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Monday, December 13, 2004

Yesterday, I attended my first Redskins game. My husband got a good deal on some tickets (read: they were very very high up; we may have had a better view from the Game Blimp), so we packed up some friends and were off. We drove for hours, sitting through traffic and braving the roads around DC so that I could attend my First Professional Football Game. Also, so that our friend’s 8-year-old son could attend his Eighteenth Professional Football Game.

Now, I have attended a lot of college football games. I’m used to the screaming fans, the crowds, and getting ripped off at the concession stand. Pro football, however, is – pardon the pun – a whole other ball game. Fans don’t just scream; they assault. Crowds aren’t just boisterous; they’re out of control. And personal pizzas aren’t just $6, they’re $8. It’s sheer craziness.

Part of the premise, I think, behind the $7 beer (aside from Corporate Profits) is that it should keep people from getting too drunk. When it costs at least $50 to get drunk, and at least $70 to get REALLY drunk, theoretically, it’s too expensive to get really drunk. (But no, there is another answer: minibottles.)

Let me describe a typical exchange between fans in section 418. I’ll leave out of some the more colorful language, but you’ll get the idea. The characters: “Bob,” a guy in his mid-twenties, relatively quiet Redskins fan sitting in his seat. “Eric,” a scrawny and loud kid probably still in his teens, an Eagles fan who claims he “can’t get arrested again” and who won’t sit down. Finally, we have “Walt,” an older man, probably in his 60s, a Redskins fan who was also relatively quiet up until this exchange.

So you understand the situation, one of the Eagles players was injured and lying on the field. They had brought out the miniambulance and play had been delayed for a few minutes. God forbid we pause the game because someone is paralyzed. Bob said something I couldn’t entirely hear about being glad that an Eagle was hurt – probably something along the lines of “Yeah! Kill him!” Eric turned to him and replied, sensibly but a bit drunkenly, that you shouldn’t cheer for someone getting hurt, and that if a Redskin was hurt he wouldn’t be happy about it, and how he hated Bob’s entire team but didn’t want them injured or dead, and added a few of his own thoughts on Bob’s personal character. Then Walt chimed in with something about putting all of the Eagles in body bags, and commented on Eric’s personal character, but Eric didn’t hear him. So Walt repeated himself. Four times. Finally, Eric heard him, and turned to tell Walt precisely what he could do to some part of Eric – to which Walt replied that he probably wouldn’t be able to find it. Eric said that it was right here and he could whip it out, and Walt told Eric to get him a magnifying glass and go ahead. Eric started climbing over seats. Finally a few surrounding fans took notice and held both parties back until everyone started watching the game again.

This type of exchange happened every 30-45 seconds, and about 1 in every 10 of them came to blows. Section 418, at least, kept all 3 police officers that were there VERY busy.

We saw several fistfights and more attempted fistfights. (I do have a theory that a lot of men are quite willing to attempt to fight as long as there are a lot of people to prevent an actual fight from happening.) We saw people throw beer and heard people make some very creative and violent threats. We saw one guy get hit with a bottle and another guy laugh about it. We saw a police officer fall down concrete stairs attempting to remove one of the more violent fans. We saw behavior that made the Artest brawl look almost reasonable.

Oh, there were some fun moments – such as when the cheerleaders took the field, and the 8-year-old woke up from a sound sleep to crawl over 4 people to get his binoculars. There was a very nice couple sitting behind us that we got to talk to a bit; they were very normal and human. But quite frankly, I have very nice friends that I can invite to my house to watch the game – and on the TV, the 8-year-old can get a much better view of the cheerleaders. It’s much warmer in my house, and the drinks are cheaper.

But of course, we do need to have fans at footballs games, because pro sports are a business and have to make money – and clearly $50 tickets and $7 beers are the easiest way to do that. There should, however, be a rule: any man attending a pro football game must bring either his wife or his mother.

Problem solved.


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