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It had been over 30 years since my wife and I attended a college football game, so our recent game-day adventures should count as a new experience.
Three decades ago we had a future brother-in-law who played football for State. I don’t remember what position he held, but I do recall that it involved frequent and violent collisions with guys the size of New Hampshire. His team would smash into their opponents, making a clamor normally associated with the words speeding locomotives.
In one particular game, our brother-in-law played less than a quarter before he was sidelined. We later asked him what had happened.
“The head coach wanted to know the same thing,” he replied. “He asked ‘Where’s Cohen?’ and somebody said, ‘He’s over there, sitting on the bench. He doesn’t know his name!’”
I never played football, mainly due to my total lack of athletic abilities. However, I was able to overcome this crippling deficit and mastered the art of watching football, acquiring such critical skills as holding an open can of beer while snarfing nachos and randomly yelling, “DEE-fence!” or “Watch for the blitz!” at what I hoped were appropriate junctures.
Arriving at the stadium, we quickly saw that things had changed greatly over the past three decades. As we recalled, one would simply show up at the stadium shortly before game time, walk in, and take your seat. If you were hungry, you purchased a hot dog; if you were thirsty, you purchased a beverage or perhaps took a slug from a wineskin that an acquaintance may have smuggled in.
These days, the pregame is all about an activity known as “tailgating.” The objectives of tailgating seem to include socializing and building enthusiasm for the home team. And also to cook mass quantities of food that is washed down by Imperial gallons of beverages.
The parking lot near the stadium was thronged with tailgating participants, whom I suppose one could call “tail-gators.” Some had set up primitive campsites that were comprised of a dozen lawn chairs and a charcoal grill made from a repurposed oil drum. Others had much more elaborate campsites that involved motor homes that were nearly as large and complex as the stadium. It appeared that some had been tailgating in the parking lot for a good while, perhaps weeks.
Bean bag toss was a popular pregame activity amongst the college set of tail-gators. There were areas of the parking lot where the sun was often blotted out by swarms of soaring bean bags. Despite the profusion of randomly thrown bean bags, there were no reports of injuries associated with this pastime.
Which is a bit of a miracle as some of the college-age tail-gators had so much enthusiasm that they had trouble walking. Oh, to be so young and carefree that you feel no compunction about staggering around in public while wearing a comically oversized “Cat in the Hat” chapeau!
My wife and I went into the stadium and found our seats, a task that was only slightly less complicated than breaking the Enigma code. A good bit of musical chair-type activity took place as the crowd gradually deciphered their tickets.
One big change that I immediately noticed was the large number of cheerleaders. I seem to recall that back when, there was only one small group of cheerleaders who ran themselves ragged cheering in front of the various sections of the stadium. Nowadays, there are several large squadrons of cheerleaders; no part of the stadium is ever cheerless.
Another development is the inclusion of muscular young male cheerleaders. In keeping with the football theme, they tossed around some of the female cheerleaders, making laterals, throwing screen passes, and even chucking the occasional Hail Mary.
There was also the traditional marching band. This, too, was much larger than I remembered. The brass section alone contained enough people to be officially classified as a municipality.
The game was very exhilarating, even though we didn’t know anyone who was playing. The action out on the field was so exciting that there were several times when my wife leapt to her feet and shouted such things as “DEE-fence!” and “Get ‘im!” She became so engrossed with the titanic clash taking place that she even used some unladylike expressions to convey her deep personal feelings regarding such things as a fumble or a pass interception.
All in all, we had a very enjoyable time at the game. And I’m not saying that just because our team won. It’s also because I have never heard my wife exclaim, “Woo-hoo! They should’ve named him Groceries ’cause he just got sacked!”