Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich
Purchase Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times here
Purchase Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times here
The Big Game is finally here. After months of weekly fashion shows by all of the teams in the league (and maybe a bit of ball running/throwing/kicking to make the NFL look like something other than a club for boys with cute outfits vying for rings each winter), it has come down to two options for Mr. NFL. We’ve got the 49ers who will be sporting red and gold ensembles tomorrow morning (game time is 7:30AM for those of us residing in the Middle Kingdom) and the Ravens who will wear a darker scheme of purple and black.
(Looking back over the season, the regular game day uniforms were pretty similar to last year, but when it came time for throwbacks, there were some major missteps! I still can’t believe the Steelers took the field looking like giant bumblebees this fall. Horizontal stripes aren’t easy for most people to pull off, but put them on a 300 pound linebacker and the results aren’t pretty. Give them some antennae and a few Spanish phrases and they could be stand-ins for Bumblebee Man from the Simpsons. And don’t even get me started on the throwbacks donned by the Buccaneers this season. Just a hint boys: Sherbet-hued outfits will intimidate no one. And regardless of how you feel about the breast cancer awareness pink requirement during October, I would officially like to excuse the Redskins and the Chiefs from next year’s forced “we heart boobies” trend. There is just no way the red/yellow of their normal uniforms can come anywhere near looking good with a splash of bright pink. Let them off the hook, for the sake of all of our eyes.)
While my Idaho roots may make readers think I would lean towards supporting the 49ers, I can’t do that, for several reasons. First, those outfits are hideous. They look like they are stuck in the 80s. If the Super Bowl was based purely on uniform design (which I wish it were), they’d lose before the coin was even tossed.
But, their terrible threads are not the only reason they aren’t getting my vote. How can I not tell the tale of my heart and root on the Ravens? You’d have to chain me to a catacomb’s wall to keep me from cheering on Baltimore’s team tomorrow morning. The wings seraphs of heaven covet the playing abilities of Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco. Will San Francisco take home the Lombardi trophy tomorrow morning? “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’”
He was a literary master and he has an NFL team named after him. There is no other team to root for. Evermore!
To prepare for the early morning match-up, my day has been spent getting ready for the Super Bowl party I will host at the consulate. With freshly painted purple and black fingernails, I’ve peeled about a million mandarin oranges, which are a perfect for the continental breakfast spread I have ready to go in the morning. (Rather than noshing on nachos, pizza, chicken wings and beer, we’ll be celebrating with muffins, cinnamon rolls, fruit and coffee. That’s what happens when kickoff is before the opening of business on a work day.) I ran to the store to get extra juice, worried that the four boxes I schlepped back to the compound after lunch on Friday would not be enough, and got some baby bananas to supplement the peeled miniature oranges.
Sadly, we won’t get to watch the overpriced Super Bowl commercials, as we’ll be watching the game live on an AFN (Armed Forces Network) feed, which doesn’t allow for commercials. While all of America is watching a baby Clydesdale grow up and make his owner proud (and getting to take a shot at naming him) and a confusing VW commercial that implies driving one will give you a carefree Caribbean outlook and a stereotypical Jamaican accent (neither of which I got in the several years I drove a VW Bug), we’ll be sipping coffee as the military reminds us about such uplifting topics as PTSD, suicide and the pitfalls of only paying the minimum balance on our credit cards.
Knowing that winter is going to be cut short thanks to Punxsutawney not seeing his shadow this weekend, those of us in Chengdu will be enjoying some early morning pigskin play action and hoping for a bit of sunshine to break through the haze. Oh yeah, and rooting on an American literary legend’s team.
The quickly creeping up end of October also means Thad’s birthday is just around the corner. Since he is slightly traumatized from his childhood days of birthday gifts wrapped in black and orange and filled with miniature candy bars, I figured I had better not get him anything with cute pumpkins or witches on it. I thought about adorable bat-covered goods, but decided a winged gift of another kind was more in order- tickets to the Eagles/Redskins game. Long a fan of the Philly team, this was the perfect opportunity for him to see them in person with just a jaunt up the blue line.
This was not Thad’s first Eagles game (he and Jeremy went to one in Seattle a few years ago, during which Shannon and I opted to partake of the downtown shopping opportunities instead), but it was mine. I have watched countless hours of pigskin frolicking on TV over the years, but this was my first live NFL experience.
The game itself was a success. The Eagles had several interceptions and enough points to come out on top as the final seconds of the game ticked away. Although the game was at FedEx field, home of the Washington Redskins (how is this an appropriate mascot?!?), I was surprised by the large number of Eagles fans in attendance. It was the makings of a massive flock to say the least! Our seats were in a section that was pretty even as far as red and green jerseys, so it seemed like every big play garnered both a standing ovation and a groan of despair.
Out of all the experiences at an NFL stadium, I was most astounded by the noise levels! When we watch football on TV, the announcers are always yammering on about the “12th Man” and its impact on the game. I guess I always assumed they were full of bologna and just liked to hear the sound of their own voices, but after sitting through it, I think they may actually know what they are talking about. The Redskins fans sitting directly in front of us were next to a column that had a metal grating around it. The lovely man, whom I nicknamed “Kicky” for obvious reasons, took every possible opportunity to stand up and slam the heck out of that grate with his foot. That poor hunk of metal endured abuse when the defense needed to take a stand, when the offense made a fabulous play or just whenever Kicky felt some pent up rage. There was A LOT of that.
The only thing I can compare the stadium noise level to is an experience from a good many years back. When I was in the sixth grade, like all tweens of the time (keeping in mind that this was before the term tween even existed), New Kids on the Block were just about the greatest things going. I skated around the cement roller rink in Nampa innumerable times to catchy tunes like “Hanging Tough” and “The Right Stuff.” NKOTB posters covered the walls of the bedroom I shared with my older sister, Melyssa, and our cassette tape organizers always gave them top billing. The winter of that opening year of middle school, my Aunt Laurie decided to get my sister and I the most coveted gift for girls our age- tickets to the upcoming concert! Not only did she get us tickets, but they were second row, floor seat tickets!!! Melyssa and I couldn’t wait for the day of the concert to come and after an interminable wait, it arrived. We were bundled off to the big city of Boise for our first live concert. After fending off the pleas of middle aged women wanting to buy our seats, we were there, front and center. I remember little of the concert itself, but I do recall that the music was so loud that I could really only hear it by plugging my ears. I think my little sixth grade self lost a bit of hearing that evening! Although it probably wasn’t as bad as my memory recalls it, I remember the noise being excruciating.
New Kids on the Block and FedEx Field- more in common than one would imagine!
Game and noise level aside, there was one other thing that must be mentioned- the restrooms. Like at most large events, there was always a line in the ladies’ bathroom. The stadium had enough stalls though to keep things moving at a fairly decent clip. The problem arose once the waiting was over. The bathroom I went in had probably fifteen stalls in a row, but it quickly became clear that only maybe four of them were equipped with an all-important necessity- toilet paper! At this point, the banter between red jerseys and green jerseys quickly stopped and a solution made everyone members of the same team. A TP bucket brigade was formed! The folks with paper in their stalls began tearing of sections and passing it under the stalls. Each person passed it on until it reached the end, with another handful following it. As the passing was happening, the women still in line figured out what was going on and took matters into their own hands as well. When I stepped out of my stall, having been both a participant and a beneficiary of the brigade, I noticed that all of the ladies in line had paper towels in hand. (Paper towels are never a first choice, but there are worse options.) What an odd little happening in the middle of this crowded stadium…
Once the game came to an end, I gladly bid farewell to ol’ Kicky and silently wished him a sore foot in the morning. We made our way back to the Metro and crammed in to a corner of a blue line train for the forty-five minute ride back to Crystal City. Thad’s birthday gift ended up being a success- the Eagles came out with a win and he wasn’t inundated with orange and black covered knick-knacks!