My big foray into sports.

About a month and a half ago I was hangin’ at the office, doing what I do, photoshopping out people’s under-eye bags and acne scars for documents we send to clients, and my boss contacted me and told me we were pitching something related to the NFL. The New England Patriots, to be specific. And then he asked me if I was available to go to Foxboro, Massachusetts and photograph the Patriots at their stadium that weekend. I said, “Is there no one here who knows anything, literally, anything about football who can go, because I will get confused and take pictures in the bathroom the whole time?” But he said no, he wanted me. He asked me if I wanted anyone to go with me, and I said no because I cannot think of any friend of mine that would leap at an opportunity to drive with me for seven hours to go and sit in a cold stadium for five hours filled with tipsy sporting folk. Not a one. So on Sunday morning, I woke up before the sun came up (grrr), got in my car, and took I-95 to Foxboro. Where I then encountered stadium traffic.

Hey, fun fact I would have appreciated knowing beforehand: parking is $40.00 cash. I did not have $40.00 in cash on me when I arrived. Thus began my mad dash around to find an ATM, which eventually I did, and luckily I found a nearby spot so I could sprint into the stadium and catch the team doing stretches and drills (my boss specifically asked for photos of that). Here’s the stadium from my parking spot.

Before I got to the parking area, I took some photos of tailgaters. I was extremely concerned for my safety. My boss kept calmly saying things like, “Just let me know if you get arrested, we have money set aside for your bail and we’ll send someone up there to get you out.” I was like, what, are you sending me into Kabul, what the hell? And people were informing me that the Patriots fans are… enthusiastic, and when that enthusiasm is combined with beer, things happen. So when I was taking shots of the tailgaters, I was seriously worried that they would whip a battery at me or something. I have never been in a fight so I don’t know correct fighting protocol and would probably screw it up. Luckily, nothing happened. Everyone was perfectly nice.

I learned a lot that day. Did you know there’s a whole social event going on underneath the seating area? There’s stores and bars and sometimes mascots, all kinds of things. It’s extremely well-laid-out.

I asked a nice man where my seat was, and he pointed to a giant walkway.

I took that all the way up for forever and ever. My seat, had it been one row further back, would have been outside the stadium. Nosebleed indeed.

As I was walking up, I was taking pictures of every branded bit of whatever could find. And then I was stopped by security guards and had to explain my lamey-lame reason (“Ummm, we’re pitching a client, and we need pictures of NFL players, specifically this team, sooooo here I am”).

Before the game I was told to take pictures of The New England Patriots warming up. The New England Patriots, got it? Here’s the problem – the Buffalo Bills were wearing blue and white, while the New England Patriots were wearing white and blue. The outcome: I took pictures of the wrong team for a good fifteen minutes.

When I got back, my co-workers scoffed at me and said why didn’t I look at the logos on their helmets? First of all, I was sitting a million frikkin’ miles away. Two, I didn’t know what their logos were, and from a distance they kind of looked like this:

Really similar, even if I did know what I was looking at (I watch a great deal of nature programs, so I would like to think had I been closer I would have figured out the bison is a bison and then used the process of elimination). Once I figured out which team I was supposed to be photographing, it was about time for them to go back into their tunnels to get ready to make their entrance. I ran down two or three levels in order to position myself.

My boss asked for both video and photo of the Patriots coming out, so I assumed that there would be some kind of build-up, like at ice hockey game so I could get my gear in order. Here’s an example.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HvIbJ0v_c4

Nope. Music started (“Crazy Train” by Ozzy) and they just ran out. I said something along the lines of “Holy crap!!” and snapped as many pictures as I could. I got a decent one that has the mascot in it too.

I noticed a giant coiled-up object in the corner and I could not for the life of me figure out what it was.

Since this was Veteran’s Day, this object was carried out by all manner of military members, and eventually I figured out that it was an enormous American flag. It took them a really long time to get it all the way out.

It looked great when it was all unfolded. I may have gotten some patriotic dust in my eye during the national anthem.

The man next to me could tell I was an out-of-touch tourist, so he informed me that following the national anthem, there would be “a fly-ovah”. And there was, the dumpiest plane I have ever seen. I’ve never seen a plane with a gut before.

After that there was the coin toss and during that I scuttled back up to my seat to take pictures of the scoreboard:

And the stadium in its entirety:

And fans reacting happily to various outcomes.

I liked some of the fan gear. These two people in particular.

I think my primary expression was, “Oh, I guess something just happened.” Here’s a problem that needs a resolution: In one endzone, it says Patriots. And in the other endzone, it says Patriots. You think maybe you can put Visitor in the other endzone so I know who’s scoring the touchdown kthx? In addition, there are Paul-Revere-looking guys standing near the endzones, I believe they are called Minutemen, and when something happens they fire muskets. No one told me there would be muskets firing. Those guns went BLAMBLAM-BLAM-BLAMBLAM and I immediately thought, “Now I’m going to die because Bane from The Dark Knight just took over the stadium and I am slow and therefore will be crushed by the panicked stampede of people attempting to get out,” but no one else reacted, so I looked around like, “No one else? No one’s leaving? O… kay, I guess it’s…. a football thing, then.”

The cheerleaders were fun. They did three costume changes. In the beginning, I suppose because it was Veteran’s Day, they came out in “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B” outfits.

They clumped up at one point and I couldn’t figure out what they were doing.

Then I looked at the screen. How delightful! Nice work, ladies.

After that they switched to typical-looking cheerleader outfits. I found myself clapping for their abs.

And finally, they came out in velour tracksuits.

They were excellent and I loved that their primary dance move was a hair flip. I’m not criticizing, they were amazing at it. Here’s some footage of them doing some of that, starting at 5:04:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3zEEAX1XME

Now I have been to an NFL game. I can cross that off my bucket list of things that were not on my bucket list.

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