I see traveling, in general, as a comedy of errors. Stuff’s going to happen – lots of stuff. In my experience, how one chooses to deal with said stuff often determines if one achieves his goal. The goal in this trip was to see a Broncos vs. Raiders game with my dad.
My trip to O.Co started with an early flight out of Vegas in order to make it to the tailgate and game. The tailgate promised to be interesting because it would be all Raider fans… We sat in our plane at the gate for nearly an hour due to a technical issue with the plane – no the most auspicious start. We finally got airborne and got to SFO with no further issue. Until I couldn’t find where my dad was trying to pick me up. I finally found him and we were off to the game. Parking within a one million mile radius was full, so we parked in over-overflow and hoofed it for the tailgate with our modest additions to the pickings in hand. Half way over hill and dale, my dad realized he left the tickets in the car. I ran back, then back to him and we continued on. Once in the parking lot our host said her group was at A5. That’s sort of like saying "we’re over on Main St.". We looked for the least offensive-looking group of silver and black and, lo and behold, found our people.
Mind you, I was in my neutral Oakland A’s gear to appease my wife. The upshot of that – despite hating not being in orange on Sunday (let alone at a Broncos game!) was that Raider fans took me into their confidence. And for whatever odd reason, they had some going into this game. I listened to odd theories from Houston man-sacking Manning to Pryor running wild and even a few Janikowski fantasies (note: when you fantasize about your kicker, your team has issues). I listened politely, nodded here then there and toasted with just the right open-ended response to any pro-Raider sounding info, so as to continue my ruse. This was fun.
Though the Raider fans had quite a nice spread and very generously offered me lots of it, I’m a vegetarian so I’m responsible for my own grillings. My dad had promised me a few veggie burgers. I didn’t realize they’d be from the depths of his freezer, just north of Siberia. So my veggie burgers quickly dissolved to veggie crumbles, but they tasted good – I’m a substance over style for the most part any way.
We made our way into the game about a half hour before kickoff. I have the strange relationship of calling O.Co "my" home field for the A’s, but he palace of hell and hatred when it comes to the Raiders. It never fails to shock me how different the place looks dressed down in silver and black. We found our seats and, much to my delight, we had our backs against a wall – meaning no one could throw stuff at me from behind (as happened last time). There was a luxury box of sorts just above & behind us, but it was populated by two well-adorned Broncos fans. We exchanged high fives during the Broncos introduction and happiness and home was mine.
The game…I can hardly comment on because of how awesome it was to see PFM on the field in person. He was exactly what my dad and I are fans for: greatness. People can crap on the Raider’s D all day long. That doesn’t take away the beauty and brilliance of what PFM did and all in such a ho hum manner. It’s never as easy as he makes it look – we always must remember the nature of the game and how quickly things can go wrong if business isn’t handled properly. But it was – in that first half, it actually erased some of the pain of that most awful 59-14 Raider beatdown back in 2010. Being at the game is so different than watching it on television – you’re not limited to what the cameras show you. It’s more fascinating with all the options and, to an untrained eye like my own, more confusing in the sense of not knowing what to focus on in any given play. The other thing is statistics aren’t thrown up in front of you every play as they are on television, so while I knew PFM was awesome, I didn’t know how analytically awesome he was until I saw the halftime stats on the board. I look forward to re-watching the game (at least the first half) on television to better see what happened.
As I ventured through the stadium for snacks and bio breaks, I asked several "out" Bronco fans (as I felt further and further closeted throughout the day) how their experience was at the game. The general response was "okay", with the expected low-flying birds shoved in their faces and being yelled at how the Broncos sucked. Raider fans are known for neither their logic nor originality. Seeing them live in their den did nothing to change my opinion of that.
As the game went on, the Raider fans next to me grew increasingly irritated. They yelled "sit down!" after every touchdown. I imagine their voices are sore today. Mid way through the third quarter, the Raiders scoreboard operators put up a sign that read: Raiders and Broncos fans, let’s enjoy this game together. I kid you not. During our cross-country baseball adventure, I interviewed an usher in Philadelphia who said the worst games (for him) were the blowouts – either way as opposing fans at blowouts get less interested in the game and more in each other. Late in the fourth quarter, right after the Raiders scored the first of their two garbage touchdowns, a Raider fan decided he couldn’t beat the Broncos, so he was going to take on the police. After being surrounded by 10 police officers and being instructed to move, he instead stuck his chin out at the commanding officer as if to say, "Or what?" The answer to that question came via a beat down and drag out. Nicely played, Raider fan.
In fairness, I sat next to another Raider fan who was extremely friendly, intelligent and devoutly committed to the Silver and Black, despite their ineptness. I respect the commitment to the team, regardless of the rivalry.
Leaving the game, we made the long walk to the uberflow parking. Even after the crushing loss, Raider fans were still out, honking, wearing their insanely theatrical outfits and screaming "The Broncos suck anyway". If you have to use "anyway" at the end of your smack, you probably shouldn’t be running it.
Dad and me went to a great Thai restaurant in Alameda. I asked him what the greatest thing about the game was for him. He said seeing Peyton Manning. I couldn’t agree more. Watching the best do what they do best is one of the reasons my dad and I love sports. I’ve missed a few legends I’d hoped to see, but I’m so glad I got to see Peyton do what he does better than anyone else. And sharing it with my dad made it that much sweeter. For a day that started as a comedy of errors, it was a great feeling to know that we were the ones laughing at the end.