George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush are regulars at many sporting events, not just Super Bowls.
They emerged from the tunnel — and brought the house down. George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush outdid Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Luke Bryan, Simone Biles and all the other mega stars floating around the NRG Stadium field in the Super Bowl LI pregame.
The Bushes — Houston’s own — received the largest, longest and most heartfelt cheers.
George H.W. Bush was pushed to midfield in a wheelchair. His wife of 72 years rode besides him in a golf cart. The Bushes showed their legendary determination in making it out for this Super Bowl coin toss. Only released from the hospital on Jan. 30 after a frightening 16-day stay, the 92-year-old George H.W. Bush still never seriously considered missing the Super Bowl in his hometown.
And of course, Barbara Bush had to be right there at his side despite her own shorter hospitalization.
The Bushes became the clear pregame highlight in the stadium (with the roof closed no one who attended the Super Bowl could gawk at the F-16 flyover). Fans rose to applaud as soon as the Bushes appeared on the big screen and kept it going through the entire slow journey to midfield for the coin toss.
There are few political figures more beloved than the elder Bush and his wife. George H.W. Bush is a devoted Houston sports fan who doesn’t just show for the big events. He became a regular at Houston Astros and Houston Texans games over the years.
This is no fair-weather first fan — no Dallas Cowboys-like bandwagon jumper.
The Bushes did not just one-up mundane acts either. The Schuyler sisters, who first gained fame in Hamilton, thrilled the crowd (and notably Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn) by inserting Sisterhood to go with the Brotherhood in their rendition of “America The Beautiful.”
A good Super Bowl is supposed to have surprises — ones that go beyond a scoreless first quarter between the high-powered Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.
Fans started filing into the stadium as soon as the gates opened at 1 p.m., knowing they would have nearly five hours to kill before game time. With a huge chunk of Kirby completely shut down and cordoned off, it made sense to arrive early. All the better to partake in $19 sandwiches available at the Killen’s Barbecue stand or the $30 double shot alcoholic lemonade sold alongside more kid-friendly lemonade flavors.
No one wanted to miss this coin toss after all.