You may have noticed that before every NFL football game, during the National Anthem, a group of fans trot out a massive American flag for display on the field. I'd seen it a thousand times and wondered how fans were chosen to participate. How do they orchestrate these amateur flag people? Just where do you store a flag of that size? Last Monday night, I found out.
In my case, I responded to an email the Broncos sent season ticket holders. One thing led to another and I was informed that I'd been selected to participate in the ceremony. Who better to loop into this experience than my father?
As I suspected, there was some preparation that went into the spectacle. My father and I had to report to flag practice three hours before kickoff. While there was a lot of waiting, the time eventually did come where we took possession of the flag. While it looks really big on television or in the stands, when you're wrestling with it trying to find the appropriate hand-hold, it's just that much bigger.
I had imagined that the flag was kept in a box that was as long as the flag itself, but you'll be as shocked as I was that was not the case! A nondescript wooden crate in a corner within the cavernous tunnels that run underneath Mile High keeps the flag when it was not in use. In retrospect, my imagined long box was impractical should the flag ever need to be moved.
As we marched onto the field, it was amazing. Although the stadium was empty, it was a rush to realize that we were going to be part of something really special.
"Hey there's Randy Moss!" someone yelled.
Sure enough, there was Randy Moss... and Steve Young. Heck, they even let Dilfer come along, too. As we marched into position on the field, we passed right by the Monday Night Countdown set. The cast was doing all the glamorous pre-game kind of things you'd expect them to be doing... Standing around, adjusting their jackets, talking to crew members. It was the kind of real deal Hollywood experience that has disappointed so many.
As we practiced the unfurling and re-furling of the flag, everyone had a hard time juggling their responsibilities with taking pictures to memorialize this amazing experience. Between all the instagram, facebook live, facebook, and twitter talk I overheard (while snapping pictures myself), I'm confident that forensic experts could recreate the timeline of events within the practice with second-to-second accuracy.
After a brief break to walk around and take in the gameday experience, we all returned to to the check-in spot to go though security and get escorted into the stadium for the real deal.
"What's up Jadeveon?" someone yelled as we walked in.
I looked up and, sure enough, the entire Texans team was walking right past us. It was indeed Jadeveon Clowney that was walking past us. Vince Wilfork, too, looking mildly pissed off - no doubt still upset that the Patriots didn't want him anymore. Nick Novak is a tiny little guy, or at least was in comparison to his teammates. Then there was Brock.
"Hey there's Brock," I said loudly. He was looking at the floor as he walked by, but looked up when I said it. There was a brief smile and then he quickly looked away biting his lip. Brock looked both nervous and a bit morose. My dad and suggested that it wasn't the look of someone exuding confidence before one of the biggest games of his young career. I agreed.
When we stepped onto the field to do our duty, it was like nothing I'd ever experienced. The crowd was in full-throated roar as player introductions were underway. Flame cannons were going off and the stadium announcer was firing up the crowd. It was amazing.
We walked past the Texans sideline as we got into position. I'd never even considered that we'd be that close to the players. They were right there, just feet away. I wondered what they would do if I handed them my phone and asked them to snap a pic and just how far into the stands they would throw it. Not wanting to lose my phone, get kicked out, or worse, I settled for the next best thing.
The anthem started, the flag unfurled like we did in practice, and then it was over. We marched the flag off the field and deposited it back in its box. The game had started and we needed to get to our seats.The pregame was amazing and the game itself was unforgettable.
Clearly my father and I did such a great job with the flag that the Broncos were inspired to bring home such a dominant win. All jokes aside, it was an experience that I'll never forget and I'm blessed to have been able to share it with my dad.
Well, that's it for C.J. Anderson.
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