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Roger Simon

Seeing Football From the Twilight Zone

November 30, 1988|Roger Simon

I have just learned a new rule of life: If your friend offers you his football tickets, always check the weather report first.

That's because he already has and is only offering you his tickets because it is going to rain, snow, sleet, hail or all of the above.

Like a fool, I recently accepted football tickets, thinking generosity and not bad weather was the motivation. In many cities, ordinary people can no longer see pro football games live and in person. Tickets have to be willed to you. Or somebody with influence, i.e. someone with a cousin, has to get tickets for you.

Even though I have been to hundreds of baseball games, I had been to only one pro football game. It was the Chicago Bears vs. Somebody in Soldier Field. To this day, I don't know who.

That's because the snow was blowing in my face the whole game. Visibility was reduced to the back of the neck of the guy in front of me.

"Whose got the ball?" I would yell over the shrieking wind.

"The Bears," he would say. "Or Somebody."

That was years ago and nobody ever offered me tickets again. I guess the weather must have been good. Until last weekend. When I got offered tickets to the Washington Redskins game at R.F.K. Stadium.

That should have been the tip-off right there. Nobody gives away Redskins tickets. Families have been known to reduce funerals to slugfests, battling over the Old Man's Redskins tickets.

But I got offered Redskins tickets. So did I immediately call the National Weather Service to find out why? No. Like an idiot I was awash in gratitude.

And the field was awash in rain--as were the seats, as were the fans--buckets and torrents and sheets of rain.

Naturally, we all sat there in the rain. On TV, which is the way God intended for man to watch football, the rain comes down in nice, slanty lines. And you sit back in your Barcalounger and say: "Boy, is it coming down."

In real life, the rain keeps swirling around to hit you from all sorts of directions. And you can't say "Boy, is it coming down" because any time you open your mouth, you're in danger of drowning.

My seat was in the end zone, which is a bad place to watch a football game. On TV, your seat is always on the 50-yard line. But in real life, to get a seat on the 50-yard line, you have to be nephew to the Godfather.

My real life seat in the end zone was a lousy place from which to watch a football game, because you couldn't get any perspective on how the ball was moving up and down the field.

You'd see this tremendous flurry of activity and hear the cheers and groans, but you had to look at the scoreboard to see if the guy had made 2 yards or 20.

Which is why everybody around me had portable TVs and radios tuned to the game. I hate people who do this. I realize it is the only way to tell what is going on, but if you are going to watch a game on TV, you ought to stay home.

If you are going to watch the game in real life, you ought to do what you are supposed to do whenever you leave the house: suffer.

The Redskins were playing the Cleveland Browns. I know this because the guy next to me could actually see them on his television. To me, everything looked like "20,000 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea." It looked like they had gotten those mermaids from Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida to play football underwater.

Which is not to say that the stadium people were unaware of our discomfort. They did their best to see us through. During the steady downpour, there was always a beer man at my elbow. "Beer!" he would shout. "Ice cold beer!"

Who would drink beer in the rain? Everybody, as it turned out. Even at $2.50 per cup (if a liquor store tried to charge us the equivalent, $15 a six-pack, we would burn the place down), everybody drank steadily throughout the game.

"It's physics," the guy next to me said. "If you get as wet on the inside as you are on the outside, you don't feel so bad."

After a while, you don't feel anything at all.

Every now and then, the rain let up just enough to let us see the players on the field. Which I would have been able to do if it had not been for the umbrellas.

Some people were smart enough to bring umbrellas. But were dumb enough to open them, which caused the people behind them to yell: "Hey, put down the umbrellas!" So they had to collapse their umbrellas until they rested on their heads. Which made the water run off onto the people all around them.

This led to grumbling, shouting and more beer. In fact, everything led to more beer.

After about an hour of watching the game in real life, I got up, slogged through the parking lot, got my car and drove home. Where I watched the game on television. It was swell. You could tell who had the ball and everything.

And the next time somebody offers me a football ticket, I'm going to turn it down without even checking on the weather.

Real life is not all it's cracked up to be.

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