Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sunday Fun

It's Sunday, I'm in Denver, and the Broncos have a home game. I don't have tickets, yet, but that's not gonna stop me.

As the date for our trip to Denver drew closer, my time to get a ticket to the Broncos game grew shorter. Before I knew it, we were landing in Denver. Oh well, it's just a game, right? I'll just catch it on television. That was my rationale, until our hotel shuttle pulled up to the Red Lion to drop someone off. The Red Lion is directly behind Invesco Field at Mile High, abutting the fence to the parking lot. It was that moment, sitting in that van, that I resolved to attend the game that weekend.

How could I not? I grew up in Southwest Louisiana. Football in my town is like a second church. You attend the South Cameron game on Friday night and go to God's church on Saturday or Sunday, depending on your faith. Growing up in Lousiana means that you're a Saints fan first, but you've gotta have a backup team that's actually gonna have a chance to win. For a few years, it was the Broncos, with Elway at the helm. The legends that played in those days are long since retired, and so is the field they played on, but their history is thick in the thin air of the Mile High City. It would be sacreligious to miss a game here.

Sunday dawns bright and clear. The plan is to make my way to the stadium, soak up some of the tailgating atmosphere, and score a ticket for a reasonable price. Completing that final goal would be tricky, since I'm not the most street-wise person.

Foot traffic is light on the streets as I utilize public transit to get to Invesco. At the light rail station I run into a group of fans from both teams. The Bronco fans are locals, of course, and the Pat fans traveled all the way from New York. Good natured trash talk between these friends helps make a short trip even shorter.

Soon after disembarking I run into my first scalper. For those who don't know, these can be identified by the laminated signs that read "I Need Tickets" on one side with a seating chart of the venue on the other. This particular gentleman informs me that I might be able to get an upper deck "nosebleed" seat for $100 or so, but I wouldn't be able to get one from him for that "cheap" at this time. My near-eidetic memory of the ticketmaster website calls shenanigans on this so I tell him I'll call him later and head for the parking lot, and some authentic NFL tailgating.

Following my instincts and using my photographer's eye for characters, I soon spot the folks who will become my hosts for the day. Intending to just snap a few shots and move on, I ask them if they would mind? "Of course not," they respond. "Where are you from?" The answer draws looks of sympathy, but I quickly tell them that I'm not an evacuee, but here by choice. Less than a minute after saying hello I find a beer in my hand and an invitation to make myself at home.

That isn't hard to do. I've traveled across several states only to find all the comforts of home, fried turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and a couple coolers full of light beer. The view isn't bad either. No one has a ticket for me, but they assure me that I will be able to find one closer to game time for face value. Ten minutes later, a cool cat named Rob hangs up his cell and tells me that he might have a line on a ticket for me. Another ten confirms it, and the turkey is done. Fried turkey in one hand, a beer in the other, and good people to share the fun with... life is good.

The game is a good one, and the fans are great. A family from New England is scattered around us, with the patriarch next to me, but they don't get heckled too badly by the Bronco fans. It's a great game that keeps everyone in their seat until the final tick of the clock, with the Broncos picking up the win.

After bidding Rob goodbye, and asking him to pass my thanks on to everyone at the post-game party, I begin my trek back to my wife...and dinner. It's been a great day and I have memories that will last a lifetime. Thanks to the Mile High Fryers, and the City of Denver, for making my trip one of the best vacations I've had in a long time.

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