Two tickets to paradise

Councilman’s day job lands sweet seats at Super Bowl

 

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

 

DEARBORN — When the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals take the field for Super Bowl XLIII today, more than 90 million people are expected to tune in to watch the annual battle for NFL supremacy.

 

But while most of us nosh buffalo wings and jockey for prime couch space, City Council President Tom Tafelski will be settling into a distinctly better seat: 20-yard line, 16 rows up, Raymond James Stadium.

 

Tafelski was the lucky recipient of two tickets to the big game courtesy of his client, Steelers wide receiver Nate Washington. For Tafelski, who splits time between financial planning and NFL player representation, the tickets are a job perk.

 

“I don’t ask my guys for much. I believe you put in a hard day’s work for a hard day’s pay,” said Tafelski.

 

“One thing I do ask? If they make the Super Bowl, I get two tickets.”

 

This “simple” request has landed Tafelski at four Super Bowls since breaking into the agent business 16 years ago at age 22. He was there as the bridesmaid Buffalo Bills got dismantled by the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII.

 

In 1999, he saw the “greatest show on turf” St. Louis Rams eke out a victory against the Tennessee Titans, and then two years later lose at the hands of the New England Patriots, led by a little-known rookie quarterback named Tom Brady.

 

Most recently Tafelski cheered on Seattle and the Steelers in Super Bowl XL in Detroit, making it onto the field to celebrate when the clock expired.

 

“I’ve seen some good ones and some not-so-good ones, but it’s always interesting,” said Tafelski, who ranks the last big game in Detroit as his favorite.

 

This year should add some intrigue for him, though, as his client stands to get considerably more playing time than his spot duties as a rookie in 2006. Now the third wide receiver in the Steelers’ vaunted passing attack, the speedy Washington serves as the team’s main threat on deep routes, at one point over the season stringing together four straight games with a catch over 40 yards.

 

Further thickening the plot, Washington’s rookie contract expires at the end of the year, and a strong performance with the world watching could translate into big bucks for the former Tiffin University star.

 

“If he could have a six-catch, one-touchdown game, that would be huge,” Tafelski said.

 

But despite the flashy parties and star-studded guest lists, aside from the bright lights, and even the soothing warmth of Florida, for Tafelski the bottom line of this trip is business.

 

Sure, he will be at the most-watched sporting event of the year viewing from seats that retail for $800 and sell for thousands. And, yes, he will get to trade high-fives with the Steelers if they win. But, in the end what it’s really all about is putting a smile on the client’s face.

 

“This business is relationships,” Tafelski said. “You always need to make sure that you’re taking care of your clients and letting them know their best interest is your best interest. Being there is a part of that.”