Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hartford Colonials - Do We Have to Listen to Muskets?

Earlier this year, the kids and I went to Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut to attend the Hartford Whalers Fanfest.  It was a nice little field complete with luxury boxes, hot dog vendors and beer lines.  Waiting in the aforementioned beer lines, I noticed a couple of advertisements for the UFL's Hartford Colonials amid all of the UConn paraphernalia.  I banked that information for a later date.  These games probably aren't as rowdy as Patriots games, I thought, so it would probably be a good idea to go to one of their games later in the Fall with the family.

But our own football got in the way.  So instead of attending a game where the weather was conducive to sitting on cold metal bleacher seats, the only Hartford Colonials game we found we could go to was the Colonials last game against the Las Vegas Locomotives at the end of November.  I mistakenly decided not to bother with tickets or to read any news that week about the UFL, and determined to plow ahead.  Luckily that decision of laziness ended up not harming us.  See, while the UFL is considered a minor league to the NFL's major leagues, the league decided to charge an NFL team $150,000 transaction fee for any player they plucked from the UFL - despite the transfer occurring AFTER the season.  As a result, UFL players were seriously considering boycotting the last regular season games.  Oh jeez, and I rode two hours to a game that might not happen?

East Hartford CT.  After a quick sojourn to Starbucks where everyone was so friendly to us, especially the lady telling my wife that she was driving the wrong way down a two way street (Thanks lady!), we get to the Rentschler Field.  Not too busy, I thought, as we parked the car about 100 yards from the stadium.  The first thing we are confronted with was literally 10 guys coming up to us one by one trying to sell their tickets to the game "Less than the ticket window!  Get them before their gone!"  Are the Colonials folding after the season, I thought?  But after smartly purchasing 5 $20 tickets for 60 bucks, we march toward the field, not thinking that this might be the Colonials' last game.  I was too busy dissuading the kids from falling for the various hawkers selling programs and hot dogs, with the promise to get them sick with junk food throughout the game.

We walk toward our seats, while I start fishing for my junk food money.  I observe that we're behind one of the end zones, so immediately I feel compelled to talk my sons into thinking that these are good seats because we might be able to catch missed field goal attempts and keep the footballs.  I don't know if that's really true, but I figured the chances of us catching a football were much less than Dad being caught in a lie.  And I am about to pat myself on the back when I'm struck by a little sign on the back of the seats.

"Family Section - No alcohol permitted beyond this point." 

The scalper was awfully kind to give us family section seats, but what the Hell is this all about?  A nice usher, seeing the looks on our faces as the wife and I continue to look at the sign and mutter to each other, came over and told us that we could sit anywhere except the blue seats along the 50 Yard line, that no one checks tickets.  Let's sit in the sun the girls decide.  I'll get some beer, I decide.

Beer lines!  Finally, with beer and food in hand, and as we're walking to our newly found bleacher seats on the 20 yard line, I notice a couple of guys milling around the field, wearing period clothing.  And they're carrying what looks like muskets, and they're standing near what looks like artillery cannon.  We're sitting 50 feet away from the ACTUAL colonials!  Oh no, this is not going to end well, I can already tell.  My younger son G is still scarred from the Patriots game I took him to and his first experience with musket firing after scores.  He's still afraid of these things and I constantly have to explain that there are no muskets at the Basketball game, or the movie theater or Cape Cod.  But they're here!  So when he asks me if there are any guns, I figure that if I tell him nonchalantly that they are here, maybe he won't even notice that I confirmed his worst fears.  All of a sudden those end zone seats don't seem so bad.

"They shoot guns, Dad?"  He asks with a slight quiver in his voice.

"Yes, but maybe the Colonials won't score."  I explain, and not three minutes after I say that the sound of Cannon fire fills the stadium as the teams are introduced.  I never noticed that the Hartford UFL team's name was an ode to the New England Patriots who just 12 years ago were going to be playing football here.  Nice "scorned wife" touch.

After drying tears on two of the kids, we finally settle in our seats to watch the game.  I can't tell the teams apart since the home team rarely wears white jerseys anymore, so I figure that they're wearing their home blues.  My wife doesn't care.  She decides to scoff at the cheerleaders wearing outfits that belie the fact that its windy and 40 degrees out and snicker about the minutemen staring at the cheerleaders.  (In fact, she tells me later that they were "lecherous" and should not be holding any sort of fire arms - even if they're shooting blanks.  But they're from the 1700's!)

After the First Quarter, the Colonials are winning 10-0 after an incredible interception return for a touchdown by Danny Lansanah.  Only two children have cried over the musket and cannon fire.  My oldest son is snickering when the cannon goes off looking at his siblings, so I figure he's not going to make it 3 for 3 in the crying department.

As the Second Quarter starts winding down, we all start huddling closer together.  The sun has gone down and the wind has started picking up.  I had forgotten how cold it gets around here and I hadn't realized how warm beer makes you at football games until you go without it.   The Locos had just scored to make the game 13-7 and we were all starting to get the "if we leave now what time will it be when we get home?" looks on our faces.  At the same time, the Colonials are stringing together a couple of nice plays to get to the Locos end of the field as the clock starts winding down.  Then Colonials' quarterback Josh McNown (or Cade, I'm not sure which McNown it was) heaves up a mini hail mary.  We all stand in unison as the ball flies toward Colonials receiver Tyson Devree (who made up for dropping two TD passes in the half).  It's a well thrown ball...maybe this can be caught...and it's CAUGHT FOR A TOUCHDOWN!  We all start yelling.  I'm high-fiving the guy sitting next to me even though he's wearing a Yankees hat.  My daughter looks around wondering what just happened.  Muskets and cannons are being fired.  No children screaming.  It's great.

We decide to stay.  About four minutes into the Third Quarter, the Colonials nab another interception and take that one back for a touchdown too.  It's now 27-7.  Aren't the Locomotives supposed to be good?  Aren't the Colonials playing against the defending champions who are going to be playing for another championship next week?  Well no matter, all of the kids start talking about leaving because they are so cold.  I can't blame them, I'm cold too.  So toward the end of the Third Quarter we decide to leave with the Colonials winning by 20 points.  They go on to win their season finale 27-14.

*   *   *   *   *

We're all still talking about the pass that ended the First Half.  C starts to analyze the great pass blocking that led to McNown to have enough time to throw the ball in the first place and then declares that HE could have caught that pass too.  Thatta boy!  My younger son, mimicking his older brother also states matter of factly that he could have caught the ball too.  My daughter is asleep.  Judging by their reactions, I think we'll have to make this an annual trip.   It's a great place for a family to watch a game and is about 25% of the cost of an NFL game (well except for the $10 Guinesses, those are the same everywhere).  See you next year.

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