Chill the beer and pass the pretzels. This coming Sunday, many UAA students will watch as the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens battle for the right to call themselves “champions” in the NFL Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Now doesn't that just tickle your knickers? Not mine. I've never understood the fascination with big burly guys barreling into each other in an attempt to stop the forward movement of a ball made from pig skin. Besides that, avid football fans scare me.
My up-close and personal experience with such fans came in the early 1980s while I was on a business trip from my home in King Salmon, Alaska, to Dallas, Texas. One of my coworkers ended up with two tickets to a Monday night game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills – back in the days when O.J. was a good guy. The only thing free about the evening was the ticket.
The weather across the United States was just as squirrelly as it has been this year. On the night of the big game, the temperature in Dallas dipped to the low 30s and I had to spend $195 for a jacket, a hat and a pair of gloves. But that ensemble wasn't the most expensive part of the evening. I found out just how much my principles were worth.
Now, I know that Texans have attitude and that they take their football seriously. And I know that it probably wasn't very smart to back a team other than the Cowboys while in Dallas. But since my last name is “Bill,” I felt obligated to cheer for Buffalo. I made a sign out of white butcher paper and used colorful felt-tip pens to write “King Salmon, Alaska loves the Buffalo Bills!” I was convinced that ESPN wouldn't be able to resist putting my sign on national television. I wrapped the sign around a blanket I'd stripped off my bed, strolled out of the hotel and hopped aboard a bus heading to Texas Stadium in Irving..
I was stunned when I entered the grand battlefield. I had never seen so many people in one place in my life. King Salmon, on a good day, has maybe six folks gathered in one spot at one time – at the post office after the mail plane has landed. The Texas Stadium seats 65,846 people and I think every seat was filled. After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I found my assigned seat, located above the Dallas Cowboys' sideline.
My section was pretty high up. Near the hole in the top of the dome. The wind chill felt close to 40 below. Before the icicles formed on my eyelashes, I enjoyed watching Coach Tom Landry pace back and forth. At least, I think it was Landry. The spot had a hat.
Just as the game got underway, I carefully unfolded my sign. I looked to my left and spotted two little old men. They looked harmless enough. I looked to my right and saw that there were a couple of kids under 8 buffering me from the nearest Cowboy fan. And I didn't think the people seated in front of me could do too much damage, since they were small-boned and would have to be contortionists to get a good grip on me. I took a deep breath and started to hold up my sign.
At that moment, the woman behind me screamed, “KILL THOSE DAMNED YANKEES!”
I heard my voice yelling, “GO COWBOYS!”
That's right, I chose life over loyalty. I quickly folded up my sign and sat on it for the rest of the game.
I'm going to be close to Tampa on the 28th and have decided that if I get offered free tickets to the Super Bowl, I'll probably pass on the pigskin.