From the Super Bowl to Ruta del Sol: How Australian sport director Matt White fell for the NFL
BikeExchange-Jayco owner Gerry Ryan helped secure a ticket to Super Bowl LVI for NFL fan Matt White.
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IZNÁJAR, Spain (VN) — From the Super Bowl to the Ruta del Sol — you can’t blame Matt White if he was a little jet-lagged Wednesday morning at the start of stage 1.
The Australian sport director at BikeExchange-Jayco arrived in Spain on Tuesday evening just in time for the start of the five-day Spanish stage race following an overnight flight straight from Los Angeles.
Flash back 48 hours earlier, he was sitting in the end zone of Super Bowl LVI. It was one of those YOLO moments the ex-pro wasn’t going to miss.
“It was an awesome experience,” White told VeloNews. “I was five or six rows up from the field. The stadium was incredible, and the whole place was buzzing. I flew in Friday and flew out Monday. Now here I am.”
White, 47, isn’t just some casual weekend warrior who got lucky with a Super Bowl ticket. He’s a rabid NFL fan who follows the sport with fervor each winter.
Last month at the Santos Festival of Cycling, he was sharing a BikeExchange-Jayco car with team owner Gerry Ryan when he casually mentioned White’s team the Los Angeles Rams were in the semi-final conference playoff game.
“I was telling Gerry Ryan how my team was playing the 49ers, and if they won, they’d be going to the Super Bowl,” White said.
“In the next sentence, Gerry said, ‘Whitey, would you like to go? Let me make a couple of calls,'” he said. “As soon as they qualified for the Super Bowl, Gerry sent me a message that through some contacts he could get me a ticket. I couldn’t believe it.”
Before he knew it, White was booking a flight to Los Angeles.
And then he struck gold twice. Not only did he land a prized ticket to one of the world’s biggest sport spectacles, he found a reasonably priced hotel within walking distance of the stadium.
“When I landed, I went for a run to suss out how to get to the stadium,” he said. “The stadium is half underground, and you can hear the roar come up from the earth.
“On game day, I went for a quick run, had two tacos and a Dos XX, and then went there really early and just took it all in.”
So how did an Australian bike racer and sport director get hooked on what is a very North American-centric sport?
An avid sports fan, White likes to unplug during the winter months by watching and following on other sports to disconnect a bit from the all-consuming world of the peloton.
He was not an NFL fan at all until a few years ago when he watched a documentary series on Amazon about the Los Angeles Rams and the team’s return to California.
Part of the documentary chronicled the arrival of new head coach Sean McVay, at the time the youngest coach in the NFL. The series struck a chord, and White was intrigued.
White started following the league over the winter, which ties in nicely with cycling’s fallow season. He even went to Wembley Stadium one year the Rams played an official NFL game in London.
By then, he was hooked on the NFL.
“In general, it works pretty good for us. The majority of the NFL season is during our off-season, so I stay up and watch the Sunday night games,” said White, who is based in Spain during much of the racing season.
“The funny thing is, my two sons are right into it as well. One is a mad Chiefs fan, and the other likes the Rams,” he said. “They’re culturally confused kids. They are two little Aussie kids living in Spain throwing a grid-iron ball on the street.”
White picked a pretty good game as his first NFL game in person on U.S. soil.
His favored Rams won a thrilling edition of football’s biggest show.
By Tuesday, he landed in Sevilla, took a taxi to Ubrique, and Wednesday morning he was back behind the wheel in the BikeExchange-Jayco team car.
That ticket stub, which would have been worth $20,000 or more to pre-game scalpers, is a keepsake that is tucked away somewhere.