The Fall Classic

Amid all of the change and tumult in our lives these last few months, Saturday afternoons have been a bright spot. Because they mean (cue the Monday night football theme music) … Bearcat football. 

I could go on and on -- and on -- about the lure and charm of it. And why Division II is better than Division I. … The game day atmosphere. The tailgating. The marching band. Bobby the mascot and the cheerleaders. The lack of ego and money-grubbing executives looking for anyway to make a buck off star athletes. Not to mention our powerhouse football team with a legacy that’s unmatched over the last 15 seasons.

As I’d hoped when we made the move here, Kates -- though she won’t admit it -- and Phoebe have been sucked into it the way I was 13 years ago. Trekking to the stadium on Saturdays is now a family affair. Saturdays are game days.

Even during the weeks when Kates thinks she’s not up for a game, Phoebe is the one to push her over the edge. It never fails, mid-week Phoebe declares “I go to da Bearcat game this weekend!?” And Kates can only smile and give in. … Phoebe has a huge crush on the mascot after all.

Such was the case this weekend for the big game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, an annual game dubbed “The Fall Classic” that the Bearcats play against a conference rival. Kates was on the fence, but Phoebe made a mention of going and we couldn’t deny her. We booked a hotel for Friday night, I got my hands on some tickets and our plans were made.

Friday afternoon, I picked up Phoebe a couple hours early from daycare. When I stepped through the door, she spotted me and ran toward me squealing, “I go to Bearcat game!” I’m so proud of her.

I met Kates at our place. We loaded the car. And soon we were going to Kansas City.

The only problem was the beautiful fall weather we’ve been enjoying suddenly turned ugly. The temperature had dipped into the 40s and we left The ‘Ville in a fog. As we neared Kansas City and converged with the rush hour traffic, the light rain turned into a monsoon.

We found our accommodations across from the stadium complex, checked in and then I got the pleasure of unloading the car in the cold hard rain.

Once Kates and Phoebe were set up with my laptop -- they spent the night watching movies in our hotel room -- I headed to the car again, and then downtown for our pep rally at the Power and Light District.

Despite the horrible weather outside, the atmosphere was awesome inside. The Kansas City skyline was illuminated around the open-air pavilion, but an awning overhead protected us from the rain -- and the heaters throughout the pavilion made the air feel like a balmy 60 degrees.

Saturday was game day. By the time the stadium gates opened at 10 a.m., there was already a long line of vehicles, sporting their teams’ colors, jamming the road. In the meantime, we headed across the street for a breakfast at Denny‘s.

The real fun began once we parked at the stadium around 11. Cars adorned with Bearcat flags and fans clad in green sweatshirts and jerseys filled the lot. Along with the smell of burgers on charcoal grills.

We headed for the alumni pavilion to meet up with my office mates and help greet fans as they streamed inside. Phoebe wasted no time catching the attention of everyone she passed, and really made a splash when the mascot, Bobby, visited the pavilion. Fearless, Phoebe proceeded to take him by the hand and led him from one end of the Pavilion to the other. … It was absolutely adorable, and god bless the student underneath that costume for being so patient with her.

Eventually, we heard the band marching by and headed outside to watch their pregame performance. Phoebe loooves watching the band. ...

When the band finished, we headed inside the stadium -- where we enjoyed the royal treatment.

Before yesterday, I’d been inside Arrowhead Stadium just twice in my lifetime -- once for a Chiefs-Saints game during the Steve DeBerg era, and we sat in the nosebleed section. The other was for a Chiefs-Bills game during my infamous concession-man experience.

This weekend was an entirely different experience. Arrowhead underwent a major overhaul during the offseason, and our office acquired one of the stadium’s suites for Saturday’s game. After passing through the turnstiles, we boarded an escalator that took us to the suite level. Cherry woodwork and gold-patterned carpet highlighted the sleek design, and the wide-open atrium areas outside the individual suites were naturally lit with exterior walls made entirely of large windows.

Our suite was complete with leather seating and a fireplace -- where a fire was burning. A counter-top was covered with steaming trays of meatballs, nacho cheese dip, chili and other football-watching food. It was awesome

Then again, I’ve never been one to get too enthralled with the whole suite atmosphere. Like that Miller High Life commercial where the beer man lambasts some suite dwellers "in section la-di-da" at a baseball game. For me watching a game from inside a suite is no fun.

So I filled my plate with goodies and led the way to the private outdoor seating area in front of the suite. Private outdoor seating being the key phrase. The outdoors part allowed us to feel like we were part of the crowd, and the private part allowed us to enjoy the perks of suite life (private bathrooms, the food, a place to warm up when the chilly air got to us … )

All of that, of course, was a bonus to the excitement of watching our team play in an NFL stadium. Under a huge scoreboard. Surrounded by a bowl of seats filled with thousands of fans.

All Phoebe needed was her popcorn and she was set.

The game started as a blowout and then turned into a nail-biter. With our team ahead 20-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, the opponent drove 80 yards for a touchdown -- but we blocked the extra-point attempt and returned it for a two-point conversion. Another opposing touchdown made the score 22-16, and then our rivals marched the ball to our team's 12-yard line with less then 30 seconds left. Our defense didn't budge, though. 

The final minutes had all of us sitting on the edge of our seats, literally. And breathing a major sigh of relief when time expired with the ‘Cats still on top. 22-16 was the final score.

We joined the swarm of fans leaving the stadium and then waited oh-so patiently as the car-jammed parking lot thinned out enough for us begin our drive home.

Phoebe, who rarely stayed in one place and enjoyed her game day experience to the fullest, was asleep in car seat before we left the parking lot.

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