At this point in my life, I'm lucky enough to have a girlfriend who likes football. This may not seem like a big deal on the surface to some. However, I assure you it is. In fact, it is awesome. So six months ago when the NFL schedules came out, and she immediately told me that for her birthday she wanted to go to Jacksonville to see the Browns play the Jaguars, and reminded me virtually every week for the ensuing four months, I was all for it.
I ordered tickets online and since the fans in J-ville are tepid at best, I didn't have to pawn a testicle to pay for them. $45/ticket. Jets fans are currently paying @ $1500 for the right to bid on season tickets once they go on sale at their new stadium. HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Anyway, we drove to Alltell stadium Sunday. Beautiful stadium. From our vantage point, we could see the sun set over the St. Johns River. Blue water striped by reddening oranges beneath a deepening rose-colored sky. Very nice.
As we settled into our seats, I notice a fellow a few rows in front of us who seems... not quite right.
My girlfriend notices me noticing and comments, "man, that guy is really drunk."
"Um... no, he's retarded."
"I think he's just drunk."
"Okay, I suppose it's not impossible that he could be drunk. However, that guy is acting that way because he was mentally-challenged."
Look at that photo, it's not indisputable, but a good D.A. could get a conviction based on evidence like this. Also, there were numerous other 'clues' supporting my claim. Speech patterns, physical manerisms, etc. A brief debate ensues in which the word 'bet' comes up three times, but I never attach a dollar amount or penalty to it because this (after all) is her birthday present, and I'd feel bad about taking her money on her birthday... and she'd probably help me feel bad about taking her money, also.
Shortly into the game, it becomes very evident from this person's speech and physical actions that I'm right, and my girlfriend realizes she was wrong and laughs it off. Great, now we can focus on the game.
Good game. It's back and forth most of the way with a lot of action. There's relevance to the game; both teams are toiling on the brink of a lost season after coming into the season looking like favorites to make and possibly go deep into the playoffs. With ten minutes to go in the fourth quarter my girlfriend says that she wants a hot dog. In some ways this is more suprising and befuddling than the debate we had earlier. A) we're sitting in the middle of the row, getting up at the very least is rather rude to the people who'll have to stand up to accomadate the trek to the aisle. Normally, that's just something you have to deal with, but it's a close game, we're in an opposing stadium, surrounded by Jags fans, and we're wearing Browns' orange. B) Getting up at this point could mean that she misses the end of the game or at least a chunk of the fourth quarter, which seems ridiculous given that we're HERE TO WATCH HER TEAM PLAY.
Anyway, I don't bring this up and being a good boyfriend I offer to get her the hotdog while she watches the game. It's her team, and she probably won't have the opportunity to see the Browns live again for years. Of course, I go to the hotdog grill for her. I politely make my way to aisle, down the stairs, and then run from the tunnel to the stand where I pay for a 14'' brot, load it up with everything they've got, and make my way back to the seat feeling lucky that there was no line and warm and fuzzy because I was nice.
On my return down the aisle to my seat, I see that the guy who was the source of the earlier debate has turned around and is jabbering at someone... who looks exactly like my girlfriend. I quietly survey the scene, nearly dropping the brot a couple of times as I navigated back to my seat. During this time the trash talk between my girlfriend and this guy continues. And then he starts pointing at me.
"Uh huh, that was a very good play.... Yes, he's a good player."
My girlfriend continues to smack-talk and the person in question (I'll just call him #28 because I'm tired of coming up with socially acceptable alternatives to typing 'retard'). #28 is looking more and more anxious and upset with each passing second. It's a tight game, and his team is down. In my girlfriend's defense, it's polite smack-talk. However, as this goes on, I get more and more worried. If this escalates, it's not going to explode on her. I've seen this (well, not this, but similiar to this) happen before. A woman gets in a guy's face at a club or somewhere and before you know it, her boyfriend is fighting the guy. I don't want fight this guy. It's not a winnable fight. If I pound #28, then I'm a douche bag who beat up a retarded man at a football game. That's fucked up enough to make the newspapers in addition to landing me in jail. This is not the way I want to become famous. And if I lose, then.... well, that's going to be a quiet 2 1/2 hour drive back to Savannah and from that point forward I'll feel forever awkward around my girlfriend's friends wondering who she's told and how she told the story.
I'm not a very macho person, but I'm pretty sure getting my ass kicked by a mentally-challenged 40-year-old would bother me. That would be something that could drive me to start taking kung-fu or ultimate fighting to erase the pain.
So, based on the possible outcomes, we need to stop this.
"Hey..." I whisper.
"What are you doing?"
"Eating a hot dog."
ha ha, very funny. "No, why are you talking shit to that #28."
"Oh," she laughs. SHE LAUGHS!? "We're just having fun."
So I begin to explain the situation to her, and as she laughs at me, she agrees to leave #28 alone, and I breathe a deep sigh of relief. Crisis averted.
Browns win, after the game we followed relatives of Browns tight end Steve Heiden back to the area of the stadium where the Browns were boarding their busses. Saw quite a few players from behind a security barrier, we tried to talk to several, but most of them were busy talking to social acquiantances, and I didn't want to interrupt them. It's their time, and I'm cool with just being a few feet away from people who up to this point have just been faces on television.
And then my girlfriend reaches across the barrier to grab 6'4'' 350 lb. Shaun Rogers who is wearing a two karat diamond on his ear.
And that puts the #28 situation in perspective in a hurry.
Shaun was very cool, though. He didn't punch me to death, which I thanked him for. My girlfriend got her picture taken with Braylon Edwards, which she already has stuck to the wall in her cubicle where she works.
All in all we had a good time, and I'm really happy my girlfriend is a Browns fan and not a fan of the Raiders or Bengals.... Although, I might be willing to take an ass-whooping if it meant a clean shot at DeAngelo Hall.