Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Enjoy Professional Football Games More

Good morning, Fantastic Football Fans!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I certainly hope so. I know that I am!

Last week I attended my first professional football game in several years, dating back to the days when my Dad and I made the Super Bowl an annual event. Having visited Gillette Stadium several times to attend practices for the Patriots, I was impressed by what I had seen and wanted to experience a game there. The new stadium is quite an upgrade from the former Foxboro Stadium that was the prior home for the Patriots. That facility had been built for around $6 million. The new facility cost more than $350 million.

Knowing that traffic jams are part of professional football, I left home very early . . . and still spent an hour and a half en route for what would normally be a 30 minute drive.

Before the game, I had been in Pennsylvania and my long drive back meant that I would arrive after the commuter train to the stadium had left. That was too bad. The round trip charge on the train is only $10 and the cheapest parking I could find was $20 within walking distance of the stadium. At the stadium itself, parking is $35. If I can find where the commuter train stations are, I may be able to save time and money.

Once at the game, I was impressed to see how many people were tailgating. In the stadium parking lot, about 1/3 of the vehicles had tables, grills and coolers. There were Port-a-Potties everywhere . . . but the lines were pretty long. Perhaps a lot of people were having urinary tract infections.

Having seen a sign that said "no binocular cases" at the last college game I attended, I didn't know what to expect. I was carrying my binoculars in a case. The security guard who frisked me took pity on me and simply searched my binocular case. He asked me why I had trash in the bottom of the case (he didn't seem to appreciate the used look to my lens cleaning cloth). The stadium was well equipped for frisking. There were 15 unoccupied friskers for every fan going in when I arrived.

Being pretty unclear how to get to my seat, I was relieved when the ticket taker gave me precise directions. I didn't want to spend two hours wandering around.

To enter Gillette Stadium for a regular seat (rather than a luxury box), you go up several long ramps which reminded me of the ramps at Fenway Park. The only difference is that these ramps let you see while you climb. I soon arrived at my level and decided to wander around. I was pleased to see that there were enough different food and beverage choices to allow me to eat and drink differently at every game in a season without the need to ever repeat myself. Naturally, I sampled the wares. Prices were steep! My favorite elixir was $10. A tiny pizza was $6. Hot chocolate was $3 (and it was cold rather than hot).

I was delighted (at first) to find that my seat was at the end of a row and the seat was a seat . . . rather than a number on a bench. There was a men's room at the top of the stairs, and I found that I could make a quick trip faster than the television crew could air all their commercials. But I soon began to miss lots of plays anyway, as I stood up for over 120 times to let my fellow fans in and out of their seats. Each of them was quite a bit taller than I am, so they effectively blocked the view each time they came through. For some reason, they all exited in my direction even if they were only three seats from the other aisle. Go figure!

Once the game began, a new problem arose. The man in the next seat arrived. Had he been in shape, his size would have qualified him to play nose tackle. Although he tried to leave me a little space, I lost about half my seat to him. Leaning out into the aisle, vendors began pushing me back into him.

I partially solved the problem by sitting sideways with my feet under the seat in front of me.

We all stood for the kickoff. And everyone kept standing. The fellows in front of me were at least 18 inches taller than I am, and they blocked my view even though their row was a foot lower. So I kept trying to peek between the bodies. Now I know what Doug Flutie goes through when he's trying to see receivers downfield.

Fortunately, it was a fairly warm night for late October, and I had worn several layers. I was warm throughout but the people around me (especially the ones in shorts) were soon shivering in the brisk breeze.

My seat was near one end zone, and that turned out to be fortunate for allowing me to see the Patriots score two touchdowns late in the game to secure their fourth win of the season over the surprisingly tough Buffalo Bills.

I took one last trip to the men's room, and was impressed to see that it was still pretty empty. The crowd did back up getting onto those exit ramps and it took about 30 minutes to get back to my car (no, I didn't get lost!). From there, I noticed that about half the fans were starting to tailgate all over again. That was good or it would have taken longer than the 45 minutes it did to get out of the parking lot. From there it was another 45 minutes home, and I was tucked in bed by 2 a.m.

Here are some suggestions based on my experience:

1. Buy a standing room ticket. I could have seen the game much better by standing, and I spent almost the whole game standing any way.

2. Take the commuter train unless you want to tailgate. This will save you at least an hour and a half and some money unless you are traveling with a large group.

3. Consider tailgating and making a day of it. With the price of stadium concessions, you can eat and drink for about one-tenth the cost out in the parking lots.

4. Bring arrangements for refreshing yourself if the Port-a-Potty lines are too long. For men this can be pretty easy. For women, I leave you to your own imagination.

5. Dress twice as warm as you think you need to be. That's the only way you can avoid being too chilled. You can always unzip a jacket or peel off a layer if you overdo it.

6. Wear your binoculars around your neck on the way in. That may save you a trip back to the car . . . or having to throw your case away if you come by commuter train.

7. Move around the stadium to follow the action. By going up and down the sidelines, you can always have a 50 yard line seat.

8. If you get tired of standing, flop down into an empty seat while its occupant is waiting in the beer and/or rest room lines. The average exit time is about 20 minutes at Gillette Stadium. And there are always lots of temporarily unoccupied seats.

9. Consider hanging around after the game if you don't take the train. I know it's not fun to be around after a loss, but you can bring along some other activity you like (such as a good book). Otherwise, you will just spend the same amount of time locked up in traffic with nothing much to do either.

10. Find friends who have luxury boxes you can use during the worst weather. Unless you do dog-sled races for fun, remember that by late December outdoor stadiums are colder than your freezer at home. Unless you like to climb into your freezer on Sunday afternoons, I recommend indoor viewing.

11. Appreciate the joys of the game ambience by not going to the game. Just hang out in a local tavern near the stadium where you can cheer on your team while being part of the scene . . . but without the price of a ticket. Be sure to pick a spot that allows for a quick getaway.

Can a billionaire do better? I doubt it.

Of course, a billionaire will attend in a luxury suite. While those are probably pretty comfortable, they are located up near the top level in Gillette Stadium. And unless the luxury suite is on the 50 yard line, the view will be less than optimal most of the time. Someone with a standing room ticket will have a better view. Can you imagine Bill Gates marching up and down behind the good seats to get a better view of a Seahawks game?


N.B. As you can tell, I'm experimenting with color. Let me know what you like and what I should change about my use of color. Many thanks to Linda Grace for her suggestions which I am following!

Please let me know what else you would like to learn, and I'll do my best to help in future blog entries.

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Donald W. Mitchell, Your Dream Concierge

Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell


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