Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Women and children last

Here's a little tip for the football fans of Western New York: Attending a Buffalo Bills' game in Ralph Wilson Stadium is not for the faint of heart.

Particularly when the New York Giants are in town.

Let's start with the disclaimers. It was a miserable day, squared. The temperature went from 53 to 35 during the game, and it at least drizzled and sometimes poured. There was virtually no way to stay dry. A moment of silence, please, for my gloves. With the home team eventually losing, no local fan was going to have a great time.

Then there's the tailgating/alcohol issues. I think I wrote last year about how the parking lots at the Ralph look a little like an Iraqi city after a game, with empties and broken glass scattered about the grounds. Driving out of there is not for the faint of heart most days. In the stands, this week there was a steady stream of fans carrying $8 beers back to their seats (and how can they afford them?).

However, the games I attended in 2006 were fine once I got in the gate. My group and I sat down and watched the game in a relatively civilized, dignified manner. That's perhaps because the Titans and Jaguars don't bring bunches of fans with them.

Well, that sure didn't happen Sunday against Giants. Whew. There was a constant stream of bad language directed at the Giants, often about the personal habits of Eli Manning. New York had a good supply of its own fans at the game; they were easy to pick out since they were wearing Giants' jerseys. There was some less-than-clever, back-and-forth conversation between the Giants and Bills' fans.

At one point at halftime, a Bills' fan yelled at a Giants' fan wearing a Lawrence Taylor jersey, "Hey, why don't you wear a shirt from this decade at least? That's so 1980's." The Giants fan replied, "Nice franchise you've got here. And how many rings do you have?" Add a few bad words in the midst of the conversation, and you'll get the idea.

Here's the catch. I was sitting in seats owned by a season-ticket holder of at least 30 years. In other words, this was not the end zone where fans were a little more likely to be single-game ticket holders who were just there for a party. I should have been surrounded by people who were veteran fans. It was almost a surprise there were no fights, although an usher had to come down to break up a shouting match.

One friend of mine brought two teenage girls to the game. When he told two fans behind him to watch the language because of the kids, he got, as he put it, "some lip" for his trouble. I've heard all sorts of profanity over the years, so I'm at least used to it even if my vocabulary is close to squeaky-clean. But this was as bad as I've heard at a sporting event.

I'm glad I didn't bring any kids to the game, and I'm glad I didn't bring my wife to the game. And that's not a particularly good sign about a sporting event that's features the sale of tickets to all the general public.