The Image Of An Empty Stadium

Susan Page
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Wednesday - January 11, 2006
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This is a great quote: “Some journeys we choose; some journeys choose us.”

I heard this on a PBS special just after watching Texas beat USC in the Rose Bowl. Just then it all made sense: The football-watching “journey” chose me.

Much as I’d like to think of myself as a PBS highbrow, I’m really most comfy with a hotdog and a beer - and, at Aloha stadium, a Cinnabon -watching football. This past season I watched a lot of football. I pretty much like it all: college, NFL, high school.

And that is because I was born and raised in Texas, where football is a religion. Legends abound. Like, that football games are played for the unborn in utero, and that little football-shaped cells are found in Texan DNA. Who knows? But I do know that everyone with a television in Texas was watching UT play USC last week for the national championship. Shame would follow anyone who didn’t watch on purpose. Only a few acceptable excuses might work: being trapped under a car, giving birth, or being trapped under a car while giving birth. Nothing else. Funerals can be postponed.

Growing up in a Texas town, I learned football mostly by osmosis. It was always around, either on TV or just up the road at the stadium. I was a junior high cheerleader and learned early that knowing the difference between offense and defense was vital. Chanting “make that down” was wrong on defense just as “hold that line” was on offense. It took me much longer to learn the nuances of the game. That came after years of listening to the men in my life converse about secondaries and nickel defenses, draw plays and blitzes. Men love to verbally identify every play, even if talking only to the TV. It’s an insider’s language guys need to know to earn their “real man” badge.

Today, every so often while watching a football game, I accidentally blurt out something like “they should run a quarterback sneak” or “their defense is lined up wrong,” or “the slotback is out of position,” and my husband looks at me like I’ve broken the fraternity code. When I mention ex-players like YA Tittle, the Chiefs’ Lenny Dawson, Green Bay’s Donny Anderson, the Steelers’ Franco Harris, or Giants quarterback Fran Tarkenton, he drops his jaw.

But there is a difference in the way he and I watch football. I also notice a nasty grass stain on a white uniform, bad hair straggling out of a helmet, and wonder aloud why a coach would wear “that” shirt. His attention is singular. Mine multi-tasks.

Football in Hawaii is generally not as fanatical a pastime as it is in Texas, but we do have our diehards that make Texas fans look meek. That may be due to copious amounts of alcohol consumed before, during and after the games at Aloha Stadium. This practice may all end if the Stadium Committee decides to eliminate beer sales there. If that happens, it will be easy to find parking for games and 50-yard-line seats. But ticket prices might go off the scale to make up for low attendance.

We love our Warriors, but Pay-Per-View is pretty affordable when split among friends, beer is cheaper at home, and the carport is sort of like a parking lot - outside, anyway. If they wish, friends can even eat out of the back of their SUVs in our driveway.

Imagine the Warriors playing to a near empty stadium: Just the band, the cheerleaders and Vili the Warrior all trying to pep each other up. Vili looking up into the fanless stands, blinded by the glare of the afternoon sun off empty orange seats, raises his hands for the “ghosts of games past” to stand and cheer. It’s a frightening thought.

Oftentimes we let the bad behavior of a few abusers go on for so long that we overreact and end up punishing the innocent. Like the parent who, finally fed up after hours of bickering in the back seat, turns and grounds all the kids, not just the brat.

This football-watching journey that chose me will not stop despite the stadium ruling. Nor will it “ground” any real Warrior fan. Which “ground” we watch home games on - carport or stadium - now that is the football question of 2006.

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