Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trippin' on the Quest

As Thanksgiving approached, I knew that my boy Adam Goldstein, from Adamsfootballtrip.com, would be in town to celebrate this great American holiday in true Detroit style ... at Ford Field watching the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. As you know, Adam is also working to attend a game in each stadium in the NFL, but being from the UK and here on a temporary visa, he's got to get them all in this year. Unfortunately, on this holiday, Adam was stuck watching the Lions lose on their home field and in front of millions of people in an awfully one-sided beat down. Back at home in my comfortable chair, I too was suffering through this year's incarnation of the Detroit Lions. Watching these guys really makes one nostalgic for the Lions teams of old. The ones that featured the truly powerful and dynamic Barry Sanders, the ultimate prototypical NFL running back, combining raw power with precision cuts, jukes, and the timely pireuette leaving even the most competant of defenders in his dust. Those were some good Thanksgivings for Lions fans, offering something we could actually be thankful for. Anyway with Adam in town, I invited him to hang out with the fam for his first Thanksgiving dinner (as in the UK, obviously Thanksgiving is not celebrated). We had the turkey, stuffing, candied yams, potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce, and after dinner, Adam and I traded war stories from our time on the road Questing and Tripping to different NFL venues. We rounded out the weekend with a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck, a reasonable facsimilie of the real thing. Next time I'm back at home, I gotta get Adam to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo for the Original Buffalo Chicken Wing.

SD vs BUF - Ralph Wilson Stadium

Attending a football game at Ralph Wilson Stadium as part of our annual Buffalo Bills Weekend Tailgating Retreat is easily the highlight of my NFL Season. As many of you know, each year the men in my family choose a Bills game to attend and we pull out all the stops. We rent an RV, get a keg of Canada's finest Ale, and head to the parking lot on Saturday afternoon to begin the festivities that comprise the Buffalo Bills tailgating extravaganza. Now that most of us have moved away from the Buffalo area, it serves as an excellent opportunity to catch up, drink a few beers, and watch some great NFL Football. This year was a little different. Even though I'm typically the delusional optimist when it comes to the Buffalo Bills, this year I actually had something to be optimistic about. The Bills were in first place in the AFC. They have seemingly found their quarterback of the future, and were finally, after ten years of false hope, showing signs of actually being competitive in the National Football League. This is indeed an excieting time for Bills fans.

As always our tailgate was fantastic. Sunday's meal was a rotisserie roasted turkey dinner with all the trimmings, but I had heard stories about a maverick die hard Bills tailgater that cooks his food on the hood of his Ford Pinto using garden implements and makes pizza pies in a file cabinet. Known as Pinto Ron, Kenny Johnson has a continuous streak of consecutive Bills gamees attended that dates back to the 1970's. this guy was unbelievable and his tailgate is something you have to attend to fully appreciate. There's made to order omeletes cooked on a garden spade, chiecken wings deep fryed in an old army helmet, burgers flam broiled on a lawn rake, and the coup de gras a ketchup opening ceremony that sees Kenny himself covered from head to toe in ketchup by condiment bottle snipers blasting him from the roof of his truck. It's bedlam! It's pandemoniom! It's the type of thing you'd only see in Buffalo, New York. The Bills won by the way ... 34 -14 over the visiting Sand Diego Chargers.

Stadium #22 - HHH Metrodome

I had seen these guys on the the internet. A die hard group of Minnesota Vikings tailgaters that constructed for themselves the ultimate tailgating Vehicle. They called it the Battle Wagon and this truck is more than impressive. It features an awesome custom paint job, wood paneled walls, an astroturf floor, and a set of horns on the hood that would make Boss Hog envious, but the most fascinating feature of all was the custom, propane powered fireplace that keeps the fellas from BattleWagon.net warm and cozy though those harsh winter Sundays in Minneapolis. Tailgating with these guys was incredible. They are, without a doubt, the epicenter of fandom in the Twin Cities. Just hanging out by the Battle Wagon brought by former Vikings players, famous fans, and debauchery, plenty of drunken inebriated debauchery. Now that's what I like to see in a group of fellas that know how to celebrate on an NFL sunday.

Vikings fans are great. They have a kick ass fight song (Skol Vikings)and firmly believe that true tailgating rightly revolves around the the consumption of beer. When I foolishly asked if a grill might be available to fire up my brats, it was quickly explained to me that as far as Vikings fans are concerned food just gets in the way of the great buzz they've been working on all morning. Apparently when it comes to NFL tailgating, Vikings fan come to drink. Food is simply a distraction from the main event, so I attempted to follow the local custom but eventually succumed to my craving for sundried tomato and basil chicken brats. The ball game at the Metrodome ended up being a snooze fest between the visiting Detorit Lions and hometown vikings. Scoring was low, but Vikings fans know how to use that dome effectively when opposing offenses are on the field and although it was a low scoring affair, I managed to have a great time and the Vikings managed to walk away with a win. It may not have been pretty, but good teams find ways to win the games they're supposed to. Hopefully for the fans in Minnesota, that's what thye have.

Stadium #21 - Reliant Stadium

Stadium #20 - Texas Stadium

Texas Stadium, the longtime home of the Dallas Cowboys (America's Team), was definitly on my list of Stadiums to visit this year before its monstrous replacement opens up next season in Arlington. With it's widely renowned trademark hole in the roof allowing "God to watch His team", Texas Stadium is an imposing facility that every stadium trekker has to see in person. I actually took a tour of Texas Stadium that allowed you to get down on the field and was able to stand on the star at the fifty yard line and look through the hole in the roof. pretty exciting stuff for your average kid froim Buffalo, NY. Anyway, Crystal and I drove down to the State of Texas during the hurricane Ike disater and barely made it out of Houston, but once we entered the friendly confines of Dallas, TX the disater that was Ike was like a distant memory. Texans are great tailgaters and excellent hosts. we hooked up with several tailgating groups that were eager to offer food and beer to these wary travelers fom the north. when we headed into the game, Texas Stadium was all that I hoped it would be. The atmosphere was incredibly electric as the division rival Philadelphia Eagles we in town to take on the Cowboys in a old fashioned shootout. Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo were locked and loaded in what became a 41 - 37 offensive explosion that the Cowboys prevailed in. How 'bout them cowboys!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stadium #19 McAfee Colisuem

Let is be known to all that attempt to enter the hallowed halls of Raider Nation, that visiting fans are not welcome within the confines of McAfee Coliseum. That, my friends, is the distinctly clear message that was fairly evident when I visited McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, CA. The Denver Broncos were in town for the home opener on Monday Night Football, and I never heard so many expletive laden, verbal javelins tossed at visiting fans as I did in Oakland. If you plan to wear your team's colors, and it's not silver and black on your back, expect to hear about it from every fan you encounter. The residents of Raider Nation will certainly not physically assualt you (unless provoked), but the barrage of four letter insults will come from every corner, all day long. On the other hand, as a fly on the wall dressed in home team apparel, the show that plays out on gameday is more than entertaining. Raider Nation is a passionate group, but a fair one. They know how to party, they're great tailgaters, and they are showmen who create a circus-like atmosphere at each and every game. The parking lot outside McAfee Colisuem is alive with the energy of an Ozzfest celebration, complete with costumed fans, fantastic grilled foods, and even midget or two riding scooter kegs. I attended my first game at McAfee Coliseum, week one of the 2008 NFL season. Dressed as the "Jokeraider", I watched as the visiting Denver Broncos dominated the Raiders in a 41-14 rout. Two home games, two home losses ... hopefully we're not starting a trend here.

Stadium #18 CandleStick Park

Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA served as Stadium #18 to open the NFL season with another year of Questing for 31. Myself and my Frat Brother Marion flew out to the Bay area to ring in the new season in style with a doubleheader NFL weekend tackling Candlestick Park on Sunday and McAfee Colisuem on Monday Night Football. Our day began at 8:30 in the morning as Marion and I arived in the parking lot ready for some football. I had hooked up a tailgate with the fine folks from 49ersWebzone.com a 49ers fan forum that I frequently post in. Bay area residnets come out in droves early in the morning on gameday to kickof all types of tailgating activities. We saw meat and seafood put to fire with lots of excellent microbrews. Several posh Bay Area residents even showed up with wine and cheese to accentuate their afternoon of tailgating.

The San Francisco 49ers were taking on the Arizona Cardinals and I was pretty excited just to be in Candlestick Park. A big fan of the 49er dynasties of the 1980's, visiting Candlestick Park was like reliving the offensive explosion ushered in by Bill Walsh on the golden arm of my idol, Joe Montana. Unfortunately, fortune did not shine on the sideline of this 2008 incarnation of the San Francisco 49ers. The Mad Genius of Mike Martz made its debut as JT O'Sullivan ran Martz's offense. The Niners looked a little rusty as O'Sullivan spent most of the day running for his life. The Arizona Cardinals walked away with a dominant 23 - 13 win and the Niners fell to 0-1 on the year. The tailgating was fantastic, the fans were friendly ... all in all a great experience as Stadium #18 was completed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bills Fans - "worst behaved" says Wall Street Journal

I've been saying this for years, and it didn't occur to me until after I started visiting other stadiums, but I would certainly have to agree with the contention of the Wall Street Journal, that Buffalo Bills fans are quite possibly the worst behaved fans in the NFL. As you know I've been traveling to NFL stadiums across the nation in an attempt to see a game in each one. So far I've been to 22 different NFL venues including the notoriously roudy; Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Philadelphia, and New England. So if there's an individual that's uniquely qualified to make this assessment it's me. Well, based on my experience around the league, with the exception of the Oakland Raiders fans (who are excessively verbally abusive to any visiting fan - see my review), Buffalo Bills fans unfortunately deserve this moniker.

It's actually quite shocking. As a western New York native, I grew up in the blue collar, family friendly Buffalo area. Buffalonians are always the first to lend a helping hand and greet you with a smile. Bills tailgaters are a very welcoming breed, offering food, beer, and conversation to any stranger that stops by. It was my love of Buffalo Bills football that inspired my journey to understand the NFL fan experience across the nation, but unfortunately as soon as Bills fans enter the gates of "The Ralph", it's like a switch flips and this sleepy community that prides itself on small town values, turns into a pack of dregs and miscreants, causing all types of problems that are largely ignored by Ralph Wilson Stadium security.

The men in my family go back to Buffalo for one game a year. We sit in different areas of the stadium each time, we wear Buffalo Bills gear, and we're there to watch the game, but every year, someone in the crowd directly ruins our fan experience. And I'm talking about Bills fans who attack other Bills fans (that's unimaginable). We've had beer dumped on us, several times, and been harrassed by belligerant drunks who want to fight for no reason whatsoever. The way I figure it, if I'm encountering these types of problems each year, during the one game I attend at Ralph Wilson stadium, I can only imagine what goes on at the stadium each and every week. My sincere hope is that the decision makers at One Bills Drive take this situation to heart and make changes for the better. Believe me, I'm not one to oppose a drunken good time, in fact, it's my matra, but there has to be a little personal pride involved when the City of Buffalo is lumped in with the worst fans in the National Football League. When you can't take your kids to a Bills game because you're concerned they might be phyically injured by the actions of the uncontrollable, there exists a problem that needs to be addressed.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chasing that Bastard Ike

Okay, this weekend was supposed to be another fantastic doubleheader football weekend to rival last weekend's bay area blitzkrieg. Well that was all before Hurricane Ike flattened Galveston on it's way to Houston, inconveniencing the thousands of people caught in the storm's path of destruction through central Texas. The hurricane unfotuantely prompted the Houston Texans to move thier matchup with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday to be postponed until Week 10 of the NFL regular Season, so unfortunately my doubleheader weekend would not materialize. At least I still had Philly at Dallas matchup in Texas Stadium on Monday Night!

Anyway, Crystal and I hopped into the Questmobile on Friday evening, heading toward what would become a national disater area by Sunday morning. The way I figured it, as long as we stayed east of the storm moving south, we could avoid Ike and its associated terrential rains. By the time we were in New Orleans, Ike would be well past Houston, allowing us to then move west toward Houston, theoretically missing Ike's wrath altogether. We planned to stay with my cousin in Houston on Saturday evening, then move north to Dallas on Sunday to be in town for Monday Night Football. In theory a fairly solid plan, however I neglected to rationalize some of the more ancillary concerns, like food, flooded exits, and the availability of gasoline once we entered the flood zone. So oblivious to these minor concerns we headed south, driving through the night to hit New Orleans for an early dinner on Saturday. After taking some pics at the Louisiana Superdome and grabbing an amazing meal at Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro on St. Charles Avenue, we hit the road bound for Houston. There were power outages all over the city, so I tried to book us a hotel room outside of Houston, which didn't work out at all. Filling up as much as possible on the way into the city, we reached my cousin's house at clsoe to 11:00pm with just over a 1/2 tank of gas. Downed power lines, tree limbs, and road signs were all over the city. Freeway exits were washed out and Walmart parking lots looked like massive lakes with stranded motor vehicles marooned at their centers. There were reports of looting and the typical natural disater surge in criminal activity, but for the most part, the citizens of Houston were just trying to beat the unbearable sweltering heat and recover from any water damage the hurricane may have caused. We were lucky to have made it and even luckier than my cousin actually had power.

The next morning I booked us a hotel in Dallas and we decided to try our luck heading north to find gas. It took a full two hours and most of our tank of gas to find a station that was open and willing to sell us gas. But once we filled up, the A/C came back on and we were well on our way to Dallas for Monday Night Football, appreciative of what we had and concerned for those that lost everything in the aftermath of the storm.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's coming ...

Perched on the eve of the 2008 NFL regular season, I am thrilled by the prospect of continuing my personal journey as I Quest for 31. Visiting seveteen stadiums in the last two years has only heightened my interest in the National Football League and its fanbase all around the country. My offseason was spent revamping the website to offer my users the most complete NFL gameday resource available on the world wide web. To that end, I offer an NFL ticket finder section to allow myself and others to find cheap NFL tickets, I've spent some time researching the best online betting sites and offer live NFL betting lines for your convenience, and I've added an NFL Schedule (broken down by team and by week) and an NFL City Road Mileage chart (broken down by hours and miles) that is second to none. If you're looking to attend an NFL football game at any time in the near future, my hope is that my website will facilitate your preparations for a premiere NFL experience.

This year I'm primed to attack the NFL schedule in style. I've setup two double-header NFL weekends for weeks one and two as I'll be traveling to the bay area for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. Week two is the culmination of my State of Texas experience as I've made preparations to road trip down to Houston for a Texans game on Sunday and the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. My goal is to hit nine stadiums this year, leaving "The Final Five" for next year to complete my Quest. Agressive but doable ... especially when several friends, who've had to turn down my first few trips of the year, have been working feverishly to join me on a Quest-run for another game instead. So please feel free to contact me with local hotspots and can't miss local flavors from your area, and if you see me in your city, "Buy me a Beer, damn it!"

Monday, July 7, 2008

Finally Recognized

I’ve been at this for a solid two years now, search engine optimizing, adjusting the layout, modifying the template, working to the wee hours of the morn, trying to create an NFL resource that people might actually visit. All in the hope that some random stranger, at some point in time, might recognize me out on the street and point out that they’ve actually been to the website. Well, this weekend it finally happened. I was in the middle of a road trip back to my hometown of Buffalo, NY for a family function. We stopped in Ohio to refuel, when someone, out of the blue, shouted out, “So have you hit all 31 yet?”

Startled and confused, I turned around with a dumb look on my face, “huh?”

“Quest for 31, have you made it to all 31, yet?”.

“Uh … I’m at seventeen,” my eloquence and command of the nuances of the English language surely impressed him. I couldn’t help it. I was completely caught off guard. Who actually reads this dribble? Do people actually visit the site?

“Incidentally,” I shot back, “How did you know what the Quest for 31 is?”

“I’ve been to the site,” he matter of factly responded.

It was a relatively new experience for me. Someone that actually visited the website and retained enough information from a random Google search to recognize me as part of it? Most of the time people are asking me what the Quest for 31 is, but this was a new twist on the .com inquiry. Well, the whole experience made my weekend. I told that story about a hundred times to anyone that would listen and each time I told the story, the details were slightly exaggerated. By the end of the weekend, that one guy morphed into a group of ex-NFL cheerleaders in an RV, that recognized my chiseled good looks immediately. Struggling to contain their enthusiasm at the chance encounter, they coyly asked for picture with me to keep as a memento from their trip to the great state of Ohio. Reluctantly, I agreed, for fear that my new found fame might drastically change the comfortable anonymity with which I currently lead my life. (My granddad was never one to let historic fact or actual details get in the way of telling a great story … I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

So the moral of this little anecdote is if you see me out on the road, at a stadium, in your local grocery store, let me know.