I went to the Patriots-Ravens playoff game on Saturday. Though I love attending Patriots games at Gillette Stadium, it’s not always easy.
I left my house at 10:45 AM and returned home around 10:45 PM. It’s a long day.
Prior to leaving the house, while I was dressed in my long underwear, my cat vomited on me. This might have happened regardless of my plans for the day, but it happened. It was a thing.
In a sad twist of fate, my friend received word that his cat was dying while we were on the way to the game. On Sunday, his cat was put to sleep.
It was about 15 degrees during our tailgate. We cooked steaks, beans, and loaded potato skins on a propane-powered grill. Less than 10 minutes after food came off the grill, it was cold.
The walk from the parking lot to our seats takes about 30-45 minutes depending upon the size of the crowd at the gates. It’s a battle through hordes of fans, and for a large portion of the walk, it’s uphill. Up about seven ramps to the upper deck and about 75 steps to our seats. By the time we finally sit down, we are stripping off our coats and hats because we are so warm.
The temperature dropped at game time. Factoring in the wind chill, it was about 5 degrees by the second quarter. Beers were freezing. I looked more like the Michelin Man than myself with the layers of clothing affixed to my body.
As soon as the game ended, we ran for the car. Beat the traffic out of the parking lot. Stopped at McDonald's to strip down to civilian clothing, I discovered that my face was seriously wind burned. Then we began the 75 minute drive to my friend’s house and the 45 minute drive on my own to my house.
It’s a sacrifice, particularly when the game can be watched in the comfort of my home.
But I sitting in the stands for the 2015 Patriots-Ravens playoff game, and I will never forget it. I saw and heard things that I have never seen before in a footfall game.
I saw Tom Brady throw a pass to wide receiver Julian Edleman, who threw a pass to Danny Amendola for a touchdown. Strangers embraced me as Amendola crossed into the end zone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the stadium so loud.
I heard referees announce that Patriots running backs and tight ends were “ineligible receivers.” “Do not cover number 34” a referee announced. It may have been the strangest in-stadium announcement in the history of the NFL.
I saw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on the Baltimore bench. Though I’m sure this has happened in NFL games before, I had never seen it.
I watched a team come back from two 14 point deficits to win the game, the first time it’s ever happened in the playoffs.
I watched Tom Brady set the NFL record for passing yards and touchdowns in the playoffs.
I watched Bill Belichick tie Don Shula for the most wins by a coach in the playoffs. Next week, I hope to see him break that record.
Sure, I could’ve watched the game from my couch and been warm. Yes, I could’ve eaten a meal that did not go cold in minutes. It’s true, the hours spent traveling by car and foot to and from the game could’ve been better spent (though spending that time with one of my best friends wasn’t exactly a poor use of my day).
But I’m warm now. My belly is full. My face has returned to it’s normal color. And I have memories of time spent with a friend, watching history be made, that I will carry with me forever.
For about half a second, I had two extra tickets for Saturday’s game. My friend, who owns the tickets but was suffering from the flu, sold them quickly. But I had time to fire off some emails and text messages to friends to see if anyone wanted to join us.
Some already had plans. Some were out of state. One was anchoring SportsCenter in Dallas. But a few declined because of the cold. The travel. The effort required. The allure of the stupid box and the couch.
I feel bad for those who stay home for reasons like the cold.
You can always be warm tomorrow. You can take a nap and enjoy a warm meal the next day. But you can’t make memories like the ones I did on Monday. Sometimes sacrifice is required to witness greatness.
Maybe it’s crazy, but the 99 year-old version of myself wanted me at that game. My future self wanted me sitting in section 323, row 24, seat 5, alongside my friend, cheering on my team as the temperatures approached zero.
I try to listen to my future self whenever possible. You should, too.
Future you is always smarter than current you.