Chez Shaffner

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Much Needed Injection of Football: Part One

Although I have watched football from the couch almost every weekend since Fall 1986, I am ashamed to admit I have never attended an NFL game.

As for college, Harvard Stadium and the Yale Bowl are legitimate venues, and The Game has a fairly legitimate tailgate, at least according to this article. But through the last few years, as I heard stories from friends who went to school in the Big 10 or SEC, I began to develop something of a complex.

To give you some idea, according to Sports Illustrated, the tailgate at my girlfriend’s alma mater is the #3 must-do college event. That fact alone is enough to make me feel pretty nervous about dragging her along with me to The Game this year… Since it’s at home, though, we don’t have much choice. I will probably house a few boarders on my living room floor, and it would raise some eyebrows if I opted against joining them in Allston.

To get ourselves into the football spirit, Keryn and I went to the Bentley College home opener on Friday night. I had never watched a Division II game (Harvard is I-AA, which some find surprising), and had no idea what to expect. I knew, from intrepid googling, that Bentley was in the Division II playoffs as recently as 2004 and had knocked off #18 East Stroudsburg the week before, in something of a stunner. The opponent on 9/8/2006: Southern Connecticut State (which, by the way, somehow gets truncated to “Southern”).

We arrived fifteen minutes before game time and bypassed the $5 gate when Keryn flashed her “staff” card. The concession of choice seemed to be the doughboy, as dozens of kids filed past us with confectioners sugar decorating their blue and yellow sweatshirts. I have something of a weakness for confectioners sugar…and the fried dough isn’t bad, either… But it seemed the entire student body was waiting in line for the complimentary meal.

When I told a friend that we went to the game, he asked me what stadium they played in. “Stadium?” I said. “No, that’s not the word for it.”

The field was absolutely beautiful—brand new Field Turf (the artificial surface that looks like grass). Flanking the field were two sets of aluminum bleachers. I thought back to some of the big games under the lights in Bucksport… If I had to guess, I’d say that my high school “stadium” was approximately the same size.

It was a fun game, though Bentley ultimately lost by six. The strangest thing was that, during the first quarter, while all those students were lining up for free fried dough, we could actually hear the players on the sidelines. Not just when they were yelling “pass” or “run” to alert their defense what was happening, but even their thataboys when players returned to the sidelines. It was strange, a little unsettling, though we were both pleased at the clarity with which we could enjoy the crunching of shoulder pads and the cracking of helmets.

By the second quarter, the crowd filled in and dashed the intimacy we had shared when the players on the field outnumbered the fans in the stands. According to the above article, attendance was 3,400. That’s a respectable number. The crowd had a great vibe, though the most animated fan of all was this young girl, no older than eight years, B painted on her face, pom-poms in her hand, who insisted on bounding up and down the stairs every two minutes. I’ll tell you, her every step reverberated straight into my ass…

I learned a few things from this trip:

  • College students look REALLY young(and make me feel really old)
  • Get your fried dough before half-time, because they close up shop after two quarters
  • Division II football is good, clean fun
  • I’m not going to be embarrassed by the Harvard tailgate: even if we can’t touch The Grove at Ole Miss, we still do all right for ourselves…

Coming up later today… Ole Miss vs. Mizzou, on TV…

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