I've been to a lot of sporting events in my life. In 1989 and 1990, during high school, I had 20-game season tickets for the Giants, and was at game four of the World Series when they got swept (even now it still hurts to say that) by the A's. In the five years I was going to BYU (yes, 5 years, don't judge me) I missed only three home games.
Living as I do now in Utah, I usually go to a Jazz game or two every year and was at Game 2 a few years back when they beat the Warriors in the second round of the NBA playoffs. I went to a Sharks game in 1991 (they lost but I don't remember who they played or the score), the Grizzlies (a Utah minor league hockey team), multiple other MLB baseball games and minor league games, and even an AFL game in Portland back in 1998 when the Sabercats crushed the Forest Dragons (could the AFL have dumber sounding mascots?).
But one thing I've never seen live is an NFL game. Football is by far the sport I love the most but I've just never been able to see an NFL game in person. Maybe it was the fact the tickets were always sold out and it was insanely expensive to buy them from a scalper.
However that all changed Sunday. When I saw the 49ers were going to be playing a preseason game in Denver I suggested to my wife we make a trip to visit her sister who lives there and catch a game while we're at it. It may have only been a preseason game but it was still my first NFL game and I asked Fooch if I could write a story talking about my experience. What follows is a timeline of what happened.
7:30 AM Provo Airport
My wife drove up earlier with our three kids and I was going to fly in one-way and meet up with them there. When I got to Provo Airport, which only has flights to and from Denver, I stood in the security line and saw I have to remove everything from my pockets. Suddenly the scene from "Get Him to the Greek" pops into my mind where the main star tells the other one to shove his heroin bag up his posterior. I didn't understand that part since heroin shouldn't set off a metal detector but I got it then. After a quick trip to the bathroom I'm ready to go through the checkpoint. Not that I was hiding anything I just really had to use the restroom.
1:24 PM Outside Mile High Stadium at Sports Authority Field (or something like that, who can really keep track anymore)
I drive up to park and am told it will be $40. I tell them I already have tickets and just need to park my car to which they explain to me will cost $40. Outraged I vow to find cheaper parking. After 15 minutes of searching I find a place that's only charging $30 and I only had to walk an extra mile to the stadium. That will teach them not to screw with me.
More after the jump...
1:35 PM Walking to our seats we see two Bronco's cheerleaders hurry past. I glance at them briefly, which probably means I stared at them for a good 10 seconds, and my wife glares at me.
1:46 PM We reach our seats
We're almost at the very top of the stadium. The rows of seats are stacked steeply one on top of the other and there's a feeling of slight vertigo at the height and steepness of the stairs. It's also in the mid 90's and hot. When I look at the seven rows behind me I noticed the top five rows are in the shade. We're almost at the very top but were still two rows away from the shade. I sit, trying not to get dizzy with vertigo and sweat profusely.
1:54 PM A lady sits next to me
She comes with four friends and looks over as she sits down on my right. I sway dizzily with sweat streaming down my face, arms, chest, back, and really just all over and smile weekly. She smiles back nervously and slowly leans towards her right, subtly moving her knees away.
1:58 PM Four men in parachutes land in the stadium
There's a flag planted at the 50 yard line and all four men overshoot, landing anywhere from 20 to 40 yards past their target. I shake my head and comment about how they must not be that good but really I'm thinking how cool it would be to do that. The lady on my right moves over a little more.
8:01 to go in 1st quarter
With the Broncos leading 3-0 Eric Decker makes an unbelievable one-handed catch on 3rd down to keep the drive alive. Two minutes later he caught Peyton Maning's first TD pass of the preseason. After a 49ers fumble, Decker caught a second TD pass to put the Bronco's up 17-0. The Bronco's fans around me are high-fiving and chest thumping and I'm trying to convince my son, and myself, it's only preseason and next to worthless. The girl next to me is asking her friends if one of them will switch seats with her.
55 seconds left in the 1st quarter
The Broncos execute a perfect onside kick but one of the Broncos players, who's name I can't remember which is fine since he will probably get cut now anyways, picks up the ball one yard too soon with the nearest 49er player a good ten yards away. The 49ers get the ball as a result and Alex Smith hits Vernon Davis for a 44-yard TD. I jump up and down screaming, forgetting it was a next to meaningless game. The girl next to me pulls out a tissue to wipe the sweat that flew off me onto her.
The Broncos take a 24-10 lead into the locker room and 10-year old pee-wee football players take on a team of adults wearing mascot outfits. It's supposed to be entertaining and fun but it just comes off as annoying. The girl is gone, presumably to go to the bathroom.
12:51 to go in the 3rd quarter
The 49ers take the kickoff to start the second half and march down the field, mostly running the ball, and score on a 26-yard run by Anthony Dixon. It's good to see the 49ers are back in the game but I have this nagging feeling I shouldn't be too excited. Maybe it's because when the first string was out on the field they had problem running the ball, passing the ball, tackling, covering, and pretty much stunk to high heaven. The girl still hasn't returned from the bathroom and now her friends are leaving as well.
14:57 to go in the 4th quarter
The 49ers are driving once again and the Jumbotron has been trying to get the fans involved with messages of "Make Some Noise!" and "Dee-Fense", but with only around 25 percent of the fans remaining the stadium is a mausoleum. The cheerleaders are shown on the video screen trying to encourage the fans and I make the mistake of staring once again only to see my wife giving me the look of death. David Akers kicks his third FG and the Broncos lead has been cut to 24-23.
9:32 to go in the 4th quarter
After Scott Tolzien fumbles but the 49ers recover, Akers kicks his 4th FG but the play is whistled dead since John Fox had thrown his red challenge flag. After a lengthy delay Fox is told he can't challenge if it was a fumble and is penalized giving the 49ers a first down and the ball on the Bronco's 7- yard line. Fox goes crazy and after another lengthy delay the ball is put back on the 14-yard line and Akers hits his 4th FG. Turns out Fox was challenging the spot, although I can't imagine why, and not if the 49ers recovered. Fans from both teams start yelling insults at the replacement refs and 20 minutes of my life have been permanently stolen.
3:01 to go in the 4th quarter
Akers hits his 5th FG to give the 49ers a 29-25 lead and I start having crazy flashes of deja vu where the 49ers offense drives into FG range only to stall and have to settle for a FG. The remaining Bronco's fans head for the exit leaving only a few thousand 49er fans in the stadium. I've stopped sweating now since I have no more fluids to sweat and my skin is a nice shade of read. I start wondering if those who left at the half weren't the smart ones.
49ers win 29-24
The 49ers won but it didn't really feel like they did as I walked the mile to my car. With my shirt crusted and probably suffering from a mild case of heat stroke I wonder if it was worth going to the game. Then I remembered even if it was a meaningless preseason game with replacement officials and I had to endure 3 1/2 hours in a blast furnace, it was still the NFL and the 49ers won. Yes, it was worth it.