This past weekend I went to watch the New England Patriots take on the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium, and it was a game that put the Patriots one step closer to a first-round bye and home field advantage in the playoffs. I had the hook up with the seats, and I was sitting at field level, where I could see just how big Rob Gronkowski looked next to Julian Edelman. (It was like looking at a hobbit standing next to those giant walking trees in Lord of the Rings.) The game was unbelievable, and the Patriots took control in the fourth quarter. But for the people who couldn’t make the game, I wanted to share my observations. These aren’t the type of observations that would show up on ESPN; it’s just the way I experienced the game. Hope you’ll enjoy. Your comments are always appreciated. (By the way, I took the following photos on my phone, so they’re not the highest quality.)
5. Qualcomm Stadium is a Disaster
I heard that Qualcomm Stadium was a disaster from many people, which is probably why there are so many rumors out there that the Chargers are moving to Los Angeles. They haven’t put money into the stadium seemingly since 1992. We heard the traffic was awful too, so I had my wife drop us off at IKEA, and we walked over to the stadium, cutting through corporate industrial parks and trails on the side of a steep hill. It was hilarious because at the end of the night there were so many drunk fans trying to scale the hill that it turned into a traffic jam. At the same time I’m bashing the Chargers’ stadium, it really reminded me of being a kid and going to the original Foxboro Stadium. The seats were all metal, so you would freeze your ass off in the middle of the game. I loved that stadium and hated it at the same time.
4. Chargers Fans Secretly Love Tom Brady
This guy was sitting behind me. He was holding this photo up real proud. I’m not really sure what he was trying to accomplish here. Yeah, I get it; he’s trying to say that the Patriots are cheaters because of Spygate, but what’s up with putting Tom Brady on a poster hugging a ball with his shirt off. This guy secretly loves Tom Brady. The fans were screaming, “Tom Brady runs like a girl.” I saw someone had taken an image of Brady and put a wig on him. Even girls were yelling he runs like a girl, and I was just sort of questioning the root of all this “shit” talk. They were really trying to emasculate Brady. That’s fine. But don’t you kind of look silly with signs like this?
I’m not trying to say grow up or anything. I’m just trying to figure out where this type of shit talk comes from. I think as a whole we can do a lot better. For example, if I hated Tom Brady, I would probably make fun of his three Super Bowl rings, his beautiful wife, and his incredible leadership on the field and his work in the community. Oh wait, maybe not.
3. My Wife Says I’m an Obnoxious Fan
Yeah, my wife thinks I’m an obnoxious fan. She thinks I like to talk shit to other fans, but it’s really all just in good fun. I love literature and classical music, but I also like some low brow stuff, too. I just love that I can go to a football game and tell someone across from me to look at the scoreboard when the Patriots are up in the fourth quarter, and they can do the same thing to me in the first three quarters. Football is one of the most ridiculous parts of our human existence. Grown men, who are clearly on crazy amounts of performance enhancing drugs, place helmets on their head and run into each other with as much force as actual car wrecks while putting their brains at risk from CTE, and we all stand in the crowd and cheer and yell and let all of our energy and frustration from work or whatever the hell else we have going on in our lives and leave it on the field like the players do years of their lives. It reminds me of Medieval war. Opposing sides wear the most ridiculous outfits and stumble into battle. I know football is bizarre and dangerous, but it’s a lot better than actually fighting people.
But there is always someone who wants to take it to that next level. When I was walking into the stadium, some random person told me that he wanted to break my neck — all because I was wearing a Patriots jersey. (I swear I wasn’t being obnoxious at this point.)
2. The Police Were Pissing in the Streets
That’s a misleading headline. The police weren’t literally pissing in the streets at the Patriots game, but there was a little bit of a pissing contest. I wanted to share something with you that I noticed. I was trying to walk back to IKEA after the game, and there was a police officer directing traffic. He was asking people to stop to let cars go by, but most people couldn’t hear him. An older man was walking, and he was in the middle of the street, about halfway to the other side. The police officer went out and followed him, put his hand on his chest, stopped him, and made him move back to the other side. He was literally forcing him back across the street, and he was being kind of an asshole about it. The older man was pretty pissed, and I just thought it was a small example of why people are frustrated in the country today.
So I said to him, “You didn’t need to put your hands on him, did you?” He said, “Where I come from, that’s called failing to adhere to a direct order of a police officer.” So I said, “You think you would be more careful with all that’s going on in the news.” He asked, “You want to keep enjoying your night?”
I shut up, and I was probably over exaggerating a bit, but that’s my observation.
1. We Are All Athletes Dying Young
One thing I love about the end of football games is that the players from opposing teams gather together and hold hands in prayer. I don’t really enjoy this part of the game because I’m religious (I’m not), but it shows how much these players respect and understand the moment. Football is so violent and dangerous that at the end of every game players literally thank God that they were able to survive. That’s kind of remarkable. NFL players probably know better than most people the tough lesson that all they have can be taken aware from them in a heartbeat: one wrong twist of the knee, a blow to the head, and a failure to perform can cause not only the end of a career but potentially a life.
At the same time the players are huddled together on the field holding hands and praying, I heard a cheer rise up in the crowd. Julian Edelman was running along the sidelines and the Patriots fans were losing their minds. I watched Edelman run into the tunnel. Then I heard another roar from the crowds, and Tom Brady was running on the field, pumping his fists as the crowd reached out as if they wanted to touch him, as if he was some prophet. And then he went into the tunnel, and the cheers died down, and the stadium became relatively quiet, and there was nothing left except the empty bottles of beers, peanut shells, and trash on the floor.
I was reminded of one of my favorite poems: “To an athlete dying young” by A.E. Housman. When all this noise is over with, we only have memories of the game, and I’m not sure how long they last. You can read the poem below.
To an Athlete Dying Young