Have you been to an NFL game any time recently?
I have. I went this past Sunday to watch my beloved Lions defeat the hated Chicago Bears deep in overtime, 37-34. It was our first win of the year, it was as dramatic of a back-and-forth game as I can ever remember watching, and I happened to also have both Calvin Johnson and Alshon Jeffery in my fantasy lineup for my league of record. All in all it was a fantastic experience.
But the funny thing is, as great as the game was, and as thrilled as I was to be there, one of the most lasting memories I will have of this past weekend are the people who sat all around me. I was lucky enough to be in the third row in the end zone, seats I would have never dreamed of having, accompanied by my beautiful girlfriend in our matching Calvin Johnson jerseys. She and I had a blast together cheering for the silver and blue, and I was lucky to have her with me. But the rest of the section around us…it was as if soap opera characters were planted around us, testing the limits of reality. See if you have ever encountered any of the following:
The Drunk (home team edition): Sitting in the front row, this guy was young, good-looking, and guzzling beers as if he was supplied solely by Nucky Thompson during prohibition. He was wearing the jersey of cornerback Darius Slay, and spent much of the afternoon yelling out “Slay!” before offering such Madden-esque coaching gems as “Stay on him!” and “Defend your guy!” Thank goodness you were there Drunk to let him know. The rest of the time he spent turned around with his back to the game screaming “Let’s go!” to the fans seated behind him, showering me with beer-soaked spittle before offering a very painful fist bump (my knuckles are still sore). To the Drunk, every flag is an atrocity, every loose ball is clearly possession for the Lions, and slapping his own chest is a motivating factor for the 53 men on the sidelines. To his credit, he never stop smiling. Not once.
The Drunk (visiting team edition): One row behind me sat the large, bearded young guy in a Bronko Nagurski (of course) Bears jersey, screaming obscenities at everyone in the crowd. He seemed at home surrounded by “the enemy” and, as the game proceeded, raised his voice louder and louder to drown out the cheers and jeers of Lions fans. At one point, he started the classy “oh-and-five” chant that was quickly overtaken by a “two-and-three” cheer. Yay futility. Eventually, this Drunk was escorted out of the section after getting into a heated verbal confrontation with the middle-aged woman sitting next to him over (one can only imagine), Putin’s political influence in Syria. Just a guess.
The Sorority Girlz: OMG. We R @ the #Lions game!!!! 1st ROW!!!! LMFAO!!! #footballplayersRhawt #wearenotpayingattention #howdoesmyhairlook #WEDESERVETHIS!!!!!!!
The Father: “Ok son, what they are doing here is linking up with three wide to one side in order to unbalance the defense. Now look as the quarterback is going to survey the defense to see what alignment the safeties, corner, and linebackers are in and, YES! He is shifting out of that. See how he moved the running back to the other side? That’s to pick up the blitzing middle linebacker that is over the left tackle. Ok, now that he has shifted coverage, we are going to put the receiver in motion…right there! Perfect, now when he snaps it watch…he surveys the defense, fakes to the running back and YES! Hits the crossing route to the tight end. Perfect play on first down. Cool huh??”
The Son: “[Pointing up at the top of Ford Field] How did they get those lights all the way up there, Daddy?”
The Realist: Every single good Lions play? One of the following: 1) “Whew, they were lucky to get that off”; 2) “Terrible throw into double coverage. Lucky to come away with it”; or 3) “Lot of time left for the Bears to respond.” Every single bad Lions play? Only this: “F_________ing Lions.”
I’d hazard a guess he’s been a fan for a long time.
The Usher: It’s overtime. Many of the above characters have either left the game on their own volition or had a nice police escort out of the building. The Father and Son had left, the Girlz had gone onto their after party, and the Realist had given up after the second Alshon Jeffery completion on the Bears final drive in regulation. All that remained in our section was the Drunk, leaving a huge swath of unclaimed seats in the front row. I gave my girlfriend the nod, and we quickly grabbed our coats and climbed over the second row on our way to the first when the usher standing with her back to the game stopped us. She shook her head “no” silently and pointed back to our original seats. I looked back one row to our now empty seats, and then forward to the dozen or so empty seats in the front row and gave her the “wait, really?” look. She shrugged, shook her head no again, and once again silently pointed to our original two seats before resuming her stoic pose. I stood for a second, pondering what a viable argument would be, came up with nothing, and then myself shrugged and retreated. She was doing her job. Can’t fault her for that. I enjoyed that last Calvin Johnson bomb just the same as I would have in the front row.