NEW ORLEANS - Jessica Gomez broke out in hives Friday in New Orleans. It wasn't the shellfish.
It was the NFL Experience .
Like kids the day before a trip to Disney World, she and three of her best friends couldn't wait to get to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Their plane landed at 5:30 a.m., and their original plan was to get some rest before hitting the streets.
But, the appeal of meeting celebrities, participating in pregame festivities and getting to know The Big Easy was too much, especially as gibing and jiving heated up among the friends from Autsin, Texas – only one a Ravens fan. They also hoped to get out and meet some celebrities in town for the game .
Jim Thompson said the Ravens have become his second team. He said he's not ashamed to admit he jumped on the bandwagon. He's also not afraid of being picked on by his friends.
"The Texans didn't make it, so somebody's got to add a little controversy in here. You know, spice it on up," Thompson shouted as he rose to his toes in excitement. "So, I'm going for the Ravens and Raaaay Lewis! Gotta protect the house!"
His friend Debbie Obendoza quickly responded, "That's ok, he can protect things all he wants to, but the 49ers are going to win!"
Grown men running and jumping accompanied by screaming women clad in team gear – the group of friends from Texas weren't the only sign the NFL Experience is just as much of a good time for adults as it is for children.
From the 40-yard dash to passing precision drills, there were just as many adults at the convention center getting a full dose of activities designed for smaller and younger participants.
Dave Rosas of Harford County in Maryland said the day was a chance at redemption.
"This experience is very cool," he said. "My friend and I went to Tampa two years ago, and we stood in line about two hours to miss field goals horribly," Rosas said.
Rosas ran the 40-yard dash and did the vertical jump. He said trash talk among fans standing in line for activities had begun, but nothing inappropriate.
"It's been great, a lot of fun," he said. "…I think the Ravens fans outnumber the 49ers fans 3-1 at this point in time."
Ted Grimsley from Owings Mills, Maryland ran the 40-yard dash in a group of men highlighted by one who participated in the activity while on a conference call.
Grimsley admitted everyone seemed to be acting like a big kid.
"It's been a dream come true for us." We've had season tickets for 16 years since the team came to Baltimore from Cleveland."
It's a good thing it was all about family fun for Grimsley, because the 45-year-old's time in the 40-yard dash looked more like the inch count of a sub sandwich.
Mary Wells of Columbia, Maryland also was seen taking part in activities Friday, her college-age daughter at her side.
"It's just been so exciting, everybody's been so friendly. …We've played every game like we're what, 10 years old?"