Ra Freakin' Ra - 10.11.99

So here's the thing. Two weekends ago I went to a college football game. It wasn't just your ordinary college football game, either. In terms of University level football in the nation, the state that I live in (and I don't think I'll mention it here) would probably rival just about any other one in the country in terms of sheer unbridled craziness.

Normally, I would have never thought of going to a game. When I was in college myself (a small liberal arts school), I only went to one football game over the course of four years (and that was to see whether a prank that my friends and I had set up would work). When I moved to where I currently live, I came to loathe game days, as it would mean thousands of people desending upon the city to cause horrible traffic and congested sidewalks if I just wanted to go downtown.

Being a resident of the state, it's nearly impossible to not hear about the team in some form or another, even if you really don't want to. Even if I were to shut off the television and radio all weekend (which I normally do anyway), hide myself away and not talk to anyone, I'd still hear people talking about it the next Monday at work or randomly somewhere else. It's partially because the state doesn't have a professional sports team of any sort (and people feel the need to devote their spirit to something), but mainly it's been something that's just grown and grown over the years. Of course, it also helps that the team wins most of their games every year as it's much easier for people to show their support for a winning team than a losing one.

Anyway, I really had no intentions of going to a game while I lived where I do, but one weekday my Mom and Stepdad called me and asked me if I'd like to go to a game. At first, I thought I would go ahead and decline, but they told me that my step-uncle was going to be inducted into the University's football hall-of-fame so I figured I should go. Not only that, but I thought it would be a very interesting experience even if my introverted-ness got the best of me and I ended up freaking out from all the people. Finally, I figured I could write something about it all for my website, which is the geekiest reason of all.

Anyway, the day of the big game came and I decided that I would wear colors that didn't align me with either team. I put on a black t-shirt and some khaki pants and met my parents over at my brothers apartment building so we could walk the mile or so to the stadium. The rest of my family was decked out in school colors, but didn't give me any trouble about my non-affiliation.

The closer we got to the stadium, the more and more people joined us on our trek. By the time we got within a couple of blocks, it really started to get hard to move on the sidewalks. It was like one huge flux of people dressed in the same two colors, all heading in the same direction.

I'd seen the outside of the actual stadium that we were heading to several times, and I'd even rode by it on my bike several times while heading in other directions, but it wasn't until I had entered through the gates and stood next to the structure that I realized how large it was. Trying to keep things at least somewhat orderly, entry to the facility was split into nearly 40 gates (with nearly 10 rows in about each gate) in which people took tickets and tore them in half, leaving you to find the rest of the way to your seat. It was kind of like going to a movie times 500.

Once we were inside, my brother led us to our seats (he had a season pass and knew his way around things fairly well). We went up concrete ramps until we were about 5 stories high, then went up yet another aisle and into the main seating of the stadium. As I walked up that congested ramp and out into the wide open, I realized just how huge it was and almost felt a little bit woozy.

We wound down some stairs and through a couple more aisles and finally arrived at our seats. Actually, they weren't really seats in the true sense of the word, but much more resembled long wooden planks. There were small numbers carved into them about every 4 feet marking where people were supposed to place their heinies. Not only was there not much room if you were a person of much girth, but the leg room was worse than the worst movie theater I'd ever been to. Being over 6'5", I had to sort of fold my legs up underneath me very strategically and stand up whenever I could so they didn't fall asleep.

The actual induction ceremony that I had come to see only lasted about 3 minutes before the kickoff, and then the crowd went completely buck-wild. Everyone was standing for about the first 15 minutes (which was actually pretty nice considering how uncomfortable it was sitting down) and they flashed a statistic up on the big replay screens that announced attendance for the day at over 78,000. It was completely nuts. Not only were there that many people in one place to watch a college football game, but with all the people in the stands, the stadium became the third largest town in the state.

In terms of the game, the home team was almost beaten by the opposition who was ranked much much lower than them in the polls. Not only did this bring out the worst in the fans, but for awhile I heard a lot more insults flying than cheers (but perhaps that was just because the people booing were more vocal). I actually ended up having fun just watching everyone and listening to the different sounds the crowd made combined with the band, planes flying overhead, the blare of the loudspeakers, and the whistles and crunches on field. The sheer energy of 80,000 people screaming like crazy was almost infectious. Almost.

Eventually, the game was over and we all walked back to my brothers apartment. There was a flood of people on the streets and sidewalks downtown and the further we walked, the more it disipated. That was nice.