The roar of the mob. The eye-puzzling monochromaticity. 75,000 unanimous screams. The Stadium.
It was my first game. I was 17 and had dragged my family through the entire city just to catch a glimpse of the rich green gridiron. The sun was holding on for dear life as it slowly disappeared behind the rim of the stadium. An electrified fan rushed past me, leaving only a blur on my cornea as a reminder of his fleeting presence.
We were walking towards the tunnel when it gripped me. That sensation of being dropped off a cliff. Your stomach descends like a 250-pound linebacker who has just been tackled and thrown to the ground – your legs go numb with agitation, and your heart ceases to beat for a second. That walk through the tunnel took hours. With every step, I only grew more and more anxious. People whizzed past me at super-sonic speeds. I tried to catch up to them, but I had no feet. As the tunnel opening grew larger and larger, the figures in my peripheral vision faded into oblivion. I could see glimpses of sky and a sea of one color, my team’s color. Floodlights floated above the sea of tinted clothing. Finally it was within reach. In seconds I would reach it. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…
No one wanted to go. No one liked or even understood how the sport of football is played. To them, it was merely a bunch of padded athletes running up and down the field, pushing each other over and knocking each other down. They didn’t understand or feel the elation and the exhilaration that consumes you when your star running back is two feet from the end zone, glory within sight, with a furious, rabid opponent on their tail. Will they reach the goal line and defeat their adversary? Or will they be tackled and thrown to the ground, crushing their dreams beneath their tattered, beaten, and exhausted body. This is the last remaining gladiator sport. In few other sports are players allowed to physically harm those who stand between them and victory. Football is neither for the weak nor the timid. Players literally fight tooth and nail for possession of the pigskin. But my family couldn’t grasp the subtleties of such an obviously brutal sport. Neither did they comprehend why a seemingly innocent and sweet girl such as myself would cherish such a vicious and ferocious pastime.
So there I was, inches away from the first sight of the field and my beloved team. As the people I trailed slowly (oh, so painfully slowly!) reached the tunnel opening and escaped from the tunnel’s stench of beer and sweat, the more I needed to reach the front of the queue, even, and especially, if it meant that I became one of the heroic football players for a second and tackled whomever was in my way of what I desired, what I longed for. I needed football the same way an NFL player needs it. I was addicted to it. At last! I was there! As I stepped across the threshold, between wanting and having, between darkness and light, between a dream and a reality, all sound was replaced by the cries of 75,000 people. The most beautiful colors I had ever seen, my colors, defeated all other colors, save for a rectangle of green grass, dotted by tiny men. Momentarily blinded by the irises in my eyes shrinking my pupil size to block out the sudden increase in light, I could finally take it all in. The scoreboard to my right, the field below me to my left, and a neon green goal post in front of me, surrounded by thousands of screaming fans.
I felt as though I was back in ancient Rome, at the majestic Roman Coliseum, watching two men fight to the death while thousands of bloodthirsty spectators stared. The team became a team of gladiators, thirsty for triumph. There is nothing more dangerous than a team of envigorated, inspired, and powerful football players. These are people who can throw you down with a simple pat on the back, who can crush you with an embrace, break your arm with a high-five. Bottom line: you don’t want to mess with them.
We found our seats amidst an array of cheering loyalists. I had no idea how I could ever find my seat again if I even briefly emptied it. My solution to this was simply to not vacate my seat for the entire game – not for four more hours.
Kick-off: 22 players scattered on the field. At once, half of them ran forward with the kicker. He kicked. The ball looked so tiny from this many rows up. It didn’t matter because I could still see it; I knew it was there. Before I knew what had happened, the scoreboard changed: Home 3, Visitor 0. We were winning thirty seconds into the game! Of course it wasn’t over yet. Another 59 minutes and 30 seconds of play remained.
The rest of the time flew by. Play after play was executed – passes completed and uncompleted, yards gained and lost, touchdowns earned, time-outs taken, injuries, flags. It all blends together now. The sky became the top row and the top row became the sky as the sun fell below the horizon, and white light flooded the stadium. People shouted and screamed and yelled. Rain even drizzled. The gladiators of the 21st century fought for honor before my eyes.
The final five minutes are still clear to me. There wasn’t even a chance that we would lose, we were five touchdowns in the lead, and we had the ball. As the clock ticked away the seconds and the minutes, we advanced towards the end zone. Would we get one last touchdown? Twenty seconds left, four more yards until a touchdown. This was when the defense gets more intense, when the only thing left to do is keep the offense from getting that touchdown. Unfortunately for the defense, they weren’t strong enough. The quarterback rushed, jumped over the pile of flesh that had accumulated at the line of scrimmage, and landed in the end zone. The buzzer signified the final score: 44-10! We did it! We defeated our opponent! The mass of people in the stands erupted in one triumphant yell. Wooooooooooo!!!! We are victorious.