Monday, November 17, 2008

Of Football, Fans, the Flag and a Guy Named Tits

On Sunday, several buddies and I went to the Seattle Seahawks NFL football game in downtown Seattle. The team is horrible, played pathetically and predictably lost - moving their record to a depressing 2 wins, 8 losses.

However, there was much more going on than just a football game - both around me in the stands and in my own toughts. The game experience really turned into an interesting venue to observe and reflect. Here are a few things that really struck me:

The Flag and the National Anthem
For the first time in a long, long time...participating in the national anthem and all of the patriotic ceremony that goes with that felt really good. With our recent selection for President and the attendant move for change that the majority of Americans voted for, I felt more proud of being a U.S. citizen than I have in quite a while.

I realize that the flag is just a piece of cloth, but it is a symbol...a symbol upon which others around the world and especially U.S. citizens project their notions of what America is. While there are some basics that never change, certainly different eras and circumstances can bring different and sometimes negative feelings to be bound up in the image of the flag. On Sunday, surrounded by the roaring masses of 68,000 fellow citizens, for the first time in a long time my own notions of what the flag stands for...and therefore what our country stands for...were positive.

As it unfurled on the field and flew above the stadium, and as the anthem was sung, I felt that instead of standing for war, deficits, incompetence, big business, oil, pop culture trash, cronyism, ignorance, lobbyists, etc., the flag in my mind stood for hope, change, strength to overcome, a new chance, rebuilding and the unifying power of new possibilities.

The Fans
All I can say is...this ain't baseball. In fact, it isn't college football, the NBA, golf or soccer. No, this is the NFL and fans of NFL teams are a different breed. An NFL game seems to be a place where people can let it all hang out. Every football Sunday is both Halloween and a keg party in which the participants basically freak out for 3-4 hours.

The majority of fans (say, 70%) were, by my estimation, working class, in the 30-50 range in age, white, male, sporting a nicely rounded gut and wearing some form of a Seahawks jersey. These fans are rough around the edges, don't care and will tell you so if you don't like it. And that's here in friendly Seattle. Imagine what fans must be like in Philly or New York. The thing that struck me most was that these people not only were passionate about the Seahawks and the NFL, they seemed to need it, crave it, desire it as an outlet. Amongst that demographic, perhaps in these trying times it all means that much more.

Below (picture taken by Sean Haugen) is one guy who sat right in front of us. He was great...really into the game, boisterous and dressed for the occasion.

Another nearby fan we called "Angry Man." He was white-hot pissed off at all times and screaming...just SCREAMING...his displeasure at what was happening on the field. Funny thing is, unlike most of the other people around us, he looked like a normal middle aged guy.

There was another guy dressed up in pimp gear Yep, a long Seahawk coat and pants, fedora with a big feather plume, flashy tie and shoes and he was carrying a similarly dressed mini-pimp doll. And he was popular. You really can't do anything other than look at that and appreciate. Imagine a stadium filled with people who mostly were like these guys.

Sometimes you are just lucky
Earlier in the game we stopped off at a concession stand to get some beer, and upon returning to our row we set our beverages in the convenient cup holders in front of each of our respective seats.

At one point, the Seahawks actually did make a good play...a really good play. Fans all around us were jumping up and down, screaming and high-fiving. I was too. As the cheering mayhem proceeded, I noticed that all of a sudden my beer "exploded" - foaming over and spilling onto the pavement in front of me. I had no idea what had happened. My first thought was that someone threw something and it had miraculously (and unluckily) landed right in my beer. So, I was kinda mad. I felt around in the beer expecting to extract a golf ball or something, but instead pulled out...MY WEDDING RING!

Somehow, some way...for the first time in 11 years of marriage, my ring came off my finger. More amazing, it landed directly IN MY BEER. Imagine if it had pinged off to one side of the cup or simply flew into a different row. I would never have found it - ever. What are the odds that my ring would rocket off my finger in a moment of flailing around while cheering and would score a DIRECT HIT into my beer cup? Pretty amazing. Suffice it to say, I kept my fist mostly clinched the rest of the game so it didn't happen again. The Seahawks made things easier too by proceeding to stink the rest of the game so there was nothing more to cheer about. But in the end, the two big takeaways on this one are...never underestimate the usefulness of a glass of beer and sometimes you're just lucky.

Some nicknames are good, some are not
Nicknames can be great. I've known guys with monikers such like "Slimer," "Frog Legs" and even "Bean Pod." All were good guys, all fitting nicknames that they embraced. However, some nicknames are clearly NOT good. We became aware of one of them at the game.

A woman in front of us all of a sudden turned around, looked up into the stands and yelled, "Hey tits!!!" Then she waved. When a couple of us laughed, she just said, "Oh, that's my friend up there. His nickname is Tits." Really? A guy? With that nickname? She assured us it was true and that her friend liked it. No more explanation as to how this poor soul got the name or anything. She yelled at him a few more times during the game. "Hey Tits!!!" I felt sorry for the guy...and wondered just what he had to have done - or look like - to get that unfortunate nickname.

So there you go
Renewed patriotism, social observations, bizare nicknames, blind luck and the unlimited value of a full cup of beer - all things I learned during one NFL football game.

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