When my sister invited me to join her in Cleveland last month for her layover work weekend, the mere mention of attending a football game created much hesitation for me.
I didn't have an appreciation for the sport was all, not knowing much about football in general, just thought of the crash em up, bang em up mentality and how crazy the game seemed to be to me.
I'm an ice hockey mother who has had years of attending games, though I found similarities between the two. I did.
- Quite factual and in contrast, the football stands are built for "little people" or "children" and not adults. Think - sardines! And that's how I felt once the big burly guy sat down to my right.
- At both types of sporting events one has to dress for colder temperatures, though I must admit we tend to hover quite closely around overhead heaters in an ice arena as opposed to the cold icing me up in the football stand.
The weather forecast called for snow, which would have affected the game play, moreover those of us in the stands.
It was then I began to wonder what we were thinking?
- Three layers of jackets and one warm fleece vest donned on myself, and I thought I'd be okay.
- Warm socks (two pairs), and boots, were a must.
- Gloves, scarf and hat, check.
- My scarf came in handy. Made for a great butt warmer anyway. snicker...
The day turned out to be even more promising than firstly anticipated with glorious sunshine and blue skies! But, yes, true to form, it was COLD outdoors too. Tolerable ~ is one word that came to mind.
Eyeglasses were required from the glare all afternoon. Still it was very chilly COLD. Hot cuppas were in full demand; both coffee and hot chocolate, whatever was available to us.
Game day was filled with so many interesting memories...
I mentioned before that the "New England Patriots" were staying at our hotel.
The lobby was already filled with spectators once we arrived there. Notable were the football jerseys worn by a loyal bunch of fans.
Grabbing a coffee in the lobby magazine shop, we met a couple in their eighties, and the cashier told us their story about how they've been longtime diehard Cleveland Brown's fans. Apparently they stayed at our hotel during almost every game as they were from out of town. They attend each game, and shortly before the last period, they return to the hotel to watch the balance of the game on TV to avoid post game crowds.
We saw a young father with his two sons purchasing batteries for their small radios, so they could catch the accompanying play by play broadcast while at the game.
Story after story unfolded, and we thought of our older adult children, the ones we knew would might just happen to be watching the game.
At first we giggled to ourselves, knowing they probably wouldn't believe their mothers were doing this!
My sister called her son in Florida and said; "Guess where I am?" He knew she was in Cleveland, but no, guess where I am right now was more the question.
After she told him we were going to the game, after watching all these players come down the escalator one at a time toward their buses, he became quite amused asking again; "And you're there with Aunt Renee?"
Next, we got quite a kick out of knowing they would have appreciated being there so much more than us, we were certain of that.
Like two fish out of water, we just tilted our chins upward, flipped our hair behind our heads, both chuckling as the famous line from the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" came to mind;
"We're older, and we have more insurance .... LOL
Actually if anyone saw us that day, we were like two kids in a candy shop about to make our way out into the wide world of the NFL unknown, two middle aged adventure seekers not having one single care over how much fun, or how silly goofy we might choose to be by day's end.
Look out Cleveland Browns, here we come!
We were the "Canadian girls" and no one knew us here, so making memories was a personal goal of the day for sure.
My sister's colleague met up with us after our hotel gazing where we muttered;
Together, we three joined the bandwagon as we were about to prance about doing what my sister called; "a bucket list activity".
(That still cracks me up!)
Oh my! It was real.
We really were doing this, and I have prove we did in fact go to the CLE vs NE NFL game below; (LOL)
Did I mention my sister had some inkling over how the game was played?
She should have, because after all she was once (many years ago), a cheerleader for the BC Lions NFL team in Vancouver, B.C. A few familiar whistle blows had it all come back to her throughout the game.
Me? Still in a fog about the whole thing...
As the hotel revolving door booted us out one at a time, we soon realized the streets were loaded with folks walking about and a carnival atmosphere was in session.
Brown and Orange were the main colors on the streets, although many NE Patriot fans were mingled amongst them. Everyone seemed cordial toward one another, at least it appeared that way. I liked that.
Heading down 6th street toward the stadium, my sister's colleague noticed three NE jersey sporting fans walking ahead.
The first thing we noticed were how young most of the patrons were, that is until we made our way into the thick of things where we found multigenerational ages were out in this carnival atmosphere.
Music blared, people were cheering for the teams already and the ambiance on sidewalks, restaurant patios and indoors was that of happy and most contagious fanfare.
Enthusiasm began to build, and that was when my sister and I made the decision that we'd just go with the whatever our flow turned out to be while walking toward the game.
We meandered and began creating conversation with almost anyone and everyone we walked beside, sat next to, or crossed paths with along the way.
We continued onward, promenading in and out through a couple of venues filled with any notable NFL loaded ambiance, mostly to find a washroom, grab another bottled water or hot coffee all while absorbing the fanfare going on.
While visiting a quaint and crowded restaurant, as I stood leaning against a center post inside for a bit waiting to use the washroom, I was surely sticking out as a foreigner sipping on my bottled water, it was I who first noticed a table of lovely young people, about a dozen of them, having a great pregame time all decked out in their finest Brown's team colors.
As I was standing near to them, conversation ensued between myself and one of the young gals. When she asked the big question on whom I was cheering for that day, I stated flatly I was not partial to either, but my older son told me to boo "Brady" on the NE Patriots. (Oops! Did I mention my sister was from MA?)
My sister's colleague found her NE Patriot fans she'd seen earlier and soon after her conversation with them ensued, where she discovered they had mutual friends.
And to their left, an entire table of middle aged diehard NE fans, all gathered round with another tale. They were NE fans extraordinaire! All had specially made shirts on, as all travel once each year to take in a game somewhere in the US, watching their NE players in person. This was their big trip this football season.
Everywhere we went while walking toward the stadium, it was easy to note, rather remarkable in fact that both team's fans could sport such enthusiasm amongst one another without repercussion or angry words.
It was also about then when we found ourselves suddenly sporting black patriot hats, and the laughing began, until we about giggled ourselves to bits!
The gals I was with are both from MA, so they had to inquire where oh where these fellows were able to purchase these hats!
Don't ask me why, but I think they might get their own someday. Maybe for another football game once back home? Funny...
As we continued onward by foot towards the stadium, the tailgating was something I personally had never experienced nor seen before.
Like a small village filled with hearty fanfare, I couldn't believe the great camaraderie in that chilly weather nearer to the stadium.
So far, we thought this pregame stuff was probably the best part of the entire day! But, there was more to come...
As we approached the stadium, crowds grew thicker and we formulated plans to meet up should we happen to lose sight of one another.
My sister and her colleagues all had tickets for the game, though the two of us had departed from the bunch we soon met up with to head there on her own a little earlier so as not to rush our predetermined "sister-only experiences" that lay ahead for us.
Our tickets were so close to the field!
We were seated in row 8 right behind the NE Patriots!
Since my sister is from MA, of course she chose seats that were right behind them.
There was one thing we weren't thinking of though. Our seats were right at the stairwell aisle. Perfect we thought at first. All except for the yo-yo feeling of standing up and down, up and down, as some of the beer drinking fans moved from their seats to the washrooms during the entire game.
Imagine paying all that money for a ticket only to have to head out of the game all the time to hit the washroom!
So many other things made up for those silly potty people making us feel like jumping beans.
Surrounded by these football fans became most entertaining and almost hilarious a few times during the game.
Our nickname of "The Canadian Girls" was actually cemented by one of the fans who noticed my red Olympic gloves. In the end, perhaps after all those potty breaks and getting to chat so much with us as they passed by, he was a strange one he was, and asked his buddy to take photos with us. He and his friend, plus all nearby spectators seemed to ask the same familiar question;
What were we doing in Cleveland if we weren't diehard football fans?My sister had been speaking to a friend back home who was watching the game live on television. When she told him the anthem was about to begin, he was a bit annoyed as he was watching the game live, but a commercial was on so he could be a part of that. She held out her cell phone for him to hear. Being an ex-military person himself, he always had deep respect for his country's anthem, and in my most outspoken opinion, so should everyone else.
My sister's answer?
"It's a bucket list thing"There were more similarities come to think of it likened to an ice hockey game. Yes there really were.
One notable for sure, is how deaf one becomes from all the cheering and referee booing.
And the second is there is always a player who ends up with some sort of injury. This game offered both.
Something very different for me to witness was having the Ohio national guard and some military on hand with one of the largest American flags I've ever seen. A respectful tribute to all those fighting for our freedoms was evident.
Also in attendance were a few firefighters in their uniforms. Terrific!
I was so moved when everyone began to sing the National Anthem with the respect they begot from the multitudes in the crowd.
Be proud USA.
Be proud of your countrymen!
Unlike hockey games, it was interesting to note the television camera crews rolling along in front of us, and others on the ground with military type shields before them to protect their cameras.
When the game was nearing its end, last minute passes and points saw the crowds up on their feet, with hands waving and fists flying about in the air, all while yelling and cheering their hearts out.
THIS crowd cheering business really was like an ice hockey game! Go! Go! Go!
Decidedly about that time, we decided to depart and get back to our hotel.
There waiting for me was my already packed suitcase and after having it in tow, we quickly whisked off toward the airport hoping to dodge the stadium crowds as they dispersed their way through the city.
As the crowds began spilling onto the streets from the stadium, we found traffic coming to standstills and plugging up quite quickly. Little by little, and inch by inch, we were at last on our way along the highway back towards the CLE airport.
As I sat with warm cuppa in hand to await the signal to board the plane, a text message arrived on my cell phone. It was from one of our older sons. He said;
"I didn't know you were at a football game! After mass today, we went with your parents and your brother and his family for breakfast, and there was a football game on the TV. Your brother told everyone you were there!" :)And so goes the story of how we surprised our adult kids. My sister stunned hers, and I stunned mine. But, most fun was how we surprised our parents! They couldn't believe we would take in a football game together, specially after my brother pointed to the TV in the restaurant and the game was live before them, all the while knowing we were in those stands! Ha ha ha!
Night fell and passengers were directed toward the tarmac for boarding my plane. With little fanfare, I was up and away, back into the friendly skies once again following the lower regions of both Great Lakes.
The night was clear and beautiful, and soon I was following city to city along my route.
My immediate wanderlust now behind me, I still can't help but smile to myself when recalling that 48 hours of my life.
"A bucket list item", was what she saidWell sister, what's up next?