They came on foot, on bicycles built for one and two and in stretch limousines built for comfort. They came by bus, by motorcycle and motor home. Most walked a ways, some ran and a few even arrived on skateboards.
They came to see a Super Bowl today, the first in the Bay area, and the 84,059 who showed up at Stanford Stadium to watch the San Francisco 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins, 38-16, provided a far more spectacular pregame show than any television network could have dared imagine.
The Super Bowl had its full share of California crazies today. There was Gypsy Boots, a 74-year-old marathon runner who showed up with a stuffed dummy dressed like the Dolphins' Dan Marino, propped up in a director's chair. Gypsy also had hundreds of multicolored pins, and invited anyone who passed by to "make your point, stick it to Marino." Hundreds did.
There were Kevin Billingsley and David Baszocki, Stanford seniors who dressed up as the opposing quarterbacks, Marino and Joe Montana, and had a half-dozen of their friends available with cameras, inviting fans to "take your picture with the stars of the game."
"We're pre-meds, pre-laws; you name it, that's what we major in," said one of the picture peddlers, Bill Vestevich. "We thought we'd have a little fun, make a little money. So far (an hour before the kickoff), we've sold about 150, and we're havin' a gas."
The same could be said for almost everyone on the Stanford University campus, with the possible exception of ticket scalpers, who have watched prices plummet all week, hitting close to rock bottom -- the $60 face value, less by kickoff -- the closer it came to game time.
Although scalping is legal in California, it is not permitted on the Stanford campus, and deals were being made surreptitiously early in the afternoon behind trees, campers and parked buses.
In front of the press gate, Mike Suminski of Calgary, Alberta, held up a sign imploring, "Would you have an extra ticket for sale?" Suminski, who sells real estate, says he had gone to the last five Super Bowls, each time without a ticket, and always gotten in.
"I'll pay $125, tops," he said, moments after a scalper had asked $400 for a seat on the 30-yard line. "No way I'll pay that much. It never fails. Two hours before the kickoff, some of these guys get greedy. But it always comes down just about where you want it. I'm confident, no question."
Life on campus at idyllic Stanford was shaken by the big event next door. At the age of XIX, the Super Bowl went to college.
"It's a zoo on the streets," said Stephanie Norton, a freshman swimmer from Boston. "Last night, instead of going out, we went and watched the RVs and stuff."
But the culture clash between books and bookies brought detractors out of the woodwork.
"First the Olympics (some soccer games were played at Stanford), and now this," said John Schlaefer, a senior electrical engineering major from Lincoln, N.H. "It's tacky. Harvard wouldn't do this."
"It's a curiosity," said second-year law student John Lewis.
Others figured the sports world's most commercial event belongs at Stanford, which has been growing conservative over the years, according to law student Rick Bress of Pittsburgh, who was playing basketball before going home to watch the game on television.
"It's a preppy place," he said. "There are a lot of blond kids here with big, white teeth. This is a perfect place for the Super Bowl."
But he certainly didn't mind the extra publicity the school is receiving.
"The folks can see Stanford on TV," Bress said. "We're not going to see Cornell on TV hosting the Super Bowl."
There were all sorts of entrepreneurs, including the U.S. Postal Service, which offered canceled stamps and post cards with the official Super Bowl logo from a trailer near the stadium. You could buy chocolate brownies for $1.25, official T-shirts for $14, peanuts for $1.50, golf hats for $15 and the unofficial Super Bowl belt buckle for $39.95. Two children were making a small fortune undercutting the big boys, selling tea and coffee at 25 cents a pop, and chocolate chip cookies for a quarter, too.
Corporate America was very much in evidence as well. At the Stanford tennis courts, a number of companies were entertaining guests under huge white tents. The media covering the game -- and many who weren't -- attended a lavish brunch on the floor of the Stanford basketball arena, and every spectator in the stadium had a soft seat cushion, courtesy of Apple computers.
Over in one parking lot, hundreds of campers and recreational vehicles, many parked in prime spots as early as last Wednesday, were gathering places for hundreds of tailgaters.
A group of fathers and sons who came in for the game from all over the country was gathered around a van near the stadium. Stephani Mistretta, their driver for the day, had a guitar in her arms and the guitar case open at her feet. There were a few coins inside. She was singing Emmylou Harris.
"She did a heckuva job," said Doug Conners of Whitefish, Mont., one of her passengers. "I mean driving. I didn't even know she could sing."
Some fans came out early and lined out a small football field, about the size of half a tennis court, complete with hash marks and end zones, and played what they described as turf ball -- three-on-a-side touch football that allowed only passing.
"What Ping-Pong is to tennis, turf ball is to football," said Dave Gray, a Stanford graduate who served as referee while his friends played. "We do it before every game. The Super Bowl will be anticlimactic, to tell you the truth. The fun happens before and after."
"This is a tailgating university," said Mike Walker, of San Jose, sitting by his RV, eating steak on a skewer and washing it down with a beer. "They're charging us $25 to park here; it's usually free. We parked it Friday, had a party Saturday night, right here, with all the same people. It's the only way to go."
Not for everyone, though. Mike McVay came to the game on his 10-speed bike with his friend, Patti Van Atta. Hundreds more did the same. "We live about five, six miles away, and we figured with all the traffic, this had to be the best way to get here," McVay said. "You beat the cars, and you see all the crazies. I saw one guy with a Mohawk haircut who had '49ers' cut into the hair on the side. I saw a bald guy from Miami with 'Beat Niners' painted on the dome. It's a great scene. We'll just lock the bikes up on campus, then ride home tonight. It's all flat, no hills. You get the game and a workout, too."
Welcome to a California-crazy Super Bowl.