I felt like Alice in Wonderland just after she had fallen through the rabbit hole into another world. Stepping through the portal to get my first glimpse of The Ralph on Aug. 29 was surreal. I had no clue how rich the experience of watching a football game in person could be.
How else would I have gotten to see Rex Ryan walk up and down the rows of players doing their pregame stretches, to stop and shake hands with each one?
We got to witness Fred Jackson’s 41-yard carry, followed by his leap over the opposing team to score his last touchdown with the Bills.
The excitement of the crowd was contagious – even the many Steelers fans joined in the wave as it circled the stadium a whopping three times.
After it was all over, I told my husband it was one of the best experiences of my life. And this is coming from a girl who knew nothing about football 10 years ago.
When we heard the news about Jackson getting cut from the team, it made me sad. I know it’s a business and all, but he will be sorely missed. Even I know he’s more than a player – he is the heart and soul and, truthfully, it made me tear up.
How does one go from not caring at all about football to crying at the loss of a favorite player? Much of the credit goes to my husband, of course, who grew up here and has always been a fan through thick and thin.
His late father, a carpenter, helped build the concession stands in the original stadium, which is a source of family pride.
When we lived in Alaska, the only way to follow the Bills on game day was to listen to online radio with Steve Tasker and Ray Bentley. It was hard for me to imagine the game back then and I didn’t give it much thought.
When we moved here, I started to pay attention. My husband was thrilled to watch the games live again and his excitement was contagious.
Sundays became Football 101 as I tried to learn the rules and team positions. In the beginning, it was tough. I asked lots and lots of questions as I tried to figure it all out.
A few weeks ago, my husband purchased a football – junior size, to fit my hand – and invited me into the backyard to learn how to throw a spiral.
I’m not athletic in any way, shape or form and was understandably resistant. A constant refrain of “I’m sorry!” rang off nearby houses as my attempts were thrown in the dirt or into nearby bushes. My husband didn’t give up on me, though, and I eventually developed adequate accuracy. He is so proud.
When he asked if I’d like to go to the preseason game against the Steelers, I wasn’t too excited. Why go to the expense and travel time when we had a perfectly good big-screen TV at home?
No one could have explained to me that it was comparing apples to aardvarks. My eyes have been opened – I’m hooked.
“How about going to the game in January?” my husband asked when we returned home that Saturday.
Well, sure, why not? Cold doesn’t bother me one little bit.
Returning to the stadium without a chance to see No. 22 in action will be the real loss.