section of the Savannah Morning News turned into forum to debate whether the two should be lauded or prosecuted.
“It’s been highly stressful,” Roberts said. “What’s going to happen? What will they try do? It’s almost like being on borrowed time.”
That’s why Kobe and LeBron want to get the whole story out. Now that you’ve heard it, do you think the law should go after them?
They’re just a couple of college guys who went on a road trip. No harm was done. The NFL, New Orleans and everybody else should just be glad that Roberts and Youngblood are members of Omega Psi Phi and not Al Qaeda.
One day, the frat brothers will look back and laugh. For now, they’d just like to stop worrying.
“NFL security is conducting a review and following up with the appropriate authorities in New Orleans,” was the statement from NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.
If anything, the league should thank the pair for providing a training video. Make it required viewing for the 4,000 rent-a-cops at next year’s Super Bowl in the New Jersey meadowlands.
Kobe and LeBron’s Excellent Adventure: a tale of two young men who showed that all you need is a little ambition and a lot of nerve to sneak into the Super Bowl.
“We didn’t even sneak in,” Roberts said.
That’s why he deserves to relax. It’s the NFL that should really be worried.