Let me share my insights with you:
– Football games really aren’t about football, so no real knowledge of the game is required (which made my becoming an expert much easier). It’s really all about beer, and if you’re under age, soft pretzels. It doesn’t really matter if any players actually appear, but it’s very important that the referees come out so people can yell at them for being idiots.
– All you have to do is watch the giant television screen at the front of the stadium and do what it tells you. Mostly it’s “Make NOISE!” when the home team is on defense – that is, they don’t have the ball – and shut the hell up when they’re on offense – that’s when they have the ball, but just before the quarterback passes it to someone on the other team.
– You don’t have to wonder where you are in the stadium, at least if you’re with the group of people who sat behind us. About once every five minutes, one of them would stand up and shout, “What section are we in?” And like organic bullhorns, all two hundred of them would bellow, “FIVE THIRTY-TWO!” We even started responding after a while, which is concrete proof that if you say something to someone you don’t know often enough before they can escape or commit suicide, they’ll start parroting the same thing.
– There was also no worry about knowing when the game started, even by half-time. “What time does the game start?” “EIGHT TWENTY!” Got it.
– The main job of referees is not to ensure that the game is played fairly, but to assist in keeping the noise level as high as possible by making ridiculously bad calls. I am seriously thinking about becoming a professional NFL referee, because they clearly have the same level of understanding of football as I do.
– Fans sitting in the upper sections eventually will pass out from hypoxia. According to my handy iPhone GPS, our seats were located over 10,000 feet above sea level. If we had been flying in a plane, the FAA would have required us to be on oxygen.
– Buying tickets for seats in the upper levels is clearly an intelligence test that ticket purchasers such as myself consistently fail. Only the Hubble telescope could make out any details of the action on the field. However, this becomes a moot point after hypoxia and alcohol intoxication set in.
– For those in the upper tiers, there is no need to worry about an evacuation plan in case of an emergency. Unless the stadium is under attack by African Killer Snails, you have no possible chance of escape. That is why you should always bring along a parachute. Or just drink more beer.
In the end, I reached the following conclusion. We could have achieved the same effect at home by:
1. Putting a plywood cutout of our chosen stadium’s main billboard around a five-inch flat screen TV and decorating it appropriately. In the case of Heinz field, a pair of tilting ketchup bottles would be a snap. Set the TV at a distance of at least eighteen feet from the sofa to ensure a realistic view of the field.
2. Invite fifty pleasant but inebriated people you don’t know to crowd behind your sofa. Instruct them to shout at the top of their lungs at every opportunity, especially when the referees give the home team a fifteen yard penalty for looking at the football. If you happen to be Steelers fans, ensure the members of your living room crowd whap you in the head repeatedly as they enthusiastically twirl their Terrible Towels and shout “What section are we in?” “FIVE THIRTY-TWO!”
3. Turn down the thermostat to no higher than fifteen degrees below zero. Ensure that your children are wearing shorts and t-shirts, because at a real game they would insist on dressing that way unless you threatened them with bodily harm.
4. Ensure everyone has beer, and that plenty is sloshed on the back of the sofa (and you) while the crowd jeers at the ridiculous calls made by the referees.
5. Pick your child who has the lowest grades at school and force him/her to wear the opposing team’s uniform. The resulting catcalls and insults from the crowd will provide encouragement to the child for performing better in class.
6. When the men have to go to the bathroom to pee, have them stand at least six across and do their business in the bathtub while the water is running at a trickle. Force the women to stand in line for at least 45 minutes, and make sure there’s no toilet paper when they finally are allowed into the bathroom.
I believe that by following the above steps, you could achieve the same ambiance as being at a live game without actually having to leave your home. I confess that despite the lack of oxygen and the referees, we all had a good time.
And do you remember what section we were in? “FIVE THIRTY-TWO!”