Thursday, November 28, 2019

Detroit Football

Nothing says U.S. Thanksgiving like Detroit Lions football, so what better day than to write about my one and only live NFL game.

My dad took my brother and I to the old Pontiac Silverdome in December 1996 to watch my beloved Green Bay Packers lay a 31-3 beating on the hapless Lions, who had little going for them besides Barry Sanders in the latter days (as it turned out) of his NFL career.  On the plus side, I can say I saw Sanders play, and I saw my Packers in action during their Super Bowl-winning season.  Those were about the only highlights of an overall sketchy day.

We made the trip via a bus tour group, which made enough stops on the way from London to Pontiac that I was able to finish all of Michael Crichton's "Disclosure" during the trip.  I don't know why that title sticks in my memory so much, as I don't remember much about it (or the movie, which I've never seen) other than the fact that I vaguely enjoyed it?  It must've been an easy read, since even as a quick reader, plowing through a 400-page book in maybe 3.5 to four hours is pretty fast.  Almost as fast as it took the lead character's life to fall apart due to one ill-fated decision and subsequent frame-up!  (I don't remember the main character's name, so I'll just call him Michael Douglas.)

But yeah, book aside, we made it to the Silverdome and strolled inside, though the madness that is the NFL tailgate scene.  As you might expect in a season that saw the Lions stink and the Packers dominate, there was a heavy, heavy contingent of Green Bay supporters in attendance, a detail that will become important later.  The parking lot ratio was at least 2-to-1 in favour of Packers vehicles, with the bratwurst cooking on the BBQ at every single one.  It was an overall jovial atmosphere, and I remember receiving a few high-fives from fellow fans, as I was decked out in a Reggie White jersey.

As jovial as it was on the outside, inside the Dome was a different story.  For those of you who never had the pleasure of attending an event at the Silverdome, imagine pure concrete and.....that's it, just concrete.  No banners, no visible merchandise stands, only a handful of concession stands, and barely even any electric light within the enclosed ramps and stairwells.  To say it was a prison-like atmosphere wasn't exactly true since I didn't openly see any barbed wire, but still, I wouldn't have blinked an eye if the ushers had been wearing orange jumpsuits.

We get to our seats in the upper deck, and if the parking lot was two-thirds Packers fans, it was at least 75% among the people in attendance.  Every successful Green Bay play was met with wild cheers, while the Lions' few exploits were met with either boos (from Packer fans) or indifference (their own fans).  Our own section of the upper level was almost all Packers supporters, another detail that will become important later.....or, right now!

The three of us were seated in front of four guys that I can only describe as generic bros.  They were all wearing Cowboys jerseys, which I'd normally think was inexplicable were it not for their strict adherence to my low opinion of Cowboys fans.  These four clowns spent the entire first half, drinking, talking loudly about anything besides the game, and making general nuisances of themselves.

It was to annoy even my dad, one of the more laid-back people around.  The last straw came when these guys returned to their seats after their umpteenth beer run and spilled a drink on my brother.  My dad was probably as upset as I've seen him, while the Four Coarsemen were more upset about their lost beer. 

Just as things seemed to be getting particularly heated, however, the cavalry arrived.  Namely, the people in the row on other side of these four guys, as well as the people in the two rows behind them....all of whom were Packers fans.  Suffice it to say, these folks didn't think much of Dallas fans to begin with, and since the targets were the family of a kid in a Reggie White jersey, enough was enough.  The Green Bay legions "politely" informed the four guys that if they had a problem with us, they had a problem with the entire section, upon which the quartet took off, never to be seen again.

To say this was more exciting than anything that happened on the field that day wouldn't have been a stretch.

So that was my one and only real live NFL experience.  (I say "real" since I also attended a Packers/Bills preseason game in Toronto a few years' later, though the preseason doesn't really count.)  While I'd still like to attend a game at Lambeau Field at some point, it's not exactly at the top of my bucket list since....well, seeing the NFL live kind of stinks.  Our personal experience aside, the NFL's determination to make the most TV-friendly possible sport has somewhat ruined the actual sensation of being there in person.  If you're there, you have to put up with weather, long stoppages in play, drunken hooligans, etc.  If you're at home, you have the comfort of your couch, the ability to channel-surf over to other games, a bathroom that isn't a crime against nature, etc.

Having never been to Detroit's Ford Field, however, perhaps one day I'll again check out another Packers appearance.  Tell you what, the next time Green Bay and Detroit meet in a playoff game, count me in.

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