As a correspondent for Stadium Journey, a website dedicated to being the premier sports venue review spot in the United States, I get to do a lot of fun things. I get to go to sporting events, which I love. I get to write, which I love. But this past weekend, from Saturday, Dec. 19, to Sunday, Dec. 20, offered a unique opportunity.
As the Mid-Atlantic correspondent living in Northern Virginia, I am assigned to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC. My original plan was to review Lincoln Financial Field for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday the 20th. I would drive up Sunday morning, catch the 1:00 PM game, and then drive back.
Then, I saw that the Sixers were playing the Clippers Saturday night. So I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by driving up Saturday afternoon, review the Wachovia Center for the Sixers, stay with family, then catch the Eagles and go home.
A little more effort, but certainly doable, right?
Then, seeing that the Flyers were playing the Rangers at 1:00 PM on Saturday afternoon, I decided I would go for the trifecta. I would go up Saturday morning, catch all three games in 24 hours, then be back home to VA in time to see Russell win Survivor. Easy, right?
Wrong. And not just about Russell winning Survivor.
Toward the beginning of the week, there was talk of a little snow. Only 2-4 inches were expected in DC, with a dusting in Philly. No problem. Well, as everyone knows, predictions went from a simple dusting to calls for up to a foot in DC and 6-8 inches in Philly within a matter of days.
So, I adjusted my plans to go up to Philly on Friday. I’d beat the storm, and 6-8 inches of snow is nothing to deal with, really. Cake.
I went to sleep Friday and dreamed of scenes from the movie The Day After Tomorrow. The forecast had been adjusted to over a foot in Philly. I woke up to several inches on the ground already. They were now talking about a couple of feet of snow.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought about bagging the whole thing and going home. But the forecast for where I’d be driving was even worse. So I cleaned off the car, went and bought some sweatshirts for warmth, and headed to Chickie’s and Pete’s.
When I got there, I spoke with the manager, Tom, and told him what I was doing. He was extremely accommodating. I valet parked my car with them and took the Taxi Crab over to the Wachovia Center. I exchanged numbers with the driver. My plan at this point was to stay at the Center all day and take the Taxi Crab back after the Sixers game.
This is where it gets interesting.
I have no tickets. For any of the games. So I begin looking for a, uh, broker. By this point, it is wicked cold and snowing like crazy. I am walking around the Philly Sports Complex looking for tickets. It is clear that I do not have on enough layers. Soaked to the bone, I walk around for almost an hour before I find a ticket in my price range (read: as close as possible to “free”).
I get inside and it is well worth it. I am sitting four seats to the left of the Flyers bench. I am so close, I can hear Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette ripping into his team after an early Rangers goal. I can see the spittle land on Danny Briere’s nose.
This is my first ever Flyers game in person, and my second NHL game in person. I am a big fan, but never had a chance to go before. I’d always argued with people who said hockey couldn't be truly appreciated as well on TV. My argument was always that I had never been to one, and I love hockey.
I was wrong.
Go see a game. Now.
So with about 90 seconds left in regulation, I get a call from Bob, the driver of the Taxi Crab. He tells me that the weather has deteriorated to the point that the company is shutting down operations. He will be picking me up after the Flyers game, which they lost.
I go outside, and it is even colder, and windier, and it is snowing so hard, I swear it was coming up from the ground, which had around nine inches of snow on it.
I wait for Bob for what seems like three days. Soaked, and not a little annoyed at the weather, I climb aboard.
The time is 4:00 PM.
I get back to C & P’s and retrieve my keys from Tom. I go outside and begin digging my car out (I brought a shovel). While I am digging, a couple of guys walk by in the snow, and I could swear one of them sounds like Donovan McNabb. I look up, and it kind of looks like him, but it’s hard to tell, seeing as how we are in near-blizzard conditions.
So I say, “Hey, is that Don?”
He says, “Yeah, man.”
If you want to know how big a thrill this is for me, see here.
Donovan was gracious enough, in a driving snowstorm, to chat with me for a few moments, pose for a picture with me, and even take my card, saying he would check the stuff I write.
Totally worth digging my car out of what is now 11 inches of snow.
I drive to the Wachovia Center and park. The time is now 5:00 PM. I go to the box office and buy a $10, upper level ticket. I really am tired now, thinking, "This is the Sixers. I don’t want to be here now."
I take a nap in my car. When I wake up at about 6:00 PM (the game starts at 7:30 PM), there is a guy stuck next to me trying to get his car out. I get out and dig and push, and dig and push, and dig and push. A few other guys come over and push and we get him out. They walk away, he stops and gets out of his car, and asks if I have a ticket. When I tell him I do, he says, “Well, here’s a better one.”
Turns out, he works for the Sixers, and he hands me a ticket 10 feet from the Sixers bench, eight rows behind the basket. Allen Iverson is taller in person than he seems on TV. He later tells me, after we exchange cards and stories, that any time I am in town and need tickets, to give him a call.
There are, and this is just a rough guess, 27 people here, what with there being well over a foot of snow on the ground and no signs of it letting up. One of them never—never—stopped yelling from the upper deck at Clippers guard Sebastian Telfair.
“HEY TELFAIR! YOU SUCK!” Silence for two seconds. “I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!” Raucous laughter from the crowd.
I love Philly fans. It helps that I am one. I yelled at Sixers head coach Eddie Jordan not to put Samuel Dalembert back in, because he sucks. I figured he was new, maybe he didn’t know.
Fortunately, Sammy fouled out quickly after getting lit up by some dude with male pattern baldness named Chris Kaman. (The Telfair guy said, “HEY KAMAN! YOU HAVE MORE POINTS THAN HAIR ON YOUR HEAD!” Awesome.)
Shockingly, the Sixers lost. I met up with my boy Dennis, whom I hadn’t seen since high school 20 years ago, and made a great contact with the Sixers. Overall, a good night, I’d say.
The drive back to my cousin’s place was dicey. When I got there, I had to dig out a parking space. There was 20 inches of snow on the ground, and it was still coming down. It took me almost an hour.
It was midnight. I collapsed into bed.
The Eagles game was pushed back to 4:00 PM, so I had time to rest up and dress properly. I had hand warmers in my pockets. I can’t wear gloves because I need my hands free to take notes and pictures for Stadium Journey. I find a, uh, broker and buy a standing room ticket because who sits at football games anyway?
This is my first time at the Linc. (See the review on Stadium Journey when it posts later this week to see what I thought.) The 49er fans are vigorously heckled, but nothing too bad, unless you count the drunk guy who screamed—15 times—at the top of his lungs while two inches from a 49ers fan’s ear, a seven-letter word that rhymes with “glass bowl.”
I don’t. That’s mild. Here is the harsh stuff, especially in the comments.
I leave at halftime. I have nearly four hours of driving, and I don’t know what the roads are like, plus I want to listen to Merrill Reese on the radio.
I hesitate to say this was the greatest weekend of my life because I am married (that was a pretty good weekend) and have three kids, who have given me years of great memories. I’ve been to a Daytona 500 and a Super Bowl. I’ve had some great weekends.
This one was up there.
I have to sleep now.