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.