The crowds at the urinals, the traffic, the obscenely expensive ticket prices, parking fees and beers. I've been bombarded with generalizations about how much better it is to watch football games on TV. Is it really true? Can football be more enjoyable with HDTV, a six pack and a couple of actual kids, rather than live action, $7.50 beers and several thousand "kids?"
Foxboro, MA. 8am. September 27, 2009. I readily admit that I was watching the Weather Channel radar this morning when I heard the rain outside my window. I continued to watch the Weather Channel update station (where no one talks, its just a continuous loop of the doppler radar) while marinading the steak tips with my special Jameson's marinade. I just don't have a good record with weather at football games. Rain at the Jets game, Snow at the Jaguars game. A couple of Dolphins games that swore me off of live football forever, or at least temporarily, as it turns out. But it's difficult to turn down an opportunity to go to a game, even though I am so woefully unprepared for weather at football games. Contrast with...
Home. 5pm. September 14, 2009. It's the first game of the season. Tom Brady is playing his first game in months, and the Patriots have the early 7pm game of a Monday Night Doubleheader. This is set up for a perfect TV experience. But wait! I find out that my wife has to work until 6pm tonight. I'm not sure who's more bummed out, me or the kids, since they are going to have to fend for themselves for dinner and bedtime. I figure that the 7 year old can make his younger brother and sister waffles - it is the Patriots opening night after all. They can also get themselves some goldfish, I left the packages where they can reach them in the pantry. That's okay, I think to myself. Waffles and goldfish just this one time. Besides, I was teaching Daddy's Little Girl (DLG) to say on command "Are you ready for some football?"
Foxboro, MA. 9:30am. We get to the parking lot a little late and park near the far corner. I'm told that we're parking dangerously close to this group of very sensitive 50 year old guys who claim that corner as their own. We park in this lot because of the proximity and ease of the HOV lane. They park in this lot (and this corner of the lot specifically) because that is the best spot for their Bose stereo and tent placement. They kind of look like a poor man's Sons of Anarachy. In fact, I see one guy pay the parking attendant an extra $20 (at least) to save spots for their buddies, and park other cars at an angle to maximize their tent coverage. Seriously? Yes, seriously they answer as we're told six times that their buddies are coming and we need to move the tent we're setting up. And NOW. "Can you just wait until our tent is locked in?" my buddy asks. "No, you see they're in line up there, they'll be here in 5 or 10 minutes." they answer. These guys are really worried. Luckily, I brought some cupcakes to settle everyone down. Otherwise they really might have gone after that Falcons fan.
Home. 5:30pm. I get a frantic call from my wife. The gift cards that my wife so generously gave me for a couple of free rounds of golf were actually meant to be donated to her charity tournament. "You didn't give one to my Father did you?" "Well yeah, you told me to." I answer. "Damn it!" She shrieks. I'm not sure if she's saying this because of all of the times I picked to actually listen to her, I picked this one. But no matter because she has to race home and then race to Hanson to get the charity golf cards and then drop them back off. 6pm is out of the question now. "Do you mind taking one of the boys?" I, er, ask myself when she comes home to pick up one of the cards. I'm pretty sure she didn't hear that question because it followed my question of whether she knew how to get back to the Club she just came from.
7pm is OK, though, because I'll just crack open one of the Bud Lights I left for myself and sit...what the Hell happened to the beer I left? Oh great. "Daddy, I'm thirsty." DLG sweetly says to me. "You and me both, cutie. You and me both."
Foxboro, MA. 12:55pm. I have to admit that the 3 sausages, 10 shrimp, 8 steak tips and the three beers have made the half jog to the Stadium a little difficult. P90X doesn't teach you fitness when you fill your stomach with toxins. When we get to the stadium, my buddy has a great idea, that I can't help but think has been implemented before. Although our seats are in the 300 level, let's just start the game in the 100 level, he explains. Interesting concept, maybe just for a couple of minutes. "Just wait until the usherette is busy helping someone and just slip in with the crowd." Wait, this sounds a little too nefarious for my taste, but I capitulate because at this point it's easier going down stairs than up ramps. We settle into the seats below.
To make us pay for our transgressions, the football Gods put us next to a guy from Los Angeles who is vigorously rooting against the Patriots - not for the Falcons - but against the Patriots. Before I knew he was from L.A., I asked this tool who quarterbacked the Falcons when they went to their only Super Bowl a couple of years ago. I couldn't remember the answer either, but who cares, I'm the one ASKING the questions here. Finally, after the First Quarter, when it was clear that these seats weren't going to be taken away from us, I mentioned that we should go. I had to go to the bathroom anyway. "Come on let's stay, these seats are ours. Just go take a leak, and when you come back, just act like you own the place." Too tired to debate, I come back from the bathroom (with no line in the 100 Section), go the the aisle and proceed to point to a couple of people I didn't know and said "What's up!" and gave the usherette a knowing nod. I'm not sure I know what "acting like I own the place" actually means. My kids own my house. One observation, I love painted faces. My wife would kill me if I embarrassed myself in that way, but painted faces are just plain cool. Patriots 26 Atlanta 10.
Home. 7pm. The game starts. I tell the boys that if they watch the game, they can stay up past their bedtimes. I know bribery is not a good parenting practice. "Are there going to be fireworks or muskets," my 5 year old asks, clearly still scarred from the preseason game we went to a couple of weeks before. "Not if you sit down and don't make a sound." I gently explain to him. I then wink at my 7 year old, who seems to get the joke. If I'm going to bribe my kids, I might as well manipulate them into being quiet too. Finally, my wife comes home at 7:30. She asks me why the kids aren't in bed yet on a school night, I ask her if she got any beer to replace the ones she drank the night before. My question didn't go over well, so I just sat back down, while she graciously put the boys to bed. As she goes up stairs I defiantly tell her that DLG is in bed. "Good job." She mutters. I proceed to watch an awful game until the last 5 minutes, but you know how it ends. Patriots 25 Bills 24.
Foxboro, MA. 4:30pm. It's still early and everyone is happy. A couple of the sensitive types are lying on the grass/mud near their Bose speaker. I'm not really sure if they went in to the game or just got drunk and listened to their Snoop Dog/Lynyrd Skynyrd mix tape. Experienced some traffic, then drank some more beer and a celebratory shot of Jamesons, then swent home a couple of hours later. Have to go to work the next morning.
Home. 10:15pm. Everyone is in bed. So I go to bed, too. Have to go to work the next morning.
Attending games in person is an expensive adventure. These tickets are scarce (I know being on the wait list for years) and so they come with a premium. However, there is not substitute for a football game live. The camaraderie, the smells, the excitement just can't be duplicated no matter how many guys are in front of the TV and how clear the picture is. I give the edge to live action. Maybe when I get my tickets, my 5 year old won't be so afraid of the muskets and fireworks.