Monday, September 12, 2005

Perchance to Dream

by Jeff Jones

Chicago 7, Washington 9

I count myself very fortunate to be able to attend some of this season's games at near ground level in the Dream Seat section of FedEx Field. Thanks to the suspiciously manipulative pecuniary vision of Daniel Snyder, the Redskins' stadium now has a row of seats so close to the end zone that fans can confirm which cheerleader needs to do more crunches and accurately guess which deoderant the opposing players are using. (I salute you, Right Guard.) When the players turn to exhort the crowd, they aren't gazing up at Section 440. They're looking right at you.

Sunday I got my first taste of the very-good life, courtesy my Pops. We've enjoyed games during the last four years in various places at FedEx, from the rafters (where our hot chocolate froze one November day) to the Loge level (with its carpeted, leather-seated, plasmas-in-the-lobby experience). I am indebted to ol' Pops for enduring the waiting list since the RFK days and making the financial sacrifice--which increases by 5% annually--to grab better seats when available. In honor of him, I have already decided to keep the tickets in the family for generations. Not that I'm, y'know, rushing Pops or anything.

For my dollar, the best time to attend a Redskins game is early in the season, when the weather's comfortable, the teams are fresh, and the Skins haven't taken themselves out of playoff contention. (So, by "early in the season" I mean September.) And there is something even more magical about attending the Season Kickoff; in the past Snyder has made sure to dazzle the crowd with costly pyrotechnics, military flyovers, and, um, Britney Spears.

Sunday's Pop Icon Performance was from the saccharine duo of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, who belted out "America the Beautiful" backed up by No Name Band #6. Unlike Mrs. Spears, the couple actually appeared in person at the stadium...and promptly ducked out after the song's final bars. This left us with the disappointing announcement that the one and only Roy Firestone would be singing the national anthem. I must not have been the only person thinking "wasn't Roy the anchor of the first season of ESPN's "Outside the Lines" or something?" because at halftime the stadium announcer reminded us that Firestone is a platinum-selling, Grammy-winning artist. Ohhhh. That Roy Firestone.

Early in the afternoon, my section was dismayed to learn from our preteen Food Maven that both ketchup and mustard were no longer available. Honestly, how does an entire stadium run out of two major condiments on the first regular season game in the first quarter? Were the fans that hungry? People are paying over a thousand bucks for seats and the stadium staff can't run to Giant for a couple bottles of Heinz?

(Speaking of food, to cleanse my mouth of a lead-based hot dog and sun-warmed Coke, I enjoyed a piece of tropical fruit Trident. On the ingredients panel, there is a prominently displayed, bold-face pronouncement: Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine. Does more than 3% of the total United States population have any clue what two of those three words mean? Trident is still gum, right? Somebody needs to look into this. Meanwhile I'll just keep enjoying this long-lasting, rich mango flavor.)

There are some distinct drawbacks to attending games at FedEx Field, and they do detract from the gameday experience. First and foremost, ticket prices are stupendously high...but as my Pops mentioned before kickoff, "every time I think these seats cost too much, I come to a game and change my mind." Second, they never show enough replays on the jumbo screens. Instead of showing us replays after turnovers, we go straight to the same hospital, courier, and airline commercials they've been feeding us for years. You know how the fans knew what happened to Ramsey or Portis' yardage on the day? We listened to the radio after the game.

By the way, this is where the Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium clearly trounces FedEx--their screens are roughly three times the size of Washington's and the clarity is so much better, it's like laser printer vs. dot matrix. If that's not bad enough, the Baltimore fans get to see the down, yardage, and other stats right there on the same screen (you know, like they've been doing on television for the last 25 years). So their fans got to watch their team lay a prime-time stinkbomb Sunday night in high-definition!

There are moments, though, when there is nothing better than sitting in that stadium. When the Bears began their final, game-winning drive, they committed an incomprehensible three false start penalties in a row. With every mistake, the noise level grew. One play later, they turned the ball over and the game was effectively sealed. This huge change in momentum wasn't the result of the Washington defense's pre-snap shifts, nor that the Bears offensive line suddenly turned timid. It was me and 91,000 of my closest allies who together created a cacophony that prevented Chicago from performing the most basic of tasks.

That, dear friends, is why you go to the game: to say I was there, and I'll never forget the experience.

Lord willing I'll be in Section 30 on October 2, sipping hot soda, yelling myself hoarse and dreaming that I and my Redskins can go home victorious, singing "Hail to the Redskins" loudly, mumbling the lyrics, and off-key. Doesn't get much better than that.

For my game review, check out Hog Heaven soon!


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