Road to 31

My wife's and my quest to see a game in every NFL stadium

LP Field – Nashville, TN (7/31)

Sunday October 20th, 2013. Week 7: 49ers @ Titans

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LP Field is located right in Nashville, just across the Cumberland River. What makes it more unique than most is the fact that it sits at the end of Broadway, which is perhaps one of the more iconic streets in the country. Legends Corner, Tootsies, about 12 boots stores, plenty of bars and, of course, live music everywhere. It’s often referred to as “Nashvegas”, and with good reason. If you can’t have a good time in Nashville, check your pulse. The heart of Broadway is book-ended by LP Field and Bridgestone Arena, where the NHL’s Predators play.

Alright, on to the trip. I’m most concerned with football but my wife says people care about the other stuff, so here it goes. Thursday we got breakfast at The Loveless Cafe, which was tremendous. I recommend getting there pretty early, we did, and before we even got our biscuits the line was out the door and the wait was at 2 hours. That afternoon we checked out the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch, which overlooks the river and LP Field. Thursday night we went to the Predators game and had fun, nothing to write home about though. Poor attendance, mediocre fan atmosphere, awful goal song and a weird thing they do in unison called “fang fingers”:

(Not me)

(Not me)

That night we hit Broadway, and there’s really just too much to cover there. Go to the bars on Broadway, all of them. Nashville is so much fun it’s stupid. Friday we drove out to Lynchburg, TN and toured the Jack Daniels distillery. If you have the time, it’s a must see.

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Did you know Jack Daniel died from an injury he sustained to his toe after kicking his safe? Ridiculous.

This exact safe

This exact safe

Since we were in Nashville, my wife we felt obligated to check out the Grand Ole Opry. If you’re ever thinking about going to the Opry, ask yourself if you like country music. I don’t mean drinkin’ beer by my pickup truck with my blue jeans poppy bullshit country music, I’m talking about COUNTRY music. The kind of music people who like today’s country music like to tell you they enjoy, but would never be caught dead listening to. I, uhh, do not, so it was tough to sit through but my wife loved it so all is well. I can still hear some of the songs… oof. Anyway, tons of history in there, though, so that was cool.

Saturday we met up with some friends and they took us to Arrington Vineyard, and we were drunk by noon. From there they showed us Carnton Plantation, where the Battle of Franklin took place. Very, very cool. That evening we were treated to a great time in Brentwood and Franklin before retiring early, as my wife was crashing hard from our time at the vineyard.

ALRIGHT, on to football. Best part about Nashville’s layout as it relates to the stadium is that you can pregame your way from one end of Broadway to the other, so we did. We hit a few bars, bought some awesome sunglasses along the way and watched Jay Cutler tear his groin in half against the Redskins. We arrived to the stadium early and made our way around all the tailgating spots we could find. Tailgate scene was pretty good, parking lots were sprawling so it was hard to really see all of it. The fans seemed pretty raucous, although it could be because they were stark raving shitfaced. Nashville parties, man.

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Once inside we went to the outdoor concourse. Very nice spot, wide open with access to everything. Biggest difference I noticed in terms of just knowing you’re out of town is that they served tea and lemonade just as you would expect beer and soda. Just something different than we’re used to in the midwest. Other than that it was pretty standard fare – burgers, hot dogs, beer, liquor… No crazy lines or congestion of note, the whole stadium is largely open concept, coupled with nice weather it was a really awesome day. Once we got to our seats I was pretty surprised with how well the 49ers fans traveled (or how large the bandwagon is). It was damn near 50/50. The Titans’ mascot, T-Rac, came in on a zip line, which was pretty badass, and unfortunately that was the highlight of the day for them.

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The game was fun, although not terribly competitive. The amount of 49ers fans in the house took away a bit from the atmosphere. They are, well, quite the arrogant bunch. It seemed the whole time that the Titans fans were looking to have fun while the 49ers fans were interested only in schadenfreude. They took pride in letting everybody know that they were rooting for the team that was winning. To their credit, though, the Titans fans shrugged it off. I didn’t see any arguments or fights, although there could have been many. It was Jake Locker’s first game back from injury, but unfortunately for him the 49ers are a much, much better football team. The final score was 31-17, but that doesn’t do it justice. The 49ers were up 24-0 heading into the 4th quarter and when they stopped serving booze some fans got a head start getting back to Broadway (I didn’t blame them).

Overall the stadium was great, atmosphere was fun and the location is fantastic. Nashville is a music city first, party city second and sports city somewhere 3-5. You go to Nashville to have fun, the sporting events are an added bonus. I don’t know that you necessarily need a reason to go to Nashville, but if one presents itself I’d jump all over it. It’s right there with New Orleans as one of the best trips we’ve taken so far.

BONUS DORKY SEGWAY TOUR PICTURE COMPLETE WITH HELMETS:

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Next up: Dallas and Houston!

Edward Jones Dome – Saint Louis, MO (6/31)

Sunday November 18th, 2012. Week 11: Jets @ Rams

The Edward Jones Dome is located right in downtown Saint Louis, and is extremely easy to get to. We stayed at a hotel directly across the street from the Arch, and just a few blocks away from the dome. If you’ve never been to Saint Louis, you have to check out the Arch. $10 to go 600 feet up in one of the country’s most unique structures – not a bad deal. Plus if you’re a dork like me, you’ll enjoy the 2-minute video of the monument’s history they run right before you climb in the 5-seat egg that brings you to the top. It’s a little cramped, but it only takes 4 minutes. Don’t be a bitch, just do it.

View from the top (Busch stadium on the left)

The view from outside our hotel

One of my goals while in STL was to get some good BBQ. Saturday night we headed to the legendary Pappy’s Smokehouse. The food was outstanding, BBQ like I’ve never had before. Coolest part about being at Pappy’s that night was running into a few Jets players. All sitting together were Bart Scott, David Harris and Calvin Pace. On the way out I wished them luck, they said “thank you” and that was it. I acted like an over excited 12 year-old to my wife, but I didn’t bother them much because they were eating, and I’m an adult.

On game day the stadium wasn’t hard to find. Our hotel was packed with Jets fans, it was like a Sopranos episode threw up all over the place. So we followed the crowd a few blocks over and eventually found “Baer Park” – where there was a team sponsored tailgate with free food and cheap(er) beer. I have to thank the Rams’ social media person/team for the heads up on that one, though.

Band of all servicemen and women playing for the tailgate.

This was the giveaway at the gates

We were able to score some pretty good cheap tickets again because Rams fans don’t like going to Rams games.

After about 6 military tributes and 4 J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS! chants it was finally time for football to begin, but nobody told the Rams fans. The stadium was filling in slowly, the fans next to us looked to have been hammered since Thursday, and there were obnoxiously loud Jets fans everywhere – all trying to out-asshole the next one. The energy was nonexistent and there were, embarrassingly, more Tebow jerseys than I could have ever imagined. I realized rather quickly that there are 2 different kinds of Jets fans: Jets fans, and jagoffs in Tim Tebow jerseys. The food inside was average, nothing unique to write home about. The stadium itself was very nice and well maintained, easy to navigate and since the people to my right didn’t show up until the 2nd quarter – comfortable. I claimed the arm rest and knee space before he got there, and he wasn’t taking them away from me. Besides, he was wearing a shirt and tie to a football game – the respect was out the window as soon as I laid eyes on him.

ANYWAY – their intro was pretty cool. They’re all introduced to a dubstep track, which took me by surprise. It’s always odd for me to hear somebody cheering and exclaiming their love of a dubstep song with a southern accent.

Fire is always a good idea

The game itself was fun, although the Rams choked it out and lost it by the 3rd quarter. They didn’t do anything particularly unique or memorable as a fan base. When the Rams scored I didn’t notice anything special done or said. No chants, songs, traditions as far as I could tell. They finished the announcer’s sentence and said, “A Rams first down!” when they got one, but that was about it. Every time the Rams did something stupid (often) the Jets fans got louder (until Tebow was in the game – then they all just fought with each other). It eventually turned into a contest to see who could be the most obnoxious when they’re team did something even remotely positive. Completed pass? “YEEAAAAHHHHH RAAAMMSSS!!!” Tackle for a gain of 6? “YEEEAAAAAHHHH JETS!!!!!” This is the first game on our tour that the home team has lost. We were 5-0, things were lookin’ up… Now we’re 5-1 and re-evaluating everything.

As the stadium cleared out, we stuck around because Lauren wanted to watch the final 2 minutes of the Packers game on our phone (NFL Sunday Ticket is the best thing ever in the history of anything anywhere). After I watched stupid Aaron Rodgers make his stupid beautiful throw to stupid Randall Cobb who made a stupid awesome catch to win the game, we realized they were setting up a stage on the field:

Apparently we could have stuck around for the free concert. Switchfoot was playing. I suppose you have to entertain Rams fans somehow, right? Kidding, kidding. Saint Louis was fun, the Arch was very cool and we had a great time. As far as fan experience goes, not the greatest – but I don’t blame them given the product that’s on the field.

Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati, OH (5/31)

Sunday October 16th, 2011. Week 6 Colts vs Bengals

Paul Brown Stadium’s location makes it unique, which adds a fun dynamic for those visiting from out-of-town. The Stadium sits right along the Ohio River with the Great American Ballpark (home of the Reds) just down the street and Covington, KY just a bridge away. We stayed at Radisson Hotel Cincinnati Riverfront in Covington, KY just across the river and still close enough to see the stadium from our hotel room (no complaints, definitely recommend staying there). We learned pretty quickly that Newport/Covington, KY and Cincinnati, OH are treated, for the most part, as one big city. Getting away from football for a minute – Covington and Newport, KY are full of prohibition, organized crime and “early Vegas” American history. We highly recommend taking one of their walking tours through the city. We did and wish we had time to do more.

Once we got settled it took all of 4 hours since being in Cincinnati for me to want chili. We headed to the famous Camp Washington Chili and had a “5-Way” for lunch.

Later that night after our food comas and walking tour we took a dinner cruise on the Ohio River. If you’re ever there – it’s a good time. Great scenery.

Paul Brown Stadium on the left, Great American Ballpark on the right

Now on to football.

I dragged us both to the stadium pretty early but there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot going on. The tailgate areas are spread out a bit, taking away from the experience, but there was a “tailgate zone” run by the team that was pretty cool. Lauren showed up a bunch of kids by successfully kicking a few field goals. As one could have predicted, she was met with comments like, “You should try out!” and “We’d rather have you back there for us!” Fan morale was pretty average, and even though we were a few hours away from kickoff there wasn’t really anybody in the lots yet. Safe to say the tailgate scene was pretty crappy, so we made our way around the stadium to check it out.

It was coming up to 10am, so we wanted to make our way into the stadium and have a look around. The gates weren’t open yet, so we waited. We were entertained, though, by watching the athletes drive in through the gate. Every car was stopped by police and drug dogs circled the car before they let them pass through. Fans were in the parking lot across the street, one of them had a megaphone and ripped on virtually every player that came through. It was hilarious. In one case a rookie (whom I can’t remember) was dropped off by his mom and received the very worst best of the insults hurled that day. As it got closer to 11am, we went up to the gates again to head in but were told they were not open yet. WHAT?! How in the hell can you not let people in when kickoff is in 1 hour? I was a little angry but we got in at 11 and hurried to the concessions to get a beer and take our seats.

Since Bengals fans don’t like going to Bengals games we were abe to get 2nd row seats on the 10 yard line for pretty cheap.

To our surprise, nobody was on the field yet and the stadium was about 25% full 50 minutes before kickoff (which didn’t say much, because that stadium only got to about 50% full at its peak). Before going into full freak-out mode my wife and I had an epiphany. We were so used to being on central time that we forgot the game doesn’t start until 1pm EST!! We felt incredibly stupid, but we couldn’t deny the hilarity. Since we had an extra hour and 50 minutes to waste, we got wasted. Made friends with the beer girls and even used their phone charger for a bit.

Suddenly, a wild Manning forehead appeared:

Peyton Manning was still out with a neckiotomy, but was cool enough to sign autographs for the Colts fans who made their way up

When the Bengals were introduced they came out to “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘N’ Roses… a little cheap, but I get it. They also nicknamed Paul Brown Stadium “The Jungle”, although I didn’t hear anybody refer to it as such. There wasn’t anything too exciting, enthusiastic or spectacular until Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were introduced. Bengals fans love that odd couple, and with good reason. Ginger and Ebony lit it up early for a touchdown.

The Bengals ran away with it early only to have Curtis Painter storm back to get them within a field goal. Buuuuut the Colts carried on this season as they have all season – Nate Clements blocked that FG and Carlos Dunlap ran it back for a TD to secure the win. Womp, womp, wahhhhhh…

Paul Brown Stadium is very nice, and I had no idea it was built as recently as it was. The stadium opened in 2000 and the amenities reflected that. It was very well maintained, easy to navigate and they even had escalators to get to the 2nd and 3rd levels of seats (although barely occupied)… outside! (as seen in the picture above – top left). Say whatever you want, I thought that was pretty damn cool.

The fans were great and the fan experience was fun but admittedly nowhere near the enthusiasm seen in Chicago, Green Bay or New Orleans. We had a great time at the game and also exploring the surrounding areas. We’ve only been to a limited number of stadiums so far, but Cincinnati definitely seemed like one of the better places to be in terms of finding things to do outside of the stadium (except New Orleans, that place is a party 24/7). Nice stadium, great city(ies), fun people, fantastic chili.

The Superdome – New Orleans, LA (4/31)

Sunday December 12th, 2010. Week 14: Rams @ Saints

The Superdome is absolutely gigantic. There’s not much in the way of design or signage on the outside, but standing in front of it left me awestruck. We stayed on Bourbon Street & Toulouse (Ramada ‘Inn on Bourbon’), right in the middle of the fray, and the cab ride was under 10 minutes and $5 per person flat charge. Cab dropped us off right across the street and finding Champions Square was only a question away. Champions Square is an outdoor party spot on the Southeast side of the stadium, and if you’re looking to get hammered – this is the place to be. Live music and a great time, Champions Square is the epitome of everything New Orleans stands for: partying, the Saints, music, partying, food, alcohol and partying. It’s a tailgate on steroids, there had to be about 4,000 people in there, it’s definitely a must see if you ever get to the Superdome.

Yes those are dancing cheerleaders, about 200 feet above the ground

Once inside, I was taken back by the size of the place. The section numbers go to the 600’s and looking up from field level was almost dizzying.

The player entrances were pretty standard, nothing different to note, but it’s what happened after the coin toss that took us by surprise.

After the coin toss DL Anthony Hargrove stayed on the field, held his hand up, turned 360 degrees pointing to the fans and then dropped it to the ground. Upon that command the entire stadium began chanting “Who Dat?! Who Dat?! Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?!” It completely took us by surprise (later come to find out it’s a new tradition before every game) and was electrifying and deafening. This video is not mine, but was coincidentally taken at the same game. It should give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

The fans were passionate, loud and colorful. That city bleeds gold and black and it was evident inside the stadium. ‘Who Dat Nation’ is rabid, loyal and fun to be around. Also, the menu inside is as unique as it’s home. I don’t think there are too many NFL stadiums where I can say I watched football eating an alligator sausage and crawfish pie…

It’s the second dome I’ve been to and, so far, the best. The Superdome makes the Metrodome look small, modest and quiet. There isn’t much flash to go around, but the atmosphere is top-notch. Also, the Superdome withstood a hurricane, the Metrodome collapsed under some snow. If you plan on heading to the Big Easy, try to make it to a Saints game, you won’t regret it.

The Metrodome – Minneapolis, MN (3/31)

Sunday November 7th, 2010. Week 9: Cardinals @ Vikings

The Metrodome is cool, nothing extravagant or otherwise eye-catching, but it’s pretty damn big. Like Soldier Field it’s right in the middle of the city which, normally, makes parking a nightmare but in this case was extremely painless (the stadium is on Chicago Street, which I personally found pretty funny). Aside from encountering virtually 0 traffic, we got right into a parking lot for $25 directly across the street from the stadium. There were a number of lots to tailgate in but we made our way to the “Party on the Plaza” which was essentially a big party. Lots of fun to be had here – food, drinks, a number of stands for local radio shows, TV, raffles, games, etc… It was kind of like a Vikings carnival without the rides.

Picture from our parking spot. Literally across the street

Everything about this guy is hilarious

In light of recent events, Lauren and I wore our “Who Let The Dongs Out” Brett Favre T-Shirts. The reactions were priceless. People acted as if they wanted to laugh but knew they shouldn’t all while wanting to punch me in the face at the same time… it was glorious.

This place is pretty damn big, the stairs are really steep so my fat ass was thoroughly out of breath by the time we got to our seats.

Their entrance was pretty cool, a video montage followed by the Viking riding out of the tunnel before the team on a motorcycle – pretty badass. Throughout the game it got incredibly loud in there, I’ve never been to a game in a dome before this so I’m not sure I was ready for the deafening decibel levels. After every first down or positive play they would play the horn noise. It was loud, obnoxious and incredibly annoying… we heard it 43 times.

I was a little disappointed in the fan base. They only got really loud when it was critical and the Vikings were down by 14 in the 3rd quarter and a lot of people were leaving! “Fire Childress” chants rang loud and clear every now and then, and every less-than-average play was greeted by a shower of boos. The Viking ended up rallying back to win this one so all those people who left early were surely kicking themselves.

The Marshmallow dome was average at best. Big, but visually boring; loud but only when the fans cared enough and their jumbo trons were anything but so catching a replay or score of another game required Mr Magoo glasses (oh yeah, the men’s bathroom features a trough in lieu of individual stalls, so that’s always a little awkward) . I don’t want to dog it too much though, or give anybody the wrong impression. We had an awesome time and, for the most part, everybody was pretty cool. They sell these great double shot bloody marys, so that helped get things rolling. Good time, fun atmosphere and a great city.

 

Soldier Field – Chicago, IL (2/31)

Sunday September 20, 2009. Week 2: Steelers @ Bears (Jay Cutler’s first game at Soldier Field as a Bear)

This was Lauren’s first time to Soldier Field, but I’ve been there plenty of times. Soldier Field is different from most (like Lambeau) in that it’s right in the middle of a big city. Travel and parking sucks a little more, and if you want to get into one of the main lots to tailgate be prepared to sell off a limb or small child. For example – the main tailgating, or “south”, lot requires a vial of blood, a kidney and $100 pass. There are plenty of other lots to get into and mix it up, but if you’re just meeting somebody or aren’t prepared with all the bells and whistles to tailgate with you’re better off paying the $20 and parking in the McCormick Place parking structure. It’s connected directly to a main tailgating lot so it’s really a good deal if you have no actual need to park there. We parked in the structure and, for the hell of it, fired up the grill in there too.

Once we made our way to the lot I was in Bear heaven. Lauren, on the other hand, may have wanted to throw up.

This is the "fanbulance". Fully Bears'd out ambulance, stocked with TVs and NFL Sunday Ticket

She managed to wear something green...

One of the things Soldier Field is known for are the columns on either side of the stadium. They have been there since day one, and when initial plans to knock them down to insert more seats surfaced – they were quickly scrapped. Most people were pissed about the addition in the first place, but if they tried to remove the columns I think the city would be in flames. They managed to maintain the stadium’s integrity all while giving it a bit of a face lift and adding seats. It kind of looks like a spaceship now, but I can deal with that. If it means adding extra capacity for more fans I’m all about it. Soldier Field is another stadium chock full of history and one that’s seemingly been around forever. One of the NFL’s original stadiums, Soldier Field has been home to some of the greatest players of all time. I am awfully biased and can go on for pages on the things I love about Soldier Field, but I’ll just say that I feel honored to hail from a city that is home to one of the most historic sports venues ever.

That big toilet bowl looking thing is part of the renovations made to soldier field to add more seating

“The Windy City”

Just as you’d expect with most storied franchises – the fans are rabid, aggressive and loyal. The stadium itself is pretty big and gets awfully loud. Positioned directly off the lake, the winds get ridiculously strong and numbingly cold. I love Chicago, love seeing games at Soldier Field and definitely love the Bears. If you can appreciate an old school franchise and a stadium to go with it you’ll really appreciate Soldier Field.

Lambeau Field – Green Bay, WI (1/31)

Sunday December 28th, 2008 Week 17: Lions @ Packers (“The 0-16 game”) This was my first trip to Lambeau Field and I have to say, I was impressed. Located in the heart of Green Bay, pretty much directly in a neighborhood, the drive in passes houses cloaked in Packers signs and locals selling parking spots on their front lawns. Parking is simple (we opted for the tailgating lot, opposite the Don Hutson practice facility) and most everybody was down to earth. Brats and beer, sometimes the combination of the two, are virtually everywhere so an appetite is a must in cheese land. The place is drenched in history and its simple old-school design fits it perfectly. The thing that makes Lambeau Field cool is it’s multi-faceted nature. You’re at a professional contest, the layout rivals a college venue but you feel as if you’re at a high school game. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, the energy level was high throughout and as much as it pains me to say this – the fans were great. They are a very loyal, ardent group; there’s not much more I can say. I went neutral and didn’t wear any Bears gear as not to cause a stir and let Lauren enjoy herself, so I can’t speak on the fans’ friendliness to opposing fans. There also wasn’t a Lions fan for about 100 miles so I didn’t get to see that interaction either. As a Bears fan I was secretly hoping that this place would suck but the only complaint I really have is that it’s kind of like going back in time. They play “Bang on the Drum” after every touchdown, which is fine, but they seemingly have every Jock Jams CD on repeat throughout the game. Most of the TV timeout and break songs played are about as far from socially relevant as you can get and after a while it just gets kind of weird. A running joke about Lambeau is that if the offensive line starts to slip, they can just grab a few female Green Bay locals from the stands to fill in and nobody would notice… Now I know it’s not an exaggeration. That’s enough trash talk from me. Overall Lambeau is a great place to watch a game, and seeing how my wife is a die hard Packer fan I’m sure we’ll be back for a number of games in the future, and I’ll look forward to them.

Bought the grill for $3, screwed it together with a penny. Worked great

Pretty damn cold in Green Bay during December

Touchdown. She’s pumped

The Lions exit after making history… going 0-16

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