How to Sneak Into the Super Bowl Without Really Trying

Of the estimated 71,000-plus fans expected to cram into Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, it’s a near-lock that one or two will get in without paying. Whether driven by the need for a bit of viral fame, the thousands it costs to buy a ticket, or the thrill of committing a misdemeanor, almost every year someone manages to subvert the massive surveillance and security apparatus the NFL and the federal government installs in the host city, by hook or by crook.

One person who got away with this low-level crime is Trevor Kraus, a 27-year-old from St. Louis, who has retired from gatecrashing and is teaching English in Madrid. But during his six-year heyday, he managed to hustle and scamper his way into 31 sporting events across the globe: Wimbledon, the Copa Libertadores in Buenos Aires, the National League Championship Series, the World Series, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, big-time college football games, and, of course, the Super Bowl. His book, Ticketless, documented 22 of these escapades.

Reached by phone, Kraus said sneaking into games wasn’t just a source of fun and treasured memories, but significantly changed his life’s trajectory—and very much for the better. The road trips, the hours spent scoping out stadiums and concocting plans, and developing his patented “spin move” (more on this later), pulled him out of a serious depression he was mired in after his father died. When he was dodging rent-a-cops, “all of that disappeared,” he said. Gatecrashing made Kraus feel invulnerable, accepted, surrounded by friends, and armed with a clear purpose. To put it simply: “It made me feel cool.”

Growing up, Kraus had been a diehard fan of the local St. Louis teams: the Rams (who’ve since ditched Missouri for Los Angeles), Cardinals, Blues, and the University of Missouri. At age eight, his parents divorced. He and his younger brother spent their weekends at his father’s apartment, and sports became an indelible part of that fabric. Invariably they’d hunker down on the couch, watching games on television.

But it wasn’t until his freshman year at Mizzou that Kraus flouted the law. In March 2010, He and a group of friends hit the road, trekking all the way to Buffalo, New York, for the NCAA Tournament. They’d bought tickets for the early game, but Gonzaga—another school Kraus rooted for—was playing later that evening against Syracuse, and Kraus was determined to see them in person.

Thanks to a part-time job in high school as ticket taker at the Scottrade Center (now called the Enterprise Center), Kraus knew there would be an hour-long break between the afternoon and evening games. More to the point, while stadium personnel do their level best to boot everyone who attended the first game out, they weren’t always successful. (Kraus said he often used that ostensible downtime to snag a snack and chill in the break room.)

After the buzzer sounded, they scooted all the way up to the upper deck of the arena and found a hiding place behind a curtain and inside an industrial-sized dumpster. There, crouched in garbage, they waited for approximately 45 minutes. When they heard a new batch of fans clattering about, they exited the bin and plopped down in a few unused seats. From that moment on, “I realized how easy it can be and how minimal the consequences are likely to be,” recalled Kraus.

Of course, Kraus doesn’t really know what those consequences might be. He’s only been caught without a legit ticket twice, and on both occasions, security didn’t call the police. Even if he had been charged with trespassing or loitering, “For me,” he said, “the risk has always been outweighed by the reward.”

While in college, his father’s health took a turn for the worse. Though his father was only 49 years old, he’d been sent to an adult-care facility, wracked with depression and unable to live on his own. In October 2011, he passed away in a car crash. Kraus has never been clinically diagnosed, but he described himself as deeply depressed at the time, haunted by the fear that he was destined to suffer a similar fate.

“I was worried that I would be alone forever because I’d had no luck romantically,” he said. I felt like I was a losera virgin, no girlfriend, and I just kept striking out over and over.”

So Kraus leaned into gatecrashing, honing his craft and refining what he called his “spin move.” No, he doesn’t actually spin his way out of someone’s clutches, though that was the inspiration. “Well, if they reach out to grab me, I’ll just spin out of their grasp,” Kraus recalled thinking Members of his fraternity adopted and adapted the term, using it to describe a frat brother extricating himself from all manner of sticky situations, and so “the name just stuck.”

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