I recently learned that the Denver Broncos make a limited number of tickets to all home games available for half price. As soon as I heard this I hopped right online to snag four. Well, four weren’t available, so three. No, three weren’t available either. Two? Nope. One? Yes indeed. So basically there are about 2,000 tickets available for half price for each game, but they are all singles.
Now I go to many Rockies games solo. I love to get to Coors Field early and relax while watching the grounds crew put the finishing touches on the field before the game starts. Then I spend a few innings walking around to different parts of the park and watching from all the different vantage points before picking a seat in a sparsely populated section to finish out the game. I figured the Broncos experience could be fun by myself as well ,so I decided I was going to take in the Broncos vs. Lions game on the cheap.
I was a little apprehensive about the half price ticket process. I had never talked to anyone who had taken advantage of this deal before so I was naturally skeptical. As I made my way to my seat I was picturing sitting on a miniature folding chair directly behind a brick wall, only able to view a corner of one end zone. I was quite relieved that in fact a half price ticket entitles you to a full size seat with a good view of the field and everything. Emboldened, I struck out to find what other benefits might be had for half price.
"Seven fifty" said the beer man. I plopped down $3.75.
"What’s this?" he asked.
"I have a half price ticket."
He dumped half of the beer on the ground and handed me the cup.
Touche, beer man. Touche.
I have read a number of articles in recent years saying that the NFL has a problem because the viewing experience from home is so much better than actually being at the game. It's is a weird thing to give the league flak for. If I understand the point correctly, it’s somehow bad for the NFL to cater to millions and millions of people instead of just 70,000. Yep, I can see how that business model is dumb. Some people are worried that the crowd for NFL games is going to get smaller and smaller to where attendance is pretty insignificant. To which I say: so what? The Cosby Show was taped in front of an audience, but it was clear that the real draw was the TV viewers, and the Huxtables had a pretty sweet run. Even if we get to the point where we are reminded each week when Theo comes on and says, "The Broncos were taped before a live stadium audience," I don’t think the product is going to suffer at all.
Really there are a number of arguments both for attending a game in person as well as watching on TV. I do know a number of people who go to NFL games often but also watch quite a few on TV. And one point they make is that they like to be able to watch the replays on TV if a call is being challenged. And that’s a fair claim. Here’s my counterpoint: color commentators.
Sure you get to see the replay from every possible camera angle at home but you have to listen to Dan Dierdorf ramble incoherently while you are watching them. "The rule is very clear on this…" an announcer is often heard to say, right before expounding on a rule that is in actuality extremely vague. "The rule is very clear on this: in order for that to be a catch, he has to make a ‘football move.’" Well what’s a football move? Apparently falling down is not a football move, even though people fall down in football all the time. What does count as a football move is running, although I hardly think football has the market cornered as far as sports with running in them. It would be clearer to just say, "You have to catch it, and, you know, hold onto it for a sec." NFL Rules Committee, I’m available to punch up your book a bit.
NFL commentators have eroded my understanding of what it means to catch something so completely that recently my wife asked if I wanted to catch a movie and I ran out of the house screaming, "Two feet plus possession!" Two hours later, I was naked in the middle of Colfax Avenue with horns blaring all around me. Someone who looked a lot like John Elway took pity on me and tossed me the keys to a brand new Mercedes and said, "Get yourself home, you need this more than I do." Unfortunately I was unable to complete the process of the catch and the keys fell into the sewer.
I don’t mean to pick on Dierdorf but you could teach algebraic concepts on some of the stuff he says. If you have a child struggling in math, sit them down in front of the TV next time Dan Dierdorf is analyzing a play under review. If you plot how confident he sounds on the x-axis and just how wrong he ends up being on the y-axis, your little boy or girl is going to be graphing perfect 45 degree lines in no time.
Maybe I went a little overboard in making my point. In short, it’s kind of nice being at the game when a play is under review. You eat a few pistachios, drink some of your beverage, and then the ref makes the call and everyone moves on. If he completely blows it, the fans at the game really don’t know because we haven’t watched it in hi-def 23 times. We just have to live by the decision he made. Blindly accepting what someone else says isn’t necessarily the American way, but it sure is better for the blood pressure.
Anyhow, part of what’s kind of a bummer about Sports Authority Field at Mile High is that there really isn’t anywhere to walk to so you can stand and watch the game. And it isn’t as if you are going to sneak into some other section with a bunch of empty seats. Obviously it speaks to the Broncos popularity that even with no playoff appearances in five years, all the seats are full. So basically I had to stick to my seat with that "All By Myself" song playing in my head. And I really wanted to write a column about how social boundaries melt away when you are in a crowd with everyone cheering the team on to victory.
However, this was the Broncos-Lions game. As of this writing, the Broncos are 4-1 with Tim Tebow as the starting quarterback. This was that one loss. A very painful loss. Lance Ball had a 35 yard run in the first quarter, a touchdown pass that was challenged and ruled incomplete (which the ref totally got wrong because he’s a fascist), followed by a field goal. And that pretty much wrapped it up for the cheering. And it’s not like you go nuts cheering for a field goal. If a touchdown can make you jump up out of your seat and high five a stranger, a field goal is likely to only generate an appreciative nod with a stranger.
There were two things about this particular game that were pretty shocking: the sheer number of Lions fans and just how vocal the Lions fans were. OK, maybe not surprised at how vocal they were. After years and years of crappy football, Detroit fans are allowed to blow off some steam. But there were quite a few that were downright cocky. I guess I imagined that most Lions fans would need a refresher on the rules, and envisioned myself instructing some eager student of the game that we don’t really refer to a field goal as a "three-pointer." After a Lions touchdown a man in a Barry Sanders jersey stood up and yelled "Lions Rule!" That was when I knew we had entered some alternate fantasy universe.
This game would have none of Tebow’s late heroics. None of that "stink for 55 minutes, then play awesome for 5." He was pretty bad for all 60 minutes, silencing the critics that said he was inconsistent. The game ended and I made my way down to guest services to voice my displeasure.
"What is your complaint?" I was asked.
"Well, if you plot how much I paid for my ticket on the x-axis, and how much I enjoyed the game on the y-axis, I think you will see I should get half my money back."
The guest relations representative shushed me and pointed to a sign behind him: "Dierdorf Math will not get you a refund."
Touche, Broncos. Touche.