On Saturday afternoon, a friend and I made our way downtown to visit the NFL Experience ("driven by Hyundai") located at Moscone Center. Unlike Super Bowl City, entrance to which is free, the NFL Experience is a ticketed event billed as "pro football’s interactive theme park" and costs $35 for adults — fans got five bucks off today if they wore a team jersey. What we encountered was a bizarre mix of corporate tie-ins, weirdly interactive games, overpriced beers, serious glorification of violence and the military, and too-many-to-count opportunities for Instagram-ready photo ops. In short, a little microcosm of the NFL manifested right here in our own Baghdad by the Bay.

To enter the Experience you must first pass through several layers of security, but after walking through guarded tents (and likely noticing the sniper nest on the roof down the block) you emerge to the scene pictured above — AstroTurf laid across the street complete with two mini uprights set up for visual effect. It immediately becomes clear that this is mainly a NFL experience for fans under 12. And kids did appear to be loving the opportunity to see how far they could jump, and other NFL training-camp-themed activities.


Perhaps the most popular activity present on the closed-off block of Howard Street between Moscone Center North and South was the Papa John's food truck. With a mic'd hype girl singing the pizza's praises and encouraging you to tweet pizza selfies at the company, there was palpable excitement in the air.

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist.

We headed into the depths of Moscone Center South — which, if you've never been, is a massive underground convention center — and after walking around a giant wall of TV's were quick to settle in to the essential truth of the thing. That is to say, it became immediately apparent that the entire ticketed experience was focused on providing attendees with many opportunities to take staged selfies. The point wasn't to get a picture of yourself doing something fun, rather, it was merely to get pictures of yourself — but in the NFL Experience even doing that was no simple matter, as it first required you to make your way through snaking lines reminiscent of airport security.

How about a Super Bowl 50 framed photo? A photo next to a locked-up Vince Lombardi Trophy?

Or how about a picture of you holding a giant clear barbell full of Skittles?

You can have it all at the NFL Experiences, providing you're willing to post you ass up in line for hours.

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist. Not pictured is that this line snakes around the back into a seemingly never-ending stanchion line.

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist.

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist.

After purchasing some $8 Budweisers (thrifty attendees beware: there is even a $2 charge to fill up your own water bottle), the two of us made our way back up the escalators, across the street, and over to Moscone Center North. At first, this side of the Experience seemed aimed more at adults — with photos and history of the NFL displayed along a timeline for people to read (did you know the Eagles and the Steelers merged at one point during WWII because the teams' players were all off at war?). But, perhaps predictably, that exhibit was almost deserted.

People were definitely stoked about the 180-degree virtual reality experience designed to make you feel like you're on the sidelines of a game, however.

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist.

Oh, and the rings. Everyone loved the rings. And the Doritos phone booth thing (note: those are not real Doritos — I asked).

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist.

The vaguely menacing digital countdown to #SB50 clock, perhaps intentionally designed to evoke thoughts of a nuclear football, served to constantly remind everyone why we were there — as if organizers were afraid that all the Xbox ads and Papa Johns might make us forget we were supposed to be celebrating the almost 100-year-old league.

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist.

As for the organizer's claim that this is some sort of interactive theme park, well, that's barely true. At least at Disneyland, after buying your tickets and waiting in line for a few hours, you get to ride a roller coaster. It somehow seems less rewarding when the payoff is getting stared down by a law enforcement officer with a pretty intense looking assault rifle, and then taking a few selfies.

Fare thee well, Super Bowl 50 NFL Experience Driven by Hyundai. It was real.

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist.

Related: [Update] More Hidden Super Bowl Costs: SFMTA Workers Asked To 'Volunteer' On The Clock

Photo by Jack Morse/SFist.