ARLINGTON, Texas — In their zeal to set a Super Bowl attendance record, the NFL and Jerry Jones overlooked one important detail — making sure all the temporary seats inside mammoth Cowboys Stadium had been inspected and were ready for the fans.
A week plagued by poor weather took an embarrassing turn when the league had to find replacement seats for 850 fans. The NFL also scrambled to find a place for another 400 people to sit inside Jones' $1.2 billion palace and couldn't find any with a view of the field.
"This is absolutely ridiculous," said Glen Long, a Pittsburgh Steelers season-ticket holder who flew in for the game from Baltimore. "That would be fraud anywhere in the world if you sold tickets to an event that you knew you didn't have. That's just wrong."
Actually, the seats had been installed in six temporary sections, but they went up so late that the fire marshal didn't have time to inspect them, according to a police officer standing near an affected area who wouldn't give his name and an explanation of the situation provided to several fans.
The officer said the winter storms that struck Dallas earlier had set back work on the temporary seats.
That didn't matter to fans who felt they had been deceived by the league and Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner who had hoped some 105,000 people would watch the game inside and outside the stadium. To bolster the crowd, there were $200 tickets that provided nothing more than a chance to watch the game on video screens set up in outdoor plazas.
Not even a hefty refund offer from the NFL was enough to satisfy the 400 fans who lost seats. The league said it would pay back triple the face value — $2,400 for the $800 tickets.
"We don't want that," said Odett Karam, a Green Bay Packers fan who flew in from California. "We just want to get into the game. We just want to see the game."
The NFL said 850 fans were put in "similar or better seats." As for the rest, the NFL first offered to let the fans watch the game in the outdoor plazas.
Then, shortly after kickoff, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said they had been allowed into the field-level club behind the Pittsburgh Steelers bench, where they could watch the game on monitors.
If they wanted to see the game in person, they had to use standing-room platforms in each corner of Cowboys Stadium.
Fans complained that wasn't nearly enough, especially given what they had doled out for travel and hotel costs.
"They took us to a bar," said Paul Colavecchi, a displaced fan from Clearfield, Pa.
"That's terrific," he added sarcastically. "That's why we fronted five grand for this trip — so we could watch the game in a bar. I didn't have to take a plane trip to Texas to watch the game on TV, and I certainly didn't buy a ticket so I could watch the game in a bar."