Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl bound

Those of you who read a few posts ago know I had the unbelievable fortune of attending the AFC Championship game a couple of weekends ago. I don't need to remind some in my larger family (read: Niccolinis) that the New England Patriots (the good guys) prevailed over the Baltimore Ravens (the bad guys) in a suspenseful game with a stunning finish.

I doubt I can fully describe how much doggone fun I had at the game, the first Patriots game I had ever seen in person and I think the first NFL game I had attended since watching the Oilers in a playoff game in 1991, twenty years ago.

I have heard from those more tuned than I into all things Patriots that Pats fans had grown complacent with their teams' perennial success. As if every dinner were a feast, Patriots nation had become fat and happy, and thus unable to truly appreciate the team's amazing run of success over the last decade. The fans are boring, stay glued in their seats and nary raise a roar even if the game gets tight. The novelty of winning and of success had grown worn indeed, I was told.

So, despite my excitement, I was unsure what would greet me when we pulled into the parking lot for the pre-game tailgate. My good friend, Av, who had secured a ticket for me, and I were meeting two men from his hometown in New Hampshire who had season tickets. From the moment we got out of the car, you could sense festiveness in the air. Drinks, grills, portable heaters, blow-up players, footballs flying through the air, it was one big asphalt party. We broke out two grills and feasted on sausages, peppers, lamb kabobs, grilled chicken and enough chips and dip to feed a battalion. Some brews (no numbers given here) and much food later, we made our way into the stadium.

Our seats were high in the sky – upper level, just off the end zone. I can tell you I didn't care where we were sitting; I was simply overjoyed to be there. And, judging by the others fans in our section, that feeling was amply shared. People were standing, screaming their fool lungs out.

I never sat down. Many others did the same. And the game held everyone's attention in spades. It really was that good. In the fourth quarter, I had a sinking feeling that we may lose as the Ravens began to methodically move the chains. Ray Rice was gaining 5-6 yards on first-down carries, nicely setting up play-action passes for Joe Flacco, who, after a rough first half, had found his rhythm and his confidence. Even though the Pats took the lead in the final frame, the Ravens had the momentum, and their final drive appeared destined to be a winner.

Most know what happened at the end. But let me describe what happened in the stadium as Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff lined up to kick. Most of us, dare I say all of us Patriots fans, were readying ourselves for overtime. The snap, the kick.

Silence. One beat, two beats. Silence.

Then, pandemonium.

The stadium shook as grown men and women jumped around, dancing into the arms of strangers, high-fiving friends and row neighbors and acting like a little child who received his entire wish list for Christmas. No one, and I mean no one, expected that field goal to miss. It took those two beats for everyone to realize that, by golly, the kick had sailed wide.

The Patriots had won. They were Super Bowl bound.



Leeann said...

I'm hating you right now, just a little bit.

Richard Lewis said...

Did you like the guy with the purple-frosted hair in one of the pics? Why don't you all do that, too, to show your fandom?