PHOENIX — As soon as the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs, the questions started coming.
They lit up Tony McDaniel’s phone and his Facebook and Twitter accounts, and they signaled the beginning of what is generally agreed to be the worst part of going to the Super Bowl: deciding who gets a ticket and who does not.
“I got people that don’t even have my number or haven’t said things to me in years calling me and saying, ‘Hey, it would mean so much to me if I could just get a ticket,’” said McDaniel, a defensive tackle for the defending Super Bowl-champion Seahawks. “I’m like, ‘I went to high school with you, or I was your neighbor in 1999!’ How you think you’re going to get a Super Bowl ticket from me?”
This is a good problem to have, of course. But it is also one of the most stressful parts of playing in the Super Bowl.
Players can get up to 15 tickets for the Super Bowl, but with a catch: They must pay $1,500 per ticket. They get one complimentary hotel room but are on their own if their traveling party needs airfare and/or more rooms. And they must also decide, in the end, who gets one of their coveted tickets — and who does not.
“Last year I called a few family members, and you would have thought they won the lottery,” Seattle offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy said.
Said Seahawks defensive back DeShawn Shead: “It does kind of feel like Willy Wonka.”
Shead spent most of last season on the practice squad, meaning that while he made good money by Average Joe standards ($8,500 per week), he still made far less than most of his teammates. This season, Shead got a pay raise because he was on the active roster all year, so he doubled the number of Super Bowl tickets he bought to eight.
“You have family members who you feel deserve tickets,” Shead said, “but then you have to kind of rank them because it’s not cheap.”
McDaniel started thinking about who would be on his list during the season so that when the Seahawks made the Super Bowl he would be prepared.
McDaniel bought 15 tickets and had the Seahawks take the $22,500 tab directly from one of his paychecks because he said writing a check would have been too painful.
“But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “You can’t pay for memories, so I look at it that way.”
Seattle punter Jon Ryan also bought 15 tickets — he wrote an actual check — but he decided that was not enough and bought three more tickets from teammate Clint Gresham.
Ryan had only started talking to the comedian Sarah Colonna during last year’s Super Bowl, so she watched the game in Los Angeles with some friends. The two got engaged in December, and Colonna will be in attendance at the Super Bowl this year.
“My 15 went pretty quickly,” Ryan said. “I’ve got to win this game just to break even, I think.”
Players will earn $97,000 if their team wins Super Bowl, and $49,000 if their team loses.
Seahawks rookie offensive tackle Justin Britt spent two or three days trimming his list down to seven tickets — a move to save money in case Britt and his wife decide to buy a house.
“We have a lot of financial things we’re trying to do this offseason, so we had to make a choice,” Britt said.
Seattle defensive lineman Kevin Williams waited 12 years to appear in his first Super Bowl, but he was judicious with his tickets. He bought 10, mostly for close family.
“Basically all the friends, I told them they could buy tickets or they weren’t coming,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to pick between this friend or that friend. It was a pain. I was ready to get that part over with because you have so many people who want to attend and go. And it’s so expensive. You pay all that money just for a couple hours. I just couldn’t do it.”
Williams guessed he had maybe had 20 or 30 requests for tickets, but he had no problem handling them.
“I was good at saying no,” he said, smiling.