Saturday I worked another promotion and came home to unpack, organize, and repack for my little trip to Chicago and Indianapolis. I turned on the Ohio State game thinking I would catch the first half of a blowout and be out on the road by 6:00 pm. Well, Northern Illinois had other plans for me. I knew better than to buy into the offseason hype machine and figured the team would have some growing pains. It’s not the same team that won the Championship and the loss of Tom Herman as OC is significant. I’m on team JT (still, love Cardale for last year) and hope after this game he starts and the offense comes together. One more thing before I move on, how about that defense?! Silver bullets are back and dang, they looked like they’d had enough with the offenses inability to get it together. Ugly as it was they got the win. Win and you’re in, so get the clunky games out early!
Sorry for the side track, let’s back to my NFL trips. The close game set my travel time back a good three hours. I was on the road to Chicago at 9 pm, but it was all good, I like driving at night. Less traffic, fewer cops! Quick budget travel note: if you want to avoid Chicago tolls, take I-80 to I-94. I arrived at my friends Morgan and Tony’s apartment at 1:24 am and exploded in their living room. If I’ve ever stayed with you, I tend to take everything out of my suitcase and lay it around making quite the mess. They were out of town, so I didn’t feel too guilty. Morgan leads the Beam team here in Chicago so I might’ve raided her liquor stash for a quick nightcap before going to bed.
Anyone that’s been to a noon college football game knows it’s early for football fans. I walked around the stadium trying to soak in the scene and it was ehh. Also, it probably didn’t help I had just come off a trip to Kansas City, tailgate central. There were Bud Light and Miller Lite sponsored tailgates at either end of the stadium and I walked up and down one of the tailgate lots. There was a decently large crowd grilling and throwing the pigskin around, but nothing rowdy. It did remind me a lot of game day in Columbus during noon games; it had that Big Ten feel to it. Very Midwest and footbally if you will.
After walking around the tailgates and admiring the outside of the stadium, I went in to catch the end of the warm-ups and walk around. When you first enter you come into a large concourse, similar to Yankee Stadium, but it’s older which gives it more character. I love that this stadium is dedicated to all the men and women that serve our country. It’s refreshing to be in a park that isn’t overwhelmingly corporate. The large concourse leads you up stairs or ramps to the upper levels or to a smaller concourse that surrounds the lower bowl seating. I walked around the small concourse taking pictures and looking for an usher to serve as my game witness. An usher named Brent was glad to help me out and assured me that he would be in the same spot following the game. I thanked him and headed to the south end zone to watch the team come in and opening kick.
At the beginning of the second quarter, I made my way up to my seat in section 430 and was briefly distracted by the view of the city and the architecture of the stadium from the upper concourse. It was a perfect late summer day and the city skyline was gorgeous! I walked around the concourse a little bit and succumbed to purchasing a Chicago Dog- they’re my favorite. Soldier Field concessions seemed expensive to me, it was $10, but this hot dog was huge! When the lady handed it over to me I wondered how I was going to eat it like a respectable human being. Once in my seat, I went to town. You know those Carl’s Jr ads where the model eats all sexily? Imagine the opposite and that was me. Mustard and relish- EVERYWHERE. I apologized to the guy sitting next to me and he said not to worry about it, I was at a football game. Yes, yes I was, and it was a decent game up until Jay Cutler was injured after throwing a pick six.
As the halftime show started, I thought I would stay in my seat to watch since I had already explored most of the stadium. It was a weak show and I ended up feeling antsy. I have trouble sitting still at sporting events, I need to move or be standing. I headed down to the main concourse, slowly as it was packed with fans. Once back to the main concourse I stopped in the Xfinity Fan Zone and charged my phone for a little bit. The area was pretty nice and next to a large bar area open to all fans. I saw some interestingly dressed fans and found this spot to be great for people watching. The free charging station is awesome, but it charges the phones very slowly. I got frustrated and decided to watch the rest of the game from the north end zone. There I met a friendly Bears couple and got the scoop on the normal stadium environment. The guy mentioned that it was too early of a game for the crowd and it got crazier during night games. They were sad to be cut off from beer following the third quarter and after watching the Cardinals score once again, they wished me luck and left.
The Cardinals had this game locked up and since I didn’t feel any loyalty towards either team, I sent a thank you to God for the running clock (and a Browns win!). The stadium was clearing out and Cardinals fans were becoming more evident and vocal- good for them. After the two minute warning I headed over to Brent’s section and he let me down to watch the final few snaps from behind the Cardinals bench. I wanted to take a few pictures and was excited to see Larry Fitzgerald close up (I’ve always been a fan). To this day I still think he was robbed of the Heisman. Robbed. He ran over to greet some fans and the small Arizona crowd went nuts chanting “Larry, Larry!”
After the game ended, Brent signed my witness log and I meandered around the stadium a little not wanting to leave. Despite the lackluster crowd, the stadium had a great aura and I decided it was my favorite so far. I would love to go back when they’re playing the Browns or if they ever host a Big Ten Championship Game. Also, wouldn’t mind seeing them play the Packers… nothing like a rivalry game.
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