Remember that show? The Real World on MTV? It was always one of my guilty pleasures.
It’s similar to CBS’s “Big Brother” where a group of strangers are picked to live together for several months and have their every move taped.
If you’re a regular here, you may also remember my posts about the stranded island game show “Survivor” or “Married at First Sight” where experts pair complete strangers in legally-binding arranged marriages!
Aside from being shameful additions to my DVR watch list, these shows provide a voyeuristic sense of danger and suspense as you watch people adjust to these unique social experiments.
“Can they happily co-exist and work together as a team or will they kill each other first? Tune in at 8!”
Well, I recently had the amazing opportunity to participate in a unique social experiment of my own!
Before you ask, it’s not “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta” or any of those Housewives shows. I’m way to private to allow a camera crew to follow me around all day! Besides, half of the episodes would just be me eating noodles and taking naps so I’m not sure the producers would be too happy with the footage.
No, I’m referring to my time working with the Staging and Production crew for Super Bowl 53 these past few weeks!
And while the Super Bowl halftime show isn’t technically a reality show (yet…hmm I may need to pitch this idea next year), I was definitely being filmed whenever I was in the building! I’m sure at least 500 FBI agents witnessed me stuffing my face with pizza and chips in catering last week!
Anyway, it’s been quite the adventure but as mentioned last post, I couldn’t share many details about my experience…until now!
Sorry folks, rules are rules so we had to wait…
With that said, here’s an exclusive look at the Super Bowl 53 Halftime show from behind the curtain…
Hmm, if this was an actual reality show, here’s where the cheesy-smile-filled opening credit montage would go.
Instead, here are a few outfits inspired by my favorite 2 Super Bowl performances of all time, Michael Jackson and Prince. (For more content, follow me on Instagram @FatDarrellsLLC)
What’s your favorite halftime performance? Comment Below!
As mentioned in the “We Ready” post, I somewhat stumbled upon this halftime show gig. Like much of my life, it was just a fortunate turn of events that led me to apply. I feel like the black Forrest Gump at times since I randomly step into epic situations…although I hate running and boxed chocolates aren’t really my thing.
My ping-pong skills are on point though! My serve in particular is devasting, but I digress.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, this opportunity was truly a blessing in disguise.
If you remember, I was a little bummed because I thought I’d be shooting the confetti cannon during the post-game ceremony with my co-workers at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Although I work for the very stadium that hosted the Super Bowl, the NFL runs the show when it comes to events of this magnitude. That left very few spots for our team members and I was ultimately bumped from my role.
Instead, my supervisor suggested that I apply for a Field Team Member position with the company that produces the halftime show (Thanks again Simone!). I had no idea what the position entailed but it was a paid gig that placed me on the field during the Super Bowl so I was happy to accept when I got the offer.
When I arrived the first day, our check-in line was split into 2 sides: Field Team Members and Field Cast Members.
“What’s this? Cast? Hmm…” – my brain before almost screwing up my lifelong Super Bowl plug.
I asked how to get on the cast but aside from missing auditions for that role, I was needed on the crew side since we were short by over 100 people at the time.
Again, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise though which is why I’ve been working on trusting the process and letting God work.
Had things gone the way I wanted them to, I would have either shot the confetti cannon or joined the cast for this one event and the story would end there. Instead, I stepped into the crazy world of Field Team Members who work The Super Bowl every year!
Some of the people I met have been to every game for the past 18 years!
They literally travel from all across the globe to descend upon the host city for 10 days to work the big game each season! I met people from nearly every state. Many of them warned that once I worked one Super Bowl, I’d be hooked. They were right. Miami friends, I’ll see you next January!
After checking in, we were randomly assigned numbers which we later learned corresponded to which piece of massive equipment we’d be assigned to move to assemble the stage.
Before we got to that however, we ate…a lot! The production company spared no expense and ordered massive amounts of Panera Bread sandwiches, Pizza Hut, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and more before each shift!
After making sure we were fed, we headed into a large rehearsal hall in the bowels of The Georgia World Congress Center. They had the entire floor taped off with lines to mimic an actual football field so we could practice our patterns and formations.
After a brief welcome, ground rules and a few inspirational stories from the Head Producer Cap Spence, we assembled at our carts.
Our mission was to get around 50 pieces of staging equipment, cables, lights, pyro and 500 or so cast members onto the field in approximately 5 minutes!
We obviously had to wait until the players left the field and we also had to be on time.
This is literally the world’s biggest concert airing during the world’s most watched event so um yeah, no pressure.
Although I had experience moving stage equipment during my time working for Mercedes Benz Stadium, and the returning veterans did as well, most had no clue.
Looking around the room, the age ranged all the way from students to senior citizens.
Although several of my co-workers were there too, we weren’t on the same carts.
Would this motley crew of strangers be able to come together to pull this off in less than 2 weeks?
Cap, Holly Silber, Bryan Ransom, Doug Cook (or as I called him, “Doug E. Fresh”) and the rest of our leadership team sure seemed to think so. They didn’t even bother timing us for the first several practices since they wanted us to focus on teamwork, safety and accuracy over speed.
Fortunately, each cart had a local professional stage hand guiding us through the entire process. Our cart leader, Dylan Scarborough, had a ton of experience and helped our team gel quickly.
I was assigned to cart 2 which was the first cart to hit the field. It was literally the center piece that all others connected to, so we set the pace for the entire process. Again, no pressure.
Cart 2!! And yes, you’ll notice that the keyboards and 2 sound techs were on top of the cart as we pushed it. That added at least 400 more pounds!
The first 3 days were spent inside of the Georgia World Congress Center with it’s flat smooth floors. By our third practice, we finally had a full crew and were getting better with our turns and adapting to stage hand lingo such as “j-turns” and “crabwalks.”
You’ll notice that this section of the story has limited photos because cameras were strictly prohibited during rehearsals. Several people had their phones confiscated and were escorted out of the building to await their upcoming lawsuit from the NFL.
Wait! Update! Holly just uploaded some of the photos that she took inside of our rehearsal facility so I can now actually show you how the set up at the Georgia World Congress Center looked!
Check it out:
On day 4 we finally moved rehearsals onto the playing field at the stadium. We were also joined by headliners Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi who ran through the full show several times. They even tested the pyro and those cool drones you saw on TV.
These close rehearsal photos were shared by Maroon 5 on social media. Don’t sue me NFL, I didn’t take these, I swear!
Our timing still felt alarmingly slow to me but Cap, Dylan and the rest of the team leaders had so much confidence in us that it calmed everyone involved.
Cap continued to provide a motivational speech before each rehearsal to rally the troops. He also had to administer a little tough love after a political debate turned ugly at one of the carts and almost ruined our team chemistry.
For the most part though, this random group of strangers was beginning to gel as a family and after the bad seeds were weeded out, we got progressively faster and more efficient.
Bear with me for a second since Psychology was one of my majors so I find motivation and behavior exercises interesting.
The leadership team brilliantly weaved over a dozen team building techniques in this short time frame to bring everyone together much faster than expected. They used music, mentors, meals, motivational stories and even social media in the form of a secret Facebook community.
Phones weren’t permitted so that also forced everyone to be present and the job itself brings people together via old fashioned bonding through sweat and hands on labor.
If your company is in a Super Bowl host city and you’re looking for a team building exercise, I think I’ve found your solution!
We got so close as a family unit that our cart even came up with a team name! Since we were cart 2, we started off as “2 Live Crew” but soon switched to “2 Legit 2 Quit” – MC Hammer would be proud.
Although I’m not mad at last year’s Cart 2 nickname, the “Cart-2-nies” either…
Here’s the amazing hoodie we purchased for Dylan!
No, that’s not Dylan, but that is his sweater! The other guy is MC Hammer…duh.
Other carts also got their leaders items too! Several Field Team Members like my fellow Batman Fan Bridgette from cart V4 and my commuter buddy Ashley on Cart 2 even brought extra snacks for everyone!
It’s no coincidence that as we got closer as a team, we got more efficient on the field.
I thought Cap was kidding on day one when he said we’d never be told our time during rehearsals. Some days we only rolled the carts into position 2 or 3 times before being dismissed! My paranoia would have had had us run through it at least 5 more times if I were in charge!
Their approach worked though. From the artists to the team leaders to the cast and crew, nobody wanted to let anyone else down.
The end result? We set a new Super Bowl halftime record and got everything in place in under 5 minutes. We literally had time to spare!
Here’s an amazing time-lapse video of our work! The video starts after cart 2 is already in place so if you’re trying to find me in the crowd, good luck!
And here’s a final look at our work before the lights went out and Maroon 5 hit the stage!
Of course, we had a VERY busy day before we got to that point. It started with a full police escort from our off-site meeting location to the stadium!
Even though we were on big yellow school buses, people still lined the streets to wave as we rode past! Apparently they thought Tom Brady and Co would ride to the stadium the same way as a group of third graders on a field trip?
It was still warm reception though so thanks Atlanta! Here’s a little footage from the bus ride. I also went live on Facebook with additional footage so follow me by clicking the logos on the main menu for additional content!
How do you make a ride in a school bus sound badass? Action music of course!
We also rode past the Travis Scott fun tent set up along the way! His music is dope but this tent looks kinda creepy!
From there, we checked in and went to our holding area…
Meanwhile, the fighter jets flew over the stadium during the National Anthem. Here’s what it looked like from the ground:
Although I didn’t get to work the pre-game celebration this year, my fellow “Cart 2-er” Miranda Artz hooked me up with this field level view of the LA Rams as they entered the field!
And of course, here are the World Champion New England Patriots who I told you would win last post! #NostraDarrell
Since Cart 2 is the first to hit the field, we were positioned inside of the player tunnel so we were able to capture this exclusive video of the 2018 Hall of Fame class as they exited the field! You won’t see me, but you can hear me saying “congratulations” several times…
From there we entered that same door to wait inside of the tunnel next to our carts:
Adam Levine’s guitars were also positioned next to our cart so you know I had to pose with them!
The keyboard sound techs were even cool enough to provide each of us with Maroon 5 guitar picks! That was a really nice gesture so I suppose they earned their free rides on top of the cart! We’re even now…
These are the beach balls they also used in the show. I think someone accidentally hit Adam Levine with one during our dress rehearsal. He wasn’t pleased… oops.
They glowed which was pretty cool but I was more impressed by those cool lantern drones! Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me take one home. Bummer.
Fun fact: Did you know that each of those LED screens they used to create the Pepsi logo cost around $1200?! Did you also know that one of the cart teams ran over 2 of them during our final dress rehearsal? Whoops.
Anyway, you know what happened next. Half-time hit, then we ran out and did our thing!
Once we were set up, it was time to enjoy the show…and that I did!
The version that aired on TV can be seen by clicking here.
And here are a few photos from the sideline near the 50-yard-line where I stood for most of the performance:
Of course, once the concert ended, we get everything off the field before the second half of the game!
Apparently we weren’t moving fast enough for the kickers who were literally launching balls over our head as we tried to make our exit though!
Cart 17 took a direct hit as one of punts crashed into it on their way out!
From there, it was back up the tunnel to dock the carts and celebrate making it both on and off the field in record time!
Most of us stuck around to watch the rest of the game together immediately followed by a replay of the halftime show that aired on TV.
We were also treated to PF Chang’s one last time. My fortune cookie said that I have a lucky break on the way but that entire day already felt like a lucky break!
All-in-all, I had an amazing time working for the Super Bowl 53 Halftime Show.
I can see why so many return to do this year after year! Miami, if all goes according to plan, I’ll see you in 2020!
Girls Like You – Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B
Sweet Victory – Spongebob Squarepants
Sicko Mode ft. Drake – Travis Scott
The Way You Move – Big Boi
2 Legit 2 Quit – MC Hammer
Save The Overtime – Gladys Knight
Hello Friend – Chloe x Halle
Do you have another song that fits todays themes or that’s just so great we should check it out anyway? Tell us in the comments below!
Okay, we’re running long this week, but the Super Bowl deserves supersized coverage!
Hopefully you enjoyed the halftime show.
I’ve read the reviews and can’t say I agree with much of the negativity but hey, you can’t please everyone.
I haven’t seen a Super Bowl halftime that wasn’t criticized before, so this was no exception.
However, if you’re one of the people who didn’t enjoy the show, know that it wasn’t for a lack of effort!
I’ve unfairly bashed several halftime performances over the years but seeing just how much goes into this massive production, I have a newfound respect for the show regardless of whether I’m a fan of the artists or not.
Again, thanks Cap, Holly, Ryan and everyone else who helped create these memories that will last a lifetime. I can officially check “going to the Super Bowl” off my bucket list.
Oh yeah, and thanks to Dylan again for this towel!
Even if The Patriots won, it’s still a cool souvenir. Congratulations again to both teams for even making it to the final game of the season! Lord knows my poor 49ers didn’t even come close!
Anyway, let’s look ahead to the “foodie holidays” that land between this and next post, shall we?
National Chopsticks Day? Wow, I should have saved one of those PF Chang’s containers!
Wait, what? National Pizza Day? This is NOT a drill people! This is what we’ve been training for…
Wow, it’s going to be a great week!
…well, sort of.
As excited as I was for The Super Bowl, this now means that NFL football is gone again until September.
With that said, let’s now commence our traditional NFL closing ceremonies by taking a look at how I’ll be spending the next several months…
Those of you who haven’t seen this before, get your tissues ready, it’s a tearjerker ☹
Oh yeah, and speaking of Valentine’s Day, here’s an important reminder for all the single ladies out there…
Anyway, that about does it for this week folks. Now run along and carpe the hell out of this diem!
Before you go though, make sure to drop a comment below! I love hearing from you so please, don’t be shy.
Until next time my friends, May the Fork be With You…
“I love it when a plan comes together…” – John “Hannibal” Smith