Monday, January 22, 2007

Live from the AFC Championship Game

The email was simple. "If New England beats San Diego, it's a Colts home game. I need people to work our concession booth." I thought about it for a day or so....working the booth meant not getting to see the entire game from the comfort of my couch. But working meant I would be 'in the building' for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The mania of the pre- and post-game crowd seemed like a fun idea. After all, affording the $ for tickets wasn't in my destiny, and all of my efforts to win tickets had fallen flat. So I replied with a hearty "yes," with visions of nacho trays, brats, hotdogs, and beverages dancing in my head.

So along with 12 or so volunteers from the Highland High School band, I donned the apron & visor and spent the better part of Sunday afternoon & evening in Booth 114 on the lower level of the RCA Dome. From the 6-block walk in to the opening of the gates at 4:30, you could feel the buzz in the city. Tailgaters, Colts jerseys everywhere, even a guy wearing no shirt who painted himself completely blue. There were a few New England fans that happened our way - all very nice people. But they were few - most everyone had on any combination of blue & white, and perhaps more Colts jerseys than have ever been assembled in one place.

As the game progressed, to say there was tension in the building would be an understatement. The home team was down, key mistakes had been made, and you could sort of feel the air slowing leaving the dome. From my vantage point, I was able to keep up with much of the action, though I didn't get to see every play. I did venture up the steps to take a peek, just in time to see, right in front of me, a Colts touchdown and a 2-point conversion. Very cool. Until the very next play, when the Patriots ran a kickoff return some 80 yards...

The most memorable minute for me was at the end. I'm sure every Colts fan has a story about that minute to 90 seconds. We were huddled around a monitor and witnessed the pass that popped up from the receivers arms...and right back into them. Whew.... I removed the aforementioned visor & apron and headed for Section 112, which opens up right at about the 10 yard line, where the Colts were marching. To say that the next few moments were euphoric would be an understatement. The TD and point after gives them a 4 point lead. Brady would need a TD to win.

The next couple of plays, as the Patriots began their short-lived march down the field, were some of the loudest moments of my life. I slid into a spot that was open, next to a bunch of total strangers. All of us on our feet, cheering & clapping, joining the 57,000 others. I thought the go-ahead touchdown was loud. I thought the noise was more intense than ever when Brady & Co. were trying to run plays to win the game. But I have never heard anything quite like the noise level when the interception happened, and the remaining few moments to run out the clock. I high-fived all of the people around me. I even hugged a total stranger. It just seemed normal, as did the people all around who were streaming tears of joy.

The next 90 minutes or so were sort of a blur. We had more to do to close down the stand completely, but the crowd stayed around for the awards ceremony. The masses were leaving about the same time we walked out. It was crazy, but civilized. Just fun, and thankfulness that you were a part of it all. Nothing happening that mirrored the ugliness that sometimes happens after these sorts of things. The six block walk back to the car was filled with honking horns, people dancing & shouting, hanging out car windows and waving those 'We're #1' foam fingers.

Unbelievable. Would I work the concession stand again during an AFC Championship Game? You better believe it. In fact, I've already volunteered for next year!

1 comment:

  1. I am so jealous! I'm not sure I could have stayed for the whole thing. With 5 min. left in the 1st half I had to go watch the game by myself!!


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