I just finished watching a NFL Network biography on Tom Coughlin. He is personally my favorite coach in the NFL. (I also like retired coaches Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Mike Ditka, but that’s for another conversation). I wouldn’t call myself a sports junkie or even a junkie for football, but rather, a NFL kind of girl.
Last week I went on a business trip to Charlotte, North Carolina. The day before I left, I marked the latest win and game score on the season schedule I have printed out for my favorite football team. As the youngest of my siblings and the only girl, I grew up around all things sports and some of my earliest childhood memories are of being dragged to my brother’s high school football games and then having to re-watch the games on video tapes at home. When I was 13, I randomly decided to have a Super Bowl party at my house for the 1991 game between the NY Giants and the Buffalo Bills. I didn’t follow the Giants closely beforehand, but they are one of the home teams from where I grew up, so I rooted for them to win. Win they did by one point and my friends and I celebrated by running onto my porch, dancing and making a lot of noise. I have never forgotten that moment. I think that’s when I decided the Giants were my favorite team. Admittedly, because I did not follow football closely since that 1991 game, I had a tendency to support the teams of guys I dated over the years. However, when my son was born five years ago, I honestly felt an obligation to pay more attention to sports. I started watching ESPN’s “Sports Center” and chose to get better acquainted with football, as I understood it the most from watching my brother play. I’m also a fall baby, so the sport is a natural fit for me. I knew which team would have my full support and I have been an avid and loyal fan of the Giants ever since.
But back to last week’s business trip. As I was marking the game win and score on the Giants’ schedule, I noticed the next opponents were the Carolina Panthers and the game was being held in Charlotte. In addition to loving my team, I also love all things live events and immediately thought I should purchase a ticket to the game since I would be in Charlotte at the same time. Then I started having second thoughts; mainly, as a woman and in a city that isn’t home, I shouldn’t go to the game by myself. I decided against it after a while but as that Sunday night’s game played, I started looking at tickets and consulted my Facebook community about prices. A friend who lives in Charlotte responded and eagerly offered that no matter the price, there wasn’t a bad seat in the stadium. After reading that comment, I found a ticket that was priced right up my alley and made a final decision to go to the game. I excitedly packed my favorite Giants sweatshirt amongst my business clothes and headed off for a week in Charlotte.
The day of the game arrived and the weather in Charlotte was beautiful. All I had to do was make it until 5 PM and then it would be time to get ready to cheer on my team. I’d struggled some more with the reservation of going alone, but I was able to reassure myself that I would be just fine. I also felt pretty under the weather that particular day, but I pushed through, got some rest and willed myself to feel better for the game. By time I pulled up to the stadium area, I hit a better stride and immediately began feeling the electricity of fan excitement. It seemed like there were tons of Giants fans everywhere, certainly more than I imagined. I put on my sweatshirt with confidence and made my way through the crowd. Pretty soon I felt comfortable enough to do a Facebook check-in and share my own excitement via status updates. As I walked into the stadium, I immediately felt proud of myself…for supporting my team, for pushing through not feeling so great, for moving beyond the fear of going to the game alone.
I attended a Coldplay concert earlier this summer with a dear friend who has a fear of heights. The tickets were pretty high up, but okay for me personally. She had me go to guest services with her, and I watched as she explained her fear and requested any lower level seats if they were available. Wouldn’t you know we got those seats? I was actually quite fascinated by this and I always appreciate learning something new. My ticket for the game was definitely in the higher up seats and I would consider this when I had the reservations about going alone. I thought about my friend’s request at the concert and figured I might give it a shot, but only after checking out the seat I paid for first. It was high, but not as high as I thought it would be and my Facebook friend was right, there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house. So there I was, settled in with some popcorn and Gatorade and taking pictures of the field with my Blackberry. I was ready to support my team. I felt like a true fan.
No sooner than the game got started, did two guys walk up to the seats next to mine. One of them had on a Giants jersey and sat right next to me. This was all the encouragement I needed. “Giants fans, huh?!” I said and told them I was happy to be in such great company. We ended up chatting and loudly cheering throughout the whole game. The Giants won 36-7, completing the worthwhile feeling of the overall experience. My seatmates told me they were quite impressed I came to the game alone, which gave me more pride in myself. We are now Facebook friends and I look forward to having a bigger fan base to support my team with.
As I flew home the next night, I thought about my week. There were other experiences in addition to the Giants game, but that certainly took the cake. I considered the thought process of immediately wanting to go when I realized the timing of the game, then second-guessing myself for fear of going alone to the game, then overcoming second-guessing myself, which resulted in me thoroughly enjoying the game. That’s when I had an “aha” moment and the experience of going to the game became about something bigger. I realized I was becoming my own friend. I enjoy football. I enjoy live events. I enjoy meeting new people. So I took myself out to a live football game and ended up meeting some really cool people. It became a bucket list item I didn’t even know I had. And I was happy to check it off.
After the Tom Coughlin bio ended, a replay of the last Sunday Night Football game came on. In the past, I would have changed the channel, most likely to catch up on one of my guilty-pleasure reality shows. This was the game I was watching when I finally decided to buy my ticket for the Giants game in Charlotte. Even though I saw it already, I am actually enjoying watching it again and I plan to watch the “Sounds of the NFL” show that will immediately follow after.
When I get into my car to drive to work, the radio will likely be on ESPN. Earlier this week, I had ESPN radio on all day via their website and listened in as the various show hosts discussed the controversy of bad referee calls from the game the night before. Sometimes I pause and ask myself when did I become this girl. Then I smile and think, whoever she is, I am really enjoying becoming her friend.
Here’s to a great 2012 NFL season currently being reigned by the Super Bowl winning NY Football Giants. #NYG