NFL Stadium #19: University of Phoenix Stadium

Monday morning I left the apartment I was staying at in St. Louis and found that going out the back exit was a terrible decision. The door locked behind me, as expected, but what was a surprise, was the 10-foot fences that completely surrounded the lot without any exit. I did a quick loop around the lot and realized I was caged in. I tried standing in front of the car exit hoping the gate would activate, but it didn’t. Then I tried the doors, just in case and looked for people in the building. Of course, no one was around and the person who I was staying with wasn’t home either. With a flight to catch I started to get nervous about time. How long could I wait around for someone to come out and assist me? I milled around, pissed, thinking how unsafe is St. Louis that they need to fence in their cars?! After 10 minutes, I was fed up and decided to scale the fence. I carried my bags over and dropped them on the other side and the hurled myself over. It sucked and I felt like a criminal trying to escape. Once over the fence, I walked to the MetroLink and road it to the airport. This is why I try to leave early, you never know kind of travel hiccup you’ll have. Hopefully, there are no more fences to climb… I am way too old for that!

My friend Elliott picked me up from the airport in Phoenix and we stopped at his parent’s house so I could get the keys to his sister’s car that I’d be borrowing for the game. Thank God. The stadium is in Glendale and I had looked up public transportation- two hours on a bus. I was prepared to do it, but the car cut that time in half. The traffic in Phoenix is a little brutal, as I found out driving to the game. I should’ve left earlier, but I was a little slow getting ready. Using GoogleMaps, I took a slightly longer route to avoid a couple of accidents. Even without accidents, the start of rush hour traffic slowed my arrival time by about 20 minutes. Once in Glendale with about 40 minutes to kickoff, I had to find parking and there were lines of backed up cars surrounding all the stadium lots. Not that I was trying to park there, but it was hard to get around. I ended up getting directed into a church lot across the street, which was awesome because it was donation parking.

Since I arrived so close to game time, I hurried to the stadium, walking through packed stadium lots full of tailgating fans. There were a significant amount of Raven fans at this game and I was surprised after seeing like 10 in Pittsburgh. That stadium was so much closer to Baltimore than Arizona. Maybe people wanted to enjoy the nice weather, though I had a suspicion most people lived in Phoenix but had moved from the East. I entered into the outside concourse and walked around looking for the shortest line to get into the game. By now there were no short lines, but they were efficient here and I moved through the metal detector line quickly and was able to use my ticket on my cell phone. With some time to spare now, I walked down to the field to take a look around. It’s hard to justify domes like Edward Jones and Georgia when you know complexes like this exist. I don’t care for indoor football (or baseball), but these newer facilities make me rethink my stance a bit. Making my way back up to the concourse to find an usher to serve as my game witness, I was glad to see there was plenty of standing room around the lower level. The concourses were also quite wide, which is always nice, especially when they’re crowded.

After connecting with my usher witness for this game, I found a place to stand for the team introductions, though I moved during them to a better spot before kickoff. With the Cardinals off to a great start, the stadium was full and there was a great atmosphere throughout the game. I watched the first quarter from standing room before walking over to the Red Zone.  It’s a large, completely open end zone concourse where fans can stand on either side of Big Red, this alarm that they have a “celebrity” ring before the team comes out (similar to SF and KC). You have to get to this area early to get to a good spot because you can’t see anything unless you’re along the railing. Also, since it’s pulled back from the field a bit, you don’t get the full effect of the crowd noise. I didn’t stay over here very long because of the lack of environment, plus I couldn’t see the actual game- and it was a good one!

To get up to my seat in the 400 level I had to go back to the outdoor concourse and rode the escalator up. The upper concourse has a large opening on the opposite end zone from the Red Zone, but there weren’t many people standing in it because the people in the seats in front of it obstruct your view a bit. I went up to my seat and though it didn’t feel that high up, it was a little far from the field. I noticed that the stands along the sidelines were pulled back a bit more and that the upper bowl followed suit. It was more sloped back than steep. There were a ton of Ravens fans up here and when they took over the lead briefly in the second quarter they were loud. There were few surrounding me and I ended up having a great discussion about different baseball stadiums with the guy next to me. He works at a spring training facility in town and we chatted it up during halftime. Oh my, gosh can we please discuss how terrible most NFL halftime shows are? No wonder the NFL asked The Ohio State Marching Band to perform in London! Wanted to hit them with the best da*n band in the land and give Londoners false high expectations for halftime entertainment. There was a magician at this game and I felt like I was watching Gob from Arrested Development. Not for me. I’d rather watch nothing. The saving grace is they’re super quick!

The game started back up again and the Cardinals were beginning to take over. I was rooting for them over the Ravens of course, but it was a little difficult cheering for Carson Palmer. He’s a USC guy and made some ant-OSU comments while he was with the Bengals that I still remember. I’m sure they loved it in Cincy because that city has never been big on Ohio State and he was pretty good for the Bengals as well. My little sports grudges. During the fourth quarter, I said goodbye to my friends and went back to the lower level standing room. This game was heating up following a touchdown and successful two-point conversion. I briefly stopped in the Red Zone to get a picture with the entire field in the background and as I anticipated, the ushers were a little more easy going about picture taking (they hurried you along at the start of the game). Again I didn’t hang out here long- fans were very drunk and a little too friendly. One guy came up to me and said I had beautiful eyes (that was nice) but then whispered in my ear, “I’ll never forget you.” and walked away. Stranger Danger! I wonder if he even remembered me the next day… I have my doubts.

When the Cardinals went up 26-10, a fair amount of fans left the game. With the Ravens driving late down 26-18, I wonder if people regretted leaving early and tried to get back in like Heat fans. THAT’S WHY YOU NEVER LEAVE A GAME EARLY! This game was giving me flashbacks to Pittsburgh where they came back tied it up and won in OT. Thankfully the Cardinals aren’t the Steelers and picked off Joe Flacco in the end zone to end the game and get the win. Phew, I was not trying to see the Ravens second win of the season! Don’t want to be considered their good luck.

I stopped back in my usher’s section and after he signed off on me, I went down to take a few post-game field pictures and hang out a bit, knowing traffic was going to be a mess. Even though I hung out in the stadium after the game, as I exited, I was amazed by the number of people still around the outside concourse walking around. It was still busy and I realized I had no idea what direction the church that I’d parked at was. I was lost and everything looked the same! I knew that the bar and hockey arena area had been to my right coming in and headed in the opposite direction. Many fans had opted to continue tailgating to wait out the traffic and I thought that seemed risky. FYI- Phoenix has a zero tolerance policy for alcohol. Even one beer can get you in trouble if pulled over. Not worth it.

Eventually, someone pointed me in the proper direction of the church and as I walked in that direction I spied a Browns jersey. Obviously, I had to stop and say hi! I ended up hanging out with him and his friends to pass some time until security rolled by and told us to pack it up. We said our goodbyes and I headed across the street and was happy to find my friend’s car. I didn’t have to wait long and once I was out it wasn’t that bad when I got to the highways. There weren’t any accidents or rush hour traffic, making the trip back to Tempe fast and easy, which was good because I’m not used to driving at night with tinted windows. It was so dark!

Remember I am raising money for the Ronald McDonald House in Central Ohio. Please donate by clicking here.

Try and tell me this isn’t a great halftime show!

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