Vernard Hodges bought his Super Bowl tickets early for one simple reason.
He just knew this was going to be the Atlanta Falcons year, and he wanted to be in New Jersey to cheer them on in the game.
Hodges, a Warner Robins veterinarian, kept up his end of the bargain by buying tickets for himself and his son, Vernard II, as a 2012 Christmas present.
The Falcons? Not so much. After winning a division title with a 13-3 record before losing 28-24 in the NFC title game last season, Atlanta managed just a 4-12 mark this year. Not exactly a ticket to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
I thought the Falcons were going to be Super Bowl contenders. Im 43, and Ive waited all my life to see them in the Super Bowl. After last year, I thought Were almost there.
Hodges, a Falcons season ticket holder, never considered not attending this years Super Bowl, even though its between Denver and Seattle.
Obviously, this season was horrible, he said. But, why not (go)? I enjoy going to sporting events.
Hodges attended last years Super Bowl in New Orleans, which featured the infamous blackout, when the lights at the New Orleans Superdome went down for nearly an hour.
I didnt really get scared, he said. I didnt think anything (bad) was going on. We were just having a good time.
Hodges said the trip to this years game will cost him about $4,500, including two tickets in the mezzanine section of Giants stadium, three nights in Manhattan and air fare.
It will be his sons first time in New York, and he hopes to show him some of the sights.
Ive got a tour planned, he said. Were going to see the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the World Trade Center. He seems pretty excited. Im hoping to show him quite a bit up there. I think hell appreciate it. He can see the things he reads about in books.
With no Falcons to root for, Hodges said hes going to cheer on the Seahawks, though he thinks Vernard II will pull for Denver because of quarterback Peyton Manning.
After years of watching the big game on TV, Hodges said theres nothing like seeing it in person.
At last years game, they got to hang out with filmmaker Spike Lee, and Vernard II got a ball autographed by more than 50 active NFL players.
Now Hodges said hes not sure he wants to miss a Super Bowl in the future -- especially if the Falcons rebound next season.
I dont know, he said with a chuckle. Ive never been to Phoenix, where its at next year. Ill have to seriously think about it.
This trip, the main challenges the duo faced were weather conditions -- from wintry roads to the Atlanta airport to a cold night at the game, with a slight chance of snow.
But Hodges said he wasnt worried, and he looks forward to having a great time with his son.
I hope he has the trip of his life, he said. And hopefully the next time (theres a Super Bowl) in New York, hell pay for the next one.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.