Everybody who watched the Super Bowl in Sunday could easily notice a difference in the crowd compared to previous big games: the presence of cardboard cutouts of people, cheering alongside those actually in attendance.
The faux fans were designed to enforce social distancing while making the stadium look relatively full, and some of the real people in the stands befriended their cardboard compadres.
Tampa Bay resident Caitlin Katz was one of them, even developing a somewhat of a bond with them.
"We kinda just made friends with the cutouts! I mean, we kinda celebrated with our little friends around us, we named them all," Katz said.
There were roughly 30,000 cutouts in the stands to watch the Buccaneers top the Chiefs. Half of them came from people who spent $100 on them for charity and sent in photos of themselves to take their place at the game. Katz liked some of the ones around her enough, she took them home with her and is now trying to send them to their families.
"I wanted to find out who they were and send it to them, especially (because) it wasn't a free thing, you know," she said. "I would want that for my kids."
One of her favorites may have some appeal to local football fans: it was a photo of a baby in New York Jets jersey. Katz posted about her mission on Facebook and is hoping someone in the area sees the photo and can identify the baby so she can send the cutout — and maybe translate a cardboard pal into a real friend in the process.
"I really hope that we can have a little friendship moving forward and have a little joke out of it," Katz said.
At a time when COVID is keeping so many people apart, Katz is hoping someone will notice and seize the opportunity to connect with a real person, for a change.
"We made the best out of a weird time, and I just thought I brought them all home with me — why not bag 'em up and mail 'em off, and they'll have something to remember the Super Bowl too," she said.