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One for the Road

Bruce Springsteen Attacks Quietus Scribe With Soda At Giants Stadium
Mark Eglinton , January 30th, 2009 07:03

Me, Balls, and The Boss. As Bruce Springsteen limbers up for this weekend's Super Bowl XLIII, Mark Eglinton remembers a soggy meeting with his idol at an American Football game

This Sunday, after years of saying he wouldn't, Bruce Springsteen will play the half-time show at Super Bowl XLIII, in Tampa, Florida. It has almost become a standing joke in that for years, one of America's more likely participants in a half-time slot that has become overshadowed by bizarre performances, has always turned it down. Who could forget Michael Jackson in 1993, his halo already slipping, frolicking around in among 3,000 young children while singing 'Heal the World'? Come 2009, and this most American of events has finally secured that most American of musicians, and I just wish I could be there to see it.

When I was a teenager, I loved Springsteen. I thought I did the white t-shirt, blue jeans look, pretty well, but it didn't quite work in a small Scottish town, more renowned for golf than drag racing on the strip. The only thing it had in common with Atlantic City was its proximity to the sea. My town really was a town full of losers and I was 'going to pull outta there to win'. Just like the song said. So I was Noo Joysey bound, heading to Springsteen country, and I was damn well going to live the dream.

Late summer 1993, I arrive in Newark, without question one of the least attractive towns in any US state. It's even pretty grim for New Jersey, a state hardly renowned for salubrious urban centres. Springsteen's New Jersey, while decidedly blue collar, always had a character and soul that, by and large, is invisible in real life. It's a credit to his songwriting that he manages to summon up a land of boardwalks, pimped up cars and drunken shenanigans at some lake. The reality is grittier and frankly, dull.

However, American football is, like the Boss, a state institution, despite the fact that two teams that play there (The New York Jets and Giants) are actually from across the Hudson in New York. Giants Stadium, home of both these teams, is a vast concrete bowl in a nowhere corner of Jersey. Aside from the football, there's no real reason to go there. But seeing as I was so keen to immerse myself fully in all things Garden State I was a regular visitor. In all weathers I'd be found stood around tail-gating with enormous Coors-swilling knuckleheads called things like Brad and Jed, ruminating with them about the team and other trivialities. One game, I called in a favour and got myself a ticket to the 'better' middle tier of the ground. Yet you pay for privilege with more than dollars. It's a cold spot of the ground, cold enough that delicate parts of the male anatomy beat a hasty retreat as soon as you've sat down.

Huddled against this chill, drinking more Coors, I was suddenly aware of a freezing shower of soda flying in my direction, soaking my head and clothes. I wiped myself off and looked for the idiot to blame.

On wheeling round, ready to unleash a torrent of the finest Scottish expletives of the kind that work best when run together with no other words in between, I realised that the origin of the cold beverage bombardment was none other than Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen, all wrapped up for the cold in a Russian Cossack hat, as if he'd popped in from an afternoon hunting elk. All thoughts of obscenity disappeared and my mood turned quickly from one of abject rage to one of abject awe. So much so, I would have let him pour any remaining fluid over my head, and he'd have been quite welcome to throw in his hot dog too. Of course, I made a cock of the next bit. As the crowd noise rose and fell, I opened my pitiful mouth to speak and no words came out... I think I then managed "Hi, Mr Springsteen", and the apologetic Boss dismissed the whole event with a "Sorry about that, buddy", while hardly taking his eyes off the game.

As the game progressed we engaged in strange football man-stuff like "Why the hell don't they run the damn football?" or "Simms you SUCK". There may have also have been a high-five ceremony when a particularly good play took place, almost like we knew each other, me and The Boss, our lives for those few magical moments crossing paths. After all, we were just two guys at a ball game. Me, a gibbering wreck, him, the man of the people from Colt's Neck, a half hour drive away down the Turnpike.

It's with some pride that I tell you that at no point did I fall into the deepest and darkest fan-trap of all and start quizzing him about the personal issues which motivated 'Tunnel Of Love' or, more pressingly, why he did that ridiculous Christmas song. I retained a degree of Coke-soaked dignity in front of my idol and left, not an autographed item in sight, with a firm hand-shake and my credibility firmly in position, if not my genitalia.

As quickly as he arrived in that soft-drink torrent that engulfed me and my windbreaker, Bruce was gone through the Giants Stadium crowd, quickly lost among all the other alpha-males dressed much like he was. It was reassuring to know, that Springsteen, like we suspected all along, is just a normal guy.