Saturday, October 13, 2012

My First NFL Game

I have been an NFL fan for over thirty-odd years.  For those of you new to the blog, I started my NFL Fandom as a fan of the San Francisco 49ers.  Joe Montana has always been my all-time favorite player, and Joe didn't disappoint as the QB for the 49ers.  Add Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott, Brent Jones, and the G.O.A.T Jerry Rice to the mix, and who wouldn't love this team!  Now, I'm not a big college football fan.  If I do watch, it is usually the SEC, and almost always LSU-and then I saw Derrick Thomas.

I had flirtation with the Kansas City Chiefs once they drafted DT in 1989.  I would watch their games.  Watching Derrick Thomas flying across the line and tackling quarterback with reckless abandon, watching his partner in crime swing for the fences after a particularly good tackle or sack, watching the Nigerian Nightmare Christian Okoye drive the Chiefs down the field or his RB partner Barry Word (who also was quite cute) led me to spending many Sundays watching the Chiefs waiting for the 49ers to play.

I became a full-fledged Chiefs fan in 1993 when the 49ers traded Joe Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs.  First, I was shocked.  I never thought the Niners would trade Joe, but there he was behind the OL for the Kansas City Chiefs.  I was still friends with the Niners, but my heart now belonged to the Chiefs.  Many other favorite players would come and go:   Marcus Allen, Warren Moon, Dante Hall, Eddie Kenison, Rich Gannon, Trent Green, Willie Roaf, Will Shields, Brian Waters, and of course, Tony Gonzalez.

The one thing that I had never done was see the Chiefs in person.  As a matter of fact, I had never been to an NFL game.  Understand, I live in Natchez, Mississippi.  There are three teams close to my town The Saints (3 hrs. away), the Texans (5 hrs. away), and the Titans (5 hrs. away).  I just thought it was not a reasonable enough expense, especially since I could see my team on television.

That changed this year.  A very special group of people asked me the following question, "Are you going to the Chiefs/Saints game this Sunday?"  I said, "No, I want to, but I don't think I will."  Part of the reason was I had a ton of homework to do for work and for grad school, and I wasn't sure how I was going to do it all.  They, then asked, "If we get you a ticket, will you go?"  I jokingly said, "Sure, but don't spend that kind of money on me."  Four days later, they were reciting the lyrics to the Kansas City Chiefs fight song and handed me a manilla envelope containing a ticket to the Chiefs/Saints game that Sunday, September 23.  I admit that I cried, because I really didn't think it was going to happen.  Now, I had to go.

Guys, I know next to nothing about New Orleans.  I know how to get there, but navigating the streets of New Orleans was a little frightening.  So, I took a couple of relatives on the drive down to help me find my way.  Honestly, they were next to no help, and since they don't like football, they spent the day in and around the Riverwalk while I made my trip to the dome alone.

Going to the Superdome, I was a little nervous.  One, I was having a hard time finding my gate with all of the people around, and two, since I was wearing a Red Chiefs jersey, I wasn't about to ask this sea of black and white directions.  I will tell you what I didn't expect.  So many Kansas City Chiefs fans.  It was cool getting high fives from fellow Chiefs fans considering there are so few of them in my hometown.  They were all over the place.  (Yeah, Natchez is Saintsville.) I finally found my gate and my seat.  Here's the view from my seat.

I saw Chief Dexter McCluster and Steve Breston warming up in the endzone, and then the Saints came out to warm up.  There was Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, and my new fave Jimmy Graham stretching in the end zone near me.  I was seated next to an older man with a Santa Claus beard, and a guy with questionable smoking habits (which he did during the game).  The smoker suggested that I not take this butt whooping personally, and that he some how had managed to sit next to the opposing teams fans for the last three games.  Santa in his Scott Fujita jersey went on the give me most of his history of hunting and attending sporting events at the Superdome.  Both agreed me that I was in for a treat.

The game began with and explosion and the Saints running through their tunnel to take the field.  Let me tell you.  Television does not do the Superdome justice.  It is soooooooo loud in that building.  Every time the Saints would score they would play "When the Saints go Marching in" followed by "Joe Avery's Blues," but the Saints' fans really turn it up right before kickoffs when they play the Ying Yang Twin's "Halftime (Stand Up and Get Crunk)."  Talk about a festive atmosphere right down to Sainta Claus and his tambourine in our section.  I really couldn't believe how fast the game goes.  Once again, TV doesn't do it justice.  I honestly had trouble keeping up

Initially, I believed that the Saints were going to win this game.  I would do most of my cheering silently since there was only one other Chiefs fan five rows in any direction, and the Chiefs fans in the section next to me would get a "Who Dat" shoutdown whenever they would attempt to start a Chop Chant.  The Chiefs fans stayed on the quiet side for most of the game.

At half time, the University of Mississippi's marching band performed as Deuce McAllister and Saints owner Tom Benson were inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame.  The Saints had lead for the entire game, but the Chiefs began to turn the tide scoring a touchdown on a 91-yard run by Jamaal Charles.  He scored right in front of me!!! I wished I could have gotten a picture, but there were a few too many angry Saints fans around me.  When the Chiefs tied the game sending it to overtime, I was still silently screaming in my seat.

When it was all said and done, the Chiefs, My CHIEFS, won their first game of the season, and there were more than a few outdone Saints fans as I left the building.

I was so wired that I was back at my car before I realized it.  It was an amazing day.  After being a Chiefs fan for over 20 years, it was absolutely fantastic seeing my team play for the first time.  Even though, DT, TG, and the others have long since left my team, through the good and the bad (and trust, there have been many bad ones), they are still my team.  FYI, I will be attend my second NFL game in a few weeks.  I will be headed back to the Superdome to watch Tony Gonzalez and the Falcons take on their rivals the Saints.  Y'all are going to have to pray for me.  I don't think they will be so nice when they see me in that #88 Falcons jersey :)

I would like to give a very special thanks to some really special people:  Khalil, Sela, Rebecca, Terrence, Alexis, Sallie, and Marlon.  Thank you, guys so very much.  You will never know how much that meant to me.

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