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I went to the Super Bowl. Here’s what I saw inside SoFi Stadium

Inside a covered stadium.
The field ahead of Super Bowl LVI at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood on Feb. 8, 2022.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Feb. 14. I’m Justin Ray. Happy Valentine’s Day, lovely people.

The first thing I saw when I walked into SoFi Stadium was rapper Wiz Khalifa.

That was one of many fun moments I experienced Sunday at the Super Bowl, as the Rams topped the Bengals 23-20. However, everything ended up crashing down at the end of the night.

The first thing that stood out to me as I wandered each level of the stadium was how few people were wearing masks. This was especially troubling as people screamed and cheered throughout the game’s many ups and downs.

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While the event wasn’t the safest coronavirus-wise, I do have to say I felt physically safe. Despite the bitter competition between the two teams, I was surprised to see fans acting pretty cordial.

The only moment I witnessed that got intense took place in a bathroom. As Bengals fans cheered for their team, one guy angrily shouted back in support of the Rams. But even then, after realizing people were staring at him, fearing that the moment would escalate, he quickly walked out. It was a wise decision considering that most people around at that moment were wearing black and orange jerseys. He would have surely received a Cincinnati whooping.

Speaking of which, I have to admit that I was rooting for my Ohio hometown team. I couldn’t lose either way, with both teams representing places I have called home. But as I explained in a story I wrote last week, I think my native city deserves more national attention (though I realize that might not be a popular opinion among readers of this California newsletter).

The halftime show united the crowd. I was shocked to see people of all ages singing along to Snoop Dogg. Mary J. Blige’s section had at least one stadium employee full-on dancing. During the show, the employee allowed some people to stand and to get a better view. When the show ended, she got a lot of laughs when she said: “OK, the show is over. Get the f— back into your seats.”

I posted a lot of highlights from the event on Twitter. One that riled people up was a $9 hot dog. Why? Just look at it.

At the end of the game, social media displayed many Rams fans excited about the home team’s win. Nobody was too trashed, as the stadium stopped serving alcohol in the third quarter.

I didn’t see the very end in person because there was one place I had to visit before the end of the night: a North Hollywood bar called 513, named after the Cincinnati area code. Yes — a bar dedicated to the city.

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A few people on the street outside a bar.
A Cincinnati-themed bar in North Hollywood called 513, after the city’s area code.
(Justin Ray)

When I walked up, all the patrons looked defeated. The manager told me there were points in the game when it seemed as if the Bengals were going to pull it off. It seemed as though their near-win made defeat that much more agonizing.

As I left, I saw a Rams fan shout “Who dey?” at a couple wearing Bengals jerseys before erupting in laughter.

I’ll admit I was pretty sad. But I felt even worse when I realized that I’d apparently left my keys somewhere in the huge stadium. That probably happened after I scanned my items through a metal detector when I passed Wiz Khalifa. So I, like my Bengals, ended up defeated — and out $336 after paying a locksmith to break into my apartment.

I hope you had a better night.

Additional reading:

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Horrific allegations of racism prompt California lawsuit against Tesla. The N-word and other racist slurs were hurled daily at Black workers at Tesla’s California plant, delivered not just by fellow employees but also by managers and supervisors. But that’s not all that a lawsuit filed against the electric-vehicle maker alleges. Los Angeles Times

A factory.
Automaker Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., factory is pictured in a drone photo on March 11, 2021.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

L.A. STORIES

Jane Goodall will join the Los Angeles Times Book Club on Feb. 25 for a virtual conversation about her career and latest project, “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times.” We talked to the prolific author and scientist ahead of the event about topics like Zoom, environmental decline and, of course, her latest work. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Racism has caused a public health crisis in California. Now what? Communities in the state felt optimism when government officials identified racism as a public health threat early in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that proclamation needs to be followed by actions that will reverse racism’s effects. A bill currently stalled in the Legislature would add the state of California itself to a list of institutions that have acknowledged racism’s impact on public health, and also would create an Office of Racial Equity. Capital and Main

A new California program to financially reward college students for volunteer work has drawn national attention. But there’s one problem: less than half of its budgeted money is going to actual student aid. The California Volunteers College Corps program, backed by $159 million in mostly state money, promises to award up to $10,000 to 6,668 low-income students who volunteer. “That only works out to $66.7 million for students, though. So where is the other $92 million going? Mostly it’s going to hiring and administrative costs despite no guarantee the program will continue past 2024,” writes Mikhail Zinshteyn. CalMatters

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

Will Suge Knight’s attorney follow the rap mogul to prison? Defense attorney Matthew Fletcher’s persona has endeared him to clients, while aggravating prosecutors and detectives, some of whom say Fletcher behaves more like a defendant than a defense attorney. That line has blurred completely in a Los Angeles courtroom where for the last two months Fletcher has defended himself against charges he conspired to bribe witnesses to lie on behalf of gangsta rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, whom Fletcher represented in a murder case. Los Angeles Times

Rapper Kodak Black was among four people injured in a shooting in the Beverly Grove area of Los Angeles early Saturday outside a star-studded party that followed a Justin Bieber concert for Super Bowl weekend, according to authorities. Kodak Black, 24, whose real name is Bill Kapri, was shot in the foot during the confrontation, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation. There was no word on a suspect, and a motive for the shooting was unclear. Los Angeles Times

A person has bills on his stretched-out right arm.
Kodak Black arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Forum in 2017.
(Jordan Strauss / Associated Press)

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Will rising seas drown the California dream? Neither the state’s wealth nor its commitment to activist government is sure to protect low-lying coastal towns from the rising sea. “Whatever California’s coast has experienced in the past century will be nothing like the inundation that marks this century. The only guesswork concerns exactly how high the water will go,” Francis Wilkinson writes. Bloomberg

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

How to support the L.A. Times Book Club and Book Prizes. Since the start of the pandemic, The Times has expanded this mission by offering many of the newsroom’s live journalism events free and virtual to make it easy for our readers to participate from home. Now we need your help to keep going and growing. Please join us by contributing to the Los Angeles Times Community Fund to support the newspaper’s signature literacy programs. Los Angeles Times

At least two sets of lifetime passes to the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival sold for more than a quarter of a million dollars in the festival’s NFT auction, which closed Friday. The long-running music festival, which happens at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, first announced a venture into the NFT market via its social media accounts on Feb. 1. The Press-Enterprise

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Overcast, 78. San Diego: Sunny, 75. San Francisco: Overcast, 55. San Jose: Overcast, 65. Fresno: Overcast, 77. Sacramento: Sunny, 68.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from John Evans:

When I first moved to California in 1981, I was walking west down a street in Berkeley as the sun was setting. I was about to pass Joseph the Provider church when I heard a woman beautifully singing. She was coursing down a hill behind the church, arms swinging while she sang from her wheelchair. She arrived at the sidewalk at the same time as I arrived there and, going very fast, she did an extremely agile 90-degree turn and continued down the street, singing and swinging. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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