GAME TIME 1:00
GAME TEMP 59 – Much warmer than Philadelphia
This article is the first one we’re writing after a loss. We didn’t go to the Bengals game at the end of the year. That game was a real waste of time. The Eagles last that one, at home, but we sold our tickets, and barely watched the game on TV.
We were prepared to write these articles after a loss, whether it was regular season or playoffs, but this was the Super Bowl. This one hurt, more than we thought it would. Maybe it was because the game was within reach, or that we traveled so far to see a loss, or that it was ‘THE BIG GAME’…we’re not sure, but seeing your team lose in the Super Bowl is not that fun. Yes, we’re stating the obvious, but after a game like this – you feel pretty hollow afterwards, especially when you actually attended the event.
We’ll start our story the day after the NFC Championship game. We were both recuperating, it was so cold – it took a few days to warm back up it seemed, physically anyway. The whole area was really pumped after the game, and the Eagles marketing machine was in full swing. All news for two weeks revolved around the Eagles and their quest for a championship. There were a ton of angles.
– How long it was since Our Fair City had won a major professional title.
– Terrell Owens’ quest to play.
– Freddie Mitchell’s big mouth.
– Jeff Thomasen’s dream vacation as a Super Bowl player.
– Looking back at getting over the NFC Championship game.
– Is Jacksonville ready for a Super Bowl (NO!!!)?
– And, oh yeah, they were playing the defending champs.
It seems like years ago now, but everyone was buzzing. Everyone was wearing Eagles merchandise (well, most people still are), and everyone was talking about the Super Bowl. For some people, it was a bit too much. Tom of the Last Row’s girlfriend, who, you can imagine is very patient, especially when it comes to dealing with football obsession, had enough. “Is there anything else they can talk about besides football?” she remarked while watching the news one day. Apparently not, talking about the Eagles meant ratings, and we ate it up.
So, our spirits were warmed, but physically shot. After sitting in the top of the Linc with the cold and wind whipping in our face, we were beat. After Dolfi got home from the game, he noticed his eyeballs were mostly red. His theory is that his eyes got wind burned! But, oh man, it was worth it. For the next four days, we talked about the NFC Championship Game at work.
One other thing happened the day after the NFC Championship Game, we learned that our Eagles account had won the ticket-holder lottery. What this meant was that we had 4 days to commit to paying $520 per ticket for two tickets (no more, no less) to go to the Super Bowl. We were in! The airfare was relatively cheap (to Savannah, GA) and we have a friend who lives now in Southeastern Georgia, so boarding was free. Also, three other college friends were going to stay with us – definitely a good time.
For those of you keeping score (and since we’ll refer to these people later, here are the guys who were with us) :
Stahl – Our gracious host and transplant to the South
Shawn – Another transplant, but to Orlando, so it’s not really the South
Bob – Flew down with us from Philly – he has a 18 month old daughter, so flying down for this trip was a big sacrifice
Ed – Flew down also – he may have kids, but we don’t know about them, so this trip wasn’t as big a deal for him
We got to our friend’s house late on Thursday night, we had some beers and that was about it for that night. Exciting, eh?
Friday, we got up and turned on the TV. Now this is a mistake, because we’re all pretty weak minded and are easily sucked in by TV, especially when a bad movie is on. The particular horrid movie we watched (from beginning to end) was Omen IV: The Awakening. To make a long, bad story short – the movie is about a daughter of the devil and all of the low budget havoc she wreaks. Ugh – bad. If we provide any service to you at all, let it be this, never watch this movie. Sure, you would have to look high and low to find it, but stay away. Apparently, Lucifer has lost any creativity for killing his enemies. Just about everyone who bought the farm in this movie died by a sharp pain to the low part of their ribs. The devil just kept giving everyone diabolical side stitches until all opposition was gone. Bad, bad, bad.
Having wasted 95 minutes of our lives on that piece of junk, we went out to eat. In southeastern Georgia they like their food fried. We’re pretty sure we had absolutely nothing that was not fried during our trip. They also like grouper. Dolfi had grouper every day, except for Super Bowl Sunday. Tom learned that you should not publicly drink and Pepsi product in the South. To quote the lady behind the counter at the restaurant we went to, “Son, this is the deep South. You’re supposed to have Coke here.” Well, we here in the Last Row are nothing if not rule breakers.
Later that day we made the 75 minute trek to Jacksonville to the NFL Experience. We parked in a businesses lot about 10 minutes away from the area where the NFL Experience was held. We’ll say this about the NFL Experience, it’s better with beer. If you live in a Super Bowl city, you have to go, if you are going to the Super Bowl, you have to go. But to have fun, you really need to participate in the skills challenges, there were a lot of people walking around who probably didn’t try any of the challenges…too bad for them. The most fun was the field goal kicking, but it was also the toughest. Ed was the best of our group, hitting his first two attempts. Stahl and Bob talked the best game, though. Each missed their first attempts, finally making it right before we left, as did Dolfi. Tom never made it, but did nail one of the artificial, dummy defenders right in the ‘face’. That was good enough for him.
As a group, we were best at the passing drills, we all made good showings there. Pretty much any basic football skills could be tested at the NFL Experience, very fun if you’re with friends. We were there for about 4 hours, we thought we’d only stay a couple of hours, but were having such a good time, we stuck around much longer.
Along with the challenges, the NFL Experience has plenty of NFL history chronicled, very interesting, the history of the NFL is not something a lot of us (as fans) keep in mind. The story of the NFL is long and really quite interesting, it seems a lot of fans think the NFL wasn’t in existence until the Super Bowl era. The NFL Experience plays homage to the whole chronicle of the NFL quite well.
The rest of the Experience is basically a bazaar, with a lot of chances for you to spend money. It probably would not have been as good without good company. If you go, make sure you bring some good friends, it would get pretty old if you were there alone. As we mentioned above, the beer helped too.
Hands down, though, the best thing you can do there is the Fantasy Play by Play. Wow! This is fun! One or two people get to announce 3-5 minute clips (with huddles edited out) of games featuring their favorite teams. OK, there were only about 8 choices, so a lot of teams weren’t represented, but most good or popular teams were. The clip for the Eagles was pretty lame, though, to be honest. It was from a game 4 years ago which featured a lot of action from Darnell Autry…Darnell Autry!!! Come on! It was an overtime game in which the Eagles beat the Cowboys (Randall Cunningham was their QB) on a kick from Akers, but they should have gotten a better game. We made the best of it, though. You definitely need to do this if you’re at the NFL Experience. They also give any participants a free tape to keep of your announcing. The best line uttered was by the broadcast team of Stahl and Bob, who announced the same game later. Stahl has a future as a play by play man, and Bob…Bob has a future as Foster Brooks’ replacement. Bob spent most of his color analysis complaining about the poor alcohol choices we were provided at the NFL Experience (one type of beer everywhere… the beer’s ads feature twins). After an Autry screen, which Stahl called flawlessly, Bob, added as an insult, “Hey Greg, how’s my wife and your kids?” Of course he meant to say, “How’s your wife and my kids?” but what he actually said was much, much funnier.
Saturday some of the group went golfing, while Ed, Dolf and Tom headed for the local watering hole to play some pool. More fried food, and some good pool playing by Ed and Dolf.
One note here, we had heard that in certain parts of the South (all of it?) there are people who don’t like Northerners very much. Well, it’s true. It’s hard to explain how we experienced it, but Southern hospitality seems to be reserved other Southerners, at least by some people. Of course, not everyone went out of their way to make us feel unwanted, but quite a few people did. Maybe it’s a reflection of the individual’s education level, or maybe how they were brought up…It’s probably a combination of the two, but it was very evident, especially by a few choice individuals we met.
Saturday night we all met up and went to dinner (Dolfi=grouper again) and headed out to another bar (surprise) for after dinner entertainment. That night we invented a drinking game that’s a variation of ‘Cups’. This game involves putting a pitcher in the middle of the table, and snapping a plastic cup of the edge on the table (not simply flipping it) with the open side down so that it flipped into the pitcher. This is much harder than it sounds, but we all eventually got it in, except for Dolfi, who got very frustrated with the game very fast. We will say that we didn’t get very much ‘anti-Yankee’ behavior at this bar, which was nice.
The next day was Super Bowl Sunday. We got up pretty early, considering how late we were up the night before and headed down to the supermarket. We bought grub for the tailgate and were treated to more Southern hospitality by a woman pushing 80 who kept needling us about the Eagles in the checkout line. We’re pretty sure that if we were wearing Pats jerseys, she would have predicted doom for them. We just suffered in silence, trying to show respect for the elderly, and patience for the stupid.
Finally we were on our way to Jacksonville. You may not know this but Jacksonville is a big ‘city’, area-wise anyway. The downtown is pretty small, and although we parked our cars in Jacksonville, we were a good distance away from the stadium, about 6 miles ‘as the crow flies’. Now, we have to rip Jacksonville, sorry, but it needs to be done. They were not ready for this event, if the event had been in a larger city, everyone would have been much better off.
The friends we traveled with did not have tickets. We had heard that you can go to a Super Bowl, without a ticket and have a great time. Not so here. You could tailgate in the team’s parking lot and have a great party during the game…well, not at this Super Bowl. We had to be bussed downtown from the dirt parking lot where we put our cars. The parking was free, but you had to pay $5 for the round trip to and from the stadium.
The parking lot was fun up until about 3 hours before the game, then it became a ghost town. It seemed like there were 5 times as many Eagles fans as Pats fans. Everyone was really friendly and we had a great time. Lots of high fives, lots of pictures taken – a lot of fun. When the parking lot emptied (literally, it was just us six in the lot) we headed into downtown Jacksonville.
Our four friends decided to head to a local bar and were treated poorly there too. If Southern hospitality means that Southerners want to put Northerners in a hospital, then we can buy that definition. If hospitality means being hospitable to others, then Southern hospitality is one of the biggest myths we have ever run across. After the game we learned that our friends were treated poorly, and had a miserable time during the game. Again, we’re pretty sure that if they were Pats fans, they would have been treated the same way (they were the only ‘yankees’ in the bar). They would have been much better off heading downtown probably, but weren’t planning on doing that.
We took the bus downtown, pumped up, it was a great atmosphere. As poorly as the city handled the logistical situation, the Jags and their stadium management did very well. The stadium was decorated with all sorts of Super Bowl, Pats and Eagles propaganda, and they must have put in an order for perfect football weather. The security was also handled well. Despite the fact that there were two ex-Presidents there (Bush I, and Clinton), we got through pretty quickly. There was an extra step where we walked through a metal detector, but we got through in under 15 minutes, not bad. Also, the Jags sell mixed drinks in the upper level (we were in the upper level, but not the Last Row), something the Eagles don’t do. We wonder why? Oh yeah, because we have a reputation for being rowdy, that must be it.
The stadium seemed to be about 10x Eagles fans to Pats fans. We kept chanting home game, and we don’t know how it seemed on TV, but we got as loud as possible during the game. There was also a lot of camaraderie during the game, it was an awesome atmosphere. We saw some people who sit in our section at the home games, and had a great time during the game…mostly.
We’re not going to give you our normal sharp analysis of the game. You all saw it, we’re still in mourning and this article is long enough. We do have a couple of observations, though:
– The Pats and Eagles both brought their ‘B’ games we thought. Neither team played the way they had during their run to the Super Bowl. Of course, credit should go to the teams for throwing off each other so often.
– We don’t know what happened during the Eagles last two drives. The lack of urgency was maddening. The lack of an explanation for this behavior is insulting.
– A lot has been written about how the AFC is the much stronger conference. Perhaps this was true from top to bottom, but this game showed that the Eagles were the second best team, not the Colts, not the Steelers. The difference between the Pats and the Eagles is not that great, either. Hopefully the Eagles make the right moves and can finally win a Super Bowl. We’re not getting any younger here, you know.
Final Thoughts from The Last Row
– Man, does the NHL have problems. Their recent ‘negotiations’ were a joke. “We’re gonna cancel, we really mean it! No, really this time. For serious, we’re going to cancel! We mean it…Serious.” This sort of chicanery just turns off the customers. But, the customers, the base of any sport, is about the only party who really loses out here. The NHL may not have a lot of fans, but the fans they do have are hardcore, and they are being slowly but surely alienated by the childish behavior of both sides.
– Baseball has big problems too. Maybe they aren’t as evident as hockey, but they have big problems. And we don’t mean ‘roids, that’s a big problem of course. We’re referring to other problems, which are closely related.
o Baseball needs a salary cap. You would think, based on national media coverage that there were two teams in baseball, the Red Sox and the Yankees. As long as there is a system in which teams can spend so much more than everyone else (yes, we know, there are other teams in these two titans spending area) baseball will continue to lose fans. One of the strengths of the NFL is the fact that teams have a chance to get better quickly, an individual team or oligarchy of teams can’t hoard all of the talent. As it is, the only teams anyone seems to care about are the Yankees and the Sox, which leads us two problem number two…
o The Yankees Red Sox rivalry. It’s not really a rivalry, it’s a soap opera. Complete with cartoon villains, jilted players with hurt feelings, and bloody socks. Please, the rest of us have had enough. Why don’t the Yankees and Red Sox stop pulling each other’s pigtails and tell each other how they really feel. Get a room, please. The rest of us have had enough and WE DON’T CARE ANY MORE!! Peter Gammons, get a real job, please.
We have an idea, just let the Yanks and Sox play 162 times against each other, then everyone is happy. Just don’t broadcast the games outside of Boston and New York, unless there is a fight.
– We hope you get a chance to attend a Super Bowl, but if you do, learn from us. Do it right, stay downtown. Go to all the cheesy get-togethers, go to all the downtown bars. Make it a (at least) three day party. If you go, we hope your team wins (unless, you know, they play the Eagles).
– Say hello to the new fantasy (or regular sports) cliche. It follows this format – “If you don’t think X, then you haven’t been paying attention”. This is the new formula for being pompous when it comes to giving your opinoin. For instance if you say, “If don’t you think that Tiki Barber is the most dangerous running back in football, then you haven’t been paying atention.” Now, of course , we don’t believe this, but it’s an example. Now, we here in the Last Row are guilty of using this saying (well Tom anyway). But never again!! This dangerous sentence has been gaining steam, and will soon be way too popular for its own good. We have seen versions of this sentence all over the place, it has to stop before it’s too late.
What this saying implies is that, if you disagree with the writer of this statement, then you must be an ignoramous. It’s very passive aggressive, and it turns our stomachs. Please, if you are reading this, don’t use this term…Thank you.
– The Eagles are fully loaded for next year. They need to bring some players back, and make the right moves on the right free agents. They need a better running game, but may have the solutions on their roster. With Shawn Andrews coming back, and a reunoin with John Ritchie, they should be fine. Look for them to draft or sign a short yardage runner to compliment Westbrook. The Eagles should be fine there. As long as they get Trotter back, the defense will be fine too.
If you don’t think that the Eagles aren’t the hands on favorite to return to the Super Bowl representing the NFC, then you haven’t been paying attention.
We’ll keep this short, but thanks for reading these articles. We hope they were somewhat entertaining. We hope to be back next year. Enjoy your summer, and unless you’re a Yankee or Red Sox fan, we hope you can avoid news about these teams for as long as possible.
Oh, one last thing…