I saved my favorite for last. I’ve seen just about every sport there is live, but seeing a live NFL game has always seemed to elude me. Finally, about three months ago, I opened my birthday present from my family and found three pages worth of Google Maps directions leading to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, N.Y.. Having memorized the Tennessee Titans schedule for months, I knew fully well they would be playing the Bills in week seven.
Sure, I could’ve gone to Toronto to see a Bills game at some point, but much like losing your virginity, the first time should feel special. I find it hard to imagine that the Rogers Centre could capture the atmosphere of a NFL game. It’s a lot closer to capturing the atmosphere of a library.
It was well worth the wait, as I got to see my Titans win on a last-minute touchdown drive, converting a fourth down play into a 15-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Nate Washington. Chris Johnson revitalized his season with a 195-yard and two-touchdown day. It doesn’t get much more dramatic than a 35-34 final score, during a game where points and yards were easy to come by.
The journey to that destination was just as fun. Being that Ralph Wilson stadium is in a residential area, I can now say I’ve paid to park on someone’s lawn. The surrounding area was full of tailgating; food trucks and full of NFL merchandise stands. It’s probably about as exciting as it gets in Buffalo. The smell of grills everywhere and the anticipation building for a football game is one sweet feeling.
Decked out in Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers gear, I expected heckling, which I did receive, but luckily all in good fun. Fan violence has been a problem around NFL stadiums, but I must say the Bills fans in attendance were generally hospitable.
I guess, since Buffalo has been a losing team for so long, fans have forgotten how to trash-talk. To be fair, as a Titans fan, I don’t have much ammunition myself, but at least if I did have to use it, I did so wisely.
One suggestion I will make for Bills fans is to demand a removal of trough urinals. Seriously, fans, how do you put up with it? If it’s considered acceptable to urinate next to 10 guys in the United States, I guess that’s why I’m proud to be Canadian.
Some nice bonuses included seeing Marv Levy honored at halftime. Being an Alouettes fan, I was certainly able to appreciate the ceremony. Even my favorite referee Mike Carey was the game official. His authoritative signals and his gusto when making a call just adds something trivially exhilarating when watching a football game.
Things couldn’t have gone much better than they did; a dramatic, back-and-forth game with my team coming out on top in my first outing to an NFL game. With the Titans being 1-4 just a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d be going to Buffalo sporting the brown paper bag of shame. A win against the Steelers gave me a glimmer of hope and their win in Orchard Park gave the joy of being a part of the triumphant minority of Titans fans in the stadium.
My advice to fellow NFL fans: If your favorite team plays within driving distance, go every chance you get.