A Football Odyssey (10/12/00)

I admit that I can be a bit of a nut. Last weekend, I went on a football odyssey that no married guy could get away with:
Friday - 11:55 p.m.  Check my wallet. Inside are three tickets: North Carolina State at Clemson, Tennessee at Georgia in Athens, and the New York Giants at the Atlanta Falcons. I go to bed.
Saturday - 4:05 a.m. Alarm goes off. I have a 6:30 flight out of DFW. It is cold and drizzling. Thinking of reconsidering
5:55 a.m. Standing in front of a bank of "Departure" terminals at DFW. Locate my flight. See the word "canceled" beside it. Begin to wonder if it is an omen.
6:10 a.m. Standing in front of ticket clerk with American Airlines. Hand her my ticket. "Your terminal says that this has been canceled. How can you help me?". She responds, "How about the 8:07 flight". "Deal", I say.
6:13 a.m. Clerk tells me that the flight will depart from terminal C. That's a different terminal completely. I consider driving but decide that I have lots of time and could use the exercise.
6:30 a.m. Decide that it is a long walk between terminals
6:45 a.m. Find the gate for my Atlanta flight. Lots of other folks slumped in seats. The ticket counter hasn't opened yet. Decide these folks were supposed to be on the 6:30 flight as well.
8:07 a.m. After consuming a coke and every section of the Dallas Morning News, I'm off.
11:20 a.m. Arrive in Atlanta. Try to find the Hertz counter to pick up my rent car that I had booked through Priceline.com. Find it. They have my reservation. All is right with the world
11:50 a.m. I'm on the highways of Atlanta trying to find the loop which will allow me to exit to Clemson, South Carolina a mere 100 miles away. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m.
11:55 a.m. Find myself northbound on the equivalent of Central Expressway. Decide it will take me where I want to go anyway. So far, so good.
12:01 p.m. Drive by Turner Field and notice a crowd going in. Think to myself: Braves? Baseball Playoffs? Scramble to find a talk radio show for information.
12:05 a.m. Radio tells me the Braves are down 0-2 and tickets are available. If they win, they will play again tomorrow afternoon. Decide to gamble on that and head on to Clemson. Decide this may be the greatest sports weekend of all time.
12:15 a.m. Hear first Texas-OU score: 7-0. I smile. Consider finding a place to watch it and eat lunch.
12:33 p.m. Update. OU 21, Texas 0. Think Texas will come back like last year. Look around. Lots of trees in Georgia.
12:45 p.m. Listen to sports talk station. Everyone is excited about Georgia-Tennessee. The station plays a parody of "Rocky Top" - something about "Don't know my ABCs". Kind of funny.
1:00 p.m.  OU 42, Texas 0. Decide that my plans to watch the game are no longer applicable.
2:10 p.m. Think I am in Clemson. See a long line of cars ahead of me. Get stuck in the slowest three miles of my life. 
2:45 p.m. Finally park. Some trooper directs me into a lawn. I'm probably going to have to leave early to catch the Georgia-Tennessee game that starts at 7:00 p.m. Parking is crazy. Very nervous that I might get blocked in.
2:50 p.m. Begin walking to the stadium, just following the crowd. Beautiful campus. Lots of small picnics going on. See lots of beer.
3:00 p.m. I'm not sure I have ever seen so many "Partiers" at a football fame. See lots of beer.
3:05 p.m. Begin to think that people in the South drink a lot of beer.
3:06 p.m. Is it my imagination, or are there a krillion good looking women around here?
3:15 p.m. Finally find the entrance in the stadium. Grab a hot dog. Find my seat in the upper deck. Observe that this is a big stadium. Holds 80,000 and resembles the one at the University of Texas. Think about how UT fans feel about the OU game.
3:20 p.m. I sit down one seat away from a kid that looks like he was born in the deep, deep South. He looks at me and says "This seat is reserved for my brother". I tell him, "Hey, I've got seat 16 and he has seat 17, I think we've got it covered". He looks at me very confused.
3:30 p.m. The crowd sings "God Bless America" and the "Star Spangled Banner" and also recites the pledge of allegiance. A very patriotic crowd.
3:40 p.m. The brother arrives. He has a very bad cold. He sneezes. A lot.
3:45 p.m. I expect Clemson to run away with this game which will soften my regrets of having to leave early. On the third play of the game, a swing pass by N.C. State results in an 80 yard touchdown. A grand total of 1 minute and 2 seconds has elapsed. Begin to worry about my plans.
3:48 p.m. The brother sneezes for the third time.
4:30 p.m. Clemson has come back and, although not killing NC State, seems to have control. I decide to leave at halftime.
4:35 p.m. There are lots of people leaving the stadium with me. They plan on drinking more beer.
4:55 p.m. Find my car. Luckily, I'm not blocked in.
5:20 p.m. I'm on the Interstate heading towards my motel 30 miles outside of Athens (where the game is). Turn on the sports radio station.
5:32 p.m. Hear the parody of "Rocky Top" again. Pretty funny.
5:38 p.m. Radio tells me that the Atlanta Braves lost. No chance to see a MLB playoff game tomorrow. I'm a little bummed.
6:10 p.m. Find the Comfort Inn. Plan on checking in and hitting the road. Booked it through priceline.come so I'm nervous. No problem. They have my reservation.
6:14 p.m. Throw my bag in the room. Good, Lord. Was there a smoking convention in here? Turn on the fan to air the place out.
6:23 p.m. On the road again. Listen to find the score of the Clemson-NC State game. Clemson won 34-27. I hope I didn't miss the second half of a great game.
6:50 p.m. I'm in Athens. Cool town. Look for R.E.M. Don't see them anywhere.
6:51 p.m. Hear "Rocky Top" parody again. Not so funny now.
6:55 p.m.  Dawns on me that I have no idea where the stadium is. See lots of lots that say "Parking $20.00" so I figure that I'm close. Finally find a lot in a bad part of town with parking for "$5.00". It's an auto repair shop. I meet the owner. He tells me to park by the dumpster.
6:57 p.m. Get walking directions to the stadium. "Follow the railroad tracks" he says.
7:01 p.m.  Find the rail road tracks. Doesn't seem like something I should be walking on. Decide to walk up a few more blocks and hang a right. Make a mental note of the intersection "Broad & Foundry".
7:10 p.m. Come up on the railroad tracks again. See people walking up ahead. I follow them like I know what I'm doing.
7:20 p.m. I'm definitely on the right track. Decide that it would have been easier to follow the trail of empty beer cans. Hear the sound of a crowd in the distance.
7:45 p.m. Find the stadium. A big man serving as usher takes my ticket and tells me to "Git in the house".
7:46 p.m. I'm in the house.
7:59 p.m. I find my seat after walking almost completely around the stadium. I'm on row #1. The famous hedges are right in front of me. I'm surprised to see that the crowd can walk between the hedges and the stands. I've got a great view for people watching but a very poor one for football.
8:07 p.m. Notice a big screen that includes instant replay. A great screen. I spend more time watching the screen than the play on the field. 
8:10 p.m. Never seen a crowd like this before in my life. They are rabid. Packed house. I finally understand why good high school players choose the big schools as a place to play college ball.
8:12 p.m.  Say hello to three guys beside me. They are wearing Tennessee orange in a sea of red. One of the guys is, amazingly, from Fort Worth. Seem like good guy.
8:19 p.m. Georgia fan walking by looks at the Tennessee boys and yells "You suck".
8:20 p.m. Tennessee fan beside me yells "Thank you and welcome to Georgia". I laugh out loud.
9:20 p.m. Heck of a game. Tennessee pulled ahead and now Georgia has the lead. The fans are going crazy. My Tennessee buddies are getting worried.
9:50 p.m. Georgia assures themselves a win by holding Tennessee on a 4th and 1. I look around. There are thousands of students positioning themselves to rush the field. Since I'm on row one, I'm a little nervous.
9:51 p.m. The students, ignoring about 100 police officers,  rush the field and begin to tear down the goal posts. I look up and note there is 1:27 still left on the clock. Crazy, crazy scene.
9:58 p.m. Students get off the field. Time expires. They rush the field again.
10:02 p.m. The hedges around the field have been beaten to a pulp by the students jumping over them and running through them. A lady beside me screams at the students: "Why are you doing this? They'll look %$&^# for Homecoming!".
10:03 p.m. A hostile Georgia fan confronts my three Tennessee friends and keeps asking "What's it like to be 0 and 3 in the SEC [The Southeastern Conference]?". He keeps repeating it. The Tennessee boys have no choice but to sit there and take it. 
10:04 p.m. I think: If Tennessee is 0 and 3 in the SEC, why in the world are you folks tearing down the goal posts?
10:05 p.m. Students begin to tear down the posts in earnest. I feel like an old man when I consider how dangerous it is to bring that huge piece of metal crashing into a shoulder to shoulder crowd.
10:10 p.m.  Both posts are down. No one seems to be hurt. I decide to leave.
10:25 p.m. I hope I'm walking towards downtown Athens. The crowd seems to be walking that way. Hope my car is still there.
10:35 p.m.  Find downtown Athens. As I walk down the sidewalk, I am met by thirty college boys carrying a piece of one of the goal posts. They are high fiving everyone they meet.
10:36 p.m. I high five 30 college boys for no apparent reason.
10:40 p.m. Find intersection of Broad Street and Foundry. 
10:43 p.m.  Can't find my car. This is a bad part of town. Little nervous.
10:49 p.m.  Walk back up to the intersection of Broad Street and Foundry to make sure I have my bearings. Yep, my car should be about three blocks south.
10:55 p.m. I'm standing three blocks south. No car. Very dark neighborhood. A couple of guys obviously indigenous to the area are walking up the other side.
11:10 p.m. Find it! No damage. Jump in and get the heck out of there.
Sunday - 12:01 a.m.  After running by Wendy's, I open up my motel room door. Still smells like smoke.
12:15 a.m. Fall asleep sitting up in bed watching Sports Center.
7:00 a.m. I awake and take a shower. Realize I didn't pack deodorant and some other necessary items.
7:10 a.m. I'm on the road looking for a convenience store. I hit the mother load: A Walmart Super Center. Feel like I'm in Decatur again.
7:45 a.m. Check out and on the road to Atlanta to see the Falcons-Giants.
9:00 a.m. Arrive in Atlanta and begin to look for Georgia Dome. Find it. Beside it is the CNN Center. Cool, I think.
9:15 a.m. Park the car for $10.00 and walk through Centennial park to the CNN Center. It is a combination hotel, production studio, and basketball arena. I sign up for the tour.
10:30 a.m. Taking the tour. The first stop is a "simulated studio" where a broadcast might take place. I am very bored. Do not want to see anything fake. Want the real thing.
10:39 a.m. Guide asks for questions. Kids begin asking dumb questions. Guide attempts to entertain the with answers about Pokeman. I sigh - loudly.
10:41 a.m. A goofy guy, his wife, and grandson (I presume) named Nathan (who asks lots of questions) are on the fake news stage doing fake weather. He explains to the bored crowd that they are in town for a ballroom dancing competition. He and his wife break out into a mini dance.
10:43 a.m. Leaving the simulated room, a little girl turns to her mother and says "That man was kinda weird mommy." The mother replies, "Yes, honey, he was."
10:55 a.m. From an enclosed balcony we are looking at the actual news desk of CNN and its background of 100s of computers, telephones, and televisions. This is great, I think.
11:04 a.m. See actual broadcast of "CNN Headline News". Now we're talking.
11:15 a.m. Tour is over. The guide takes us to a room where we all watch a five minute commercial for the Ted Turner Networks. We all watch like zombies.
11:18 a.m. Film over. Guide comes in and asks if there are any questions. Nathan, the grandson, begins to ask dumb questions again. I stand up as a sign of protest. Everyone follows my lead. I feel like Patton.
12:30 p.m. Walk around downtown Atlanta. Seems a little dangerous. I decide that a baseball cap would make me look more "street". I buy one.
12:40 p.m. Glance at my reflection in a window as I walk down a street. I decide I look like a middle aged guy trying to look "street". I remove ball cap.
1:10 p.m. Roam around Centennial park. Wonder it this is the exact place where the bombing took place during the '96 Olympics. I wonder if they would even acknowledge it.
1:20 p.m.  Find a memorial in the park about the bombing. I look around and wonder what it might have been like that night.
2:04 p.m. Standing outside the Georgia Dome where an area exists for fun and games. Even adults all trying games like throwing a football through a replica of an NFL receiver.
2:21 p.m. The Atlanta Cheerleaders come out to do a performance.
2:28 p.m. Continue to watch cheerleaders.
2:36 p.m. Still there.
2:40 p.m.  Not sure I will ever leave my spot.
2:50 p.m. Go inside Georgia Dome. Great place. Seems like a more modern, air conditioned Texas Stadium.
4:05 p.m. Kickoff. Determine that there are probably 10,000 empty seats. Note that there are probably 10,000 New York Giant fans. Think to myself: "Weren't the Falcons in the Super Bowl two years ago?"
5:05 p.m. This may be the most boring game on the face of this earth. Begin to walk around.
5:45 p.m. Tired. Decide to leave early to beat the crowds. The Falcons end up with a total of 13 yards rushing.
7:01 p.m. In my new hotel near the airport. Nice place. No smoke. I'm very happy. Decide to get something to eat.
7:15 p.m. Find cozy restaurant and bar down the street. Decide to eat at the bar. There is a guy about my age sitting next to me. The bartender/waitress is about 24 years old. The guy, I think, is flirting with her.
7:20 p.m. The guy is definitely flirting with her. She is not interested.
7:24 p.m. The guy's food arrives. He takes a bite and tells the 24 year old that "This is really good" but he says it like you would tell a girl "I love you" for the very first time.
7:44 p.m. The guy is finished with his meal. Grabs a pen. He is writing something on the back of his card.
7:46 p.m. The 24 year old comes by to pick up the bill. She says, "You got something for me". He says, "I've got several things for you."
7:47 p.m. I feel very uncomfortable.
7:50 p.m. He hands her his card. "I've never done anything like this," were his exact words. She takes the card and shoves it in her pocket. I'm dying to know what he wrote. He says, "Hey, you never know."
7:55 p.m. After soundly striking out, the guy leaves. 
7:59 p.m. I leave as well. I am very tired.
Monday - 7:00 a.m. Determine I have overslept. Flight leaves at 8:45 a.m. I scramble.
7:45 a.m. I, miraculously, have made it to the airport and the car rental return garage without a glitch. A lady comes to give me my receipt. She tells me it will be $324.00. I tell her there must be some mistake. She's says "I'm just joking with you". 
7:46 a.m. Decide comedy by Hertz employees before 8:00 a.m. is not a good business practice.
8:30 a.m. Pickup a Atlanta Journal. Learn that a student, Kristine Yu, 18, was crushed in the Georgia goal post malay two nights ago. She was in ICU, but now upgraded.
10:00 a.m. I'm in the air. A married woman and a single guy, I have learned, are sitting behind me - talking pretty loudly.
10:10 a.m. "I hope you didn't think 'oh no' when I sat down," the married woman says. "No way," he responds. "I always enjoy sitting next to beautiful women on airplanes".
10:11 a.m. Decide the world's going crazy.
10:12 a.m. Look at the women sitting next to me. Fairly attractive. Think about striking up a conversation. 
10:13 a.m. Naaa. Back to my magazine.
11:35 a.m. On the ground. Seems like a dream.

Barry Green is the District Attorney for the 271st Judicial District.

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