Those of you who have read my pieces over the last 25 months may have noticed my affection for the movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly .
The date was December 15, 2002. If this picture was taken from the angle of the opposite sideline, you would see me in the corner of the endzone. Not that you could tell, but I would be there.
First, I need to give you a little backstory:
I had met my girlfriend while we were working with the Dallas Opera the previous spring. She was a San Francisco native and resident, and thus naturally a big 'Niners fan.
Growing up in Wisconsin, being a Packers fan is in my blood. One of my earliest memories is crying when I was five-years-old and found out the Packers finished in last place (5-9).
My girlfriend and I thus bonded over our mutual feelings that Southern cities should not have hockey teams and our hatred of "America's Team" and how they stopped being this nation's favourite team since they stopped winning Super Bowls (we are a nation of front-runners!).
In September, knowing the Packers played in San Francisco the coming December, and knowing it was a rare opportunity to see my team whose home games are sold out on season tickets with waiting lists thousands long, we bought tickets to the game. While I was looking on the Niners' site, I noticed information about purchasing scoreboard messages.
That is when I thought to myself, "Who wouldn't like to be that guy that proposes on the scoreboard?"
But then I thought, "Are we ready for that after just a few months of dating, including a lot of it long distance?"
As I looked it up, I noticed that full-board messages were just $175. I decided that, with three months to back out, I should go for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity...Surely God, knowing the person I am, would not have given me such a opening if He did not want me to take it.
I was told the message would appear in the second quarter for 30 seconds. Luckily, the location of our seats was in view of the scoreboard, and of course, the reason this game is "The Good" in this series is she said "Yes!" (And of course, seven years later we are still happily married.)
But there was also the game.
The Packers came in 9-1 in their last 10 matchups dating back to the Niners Super Bowl season of 1989. The only Niners win came in the playoffs when the referees feared calling a fumble on Jerry Rice, which would have allowed the Packers to kill the clock with one kneeldown, instead of allowing the birth of the brash locker room cancer T.O., who caught the winning score.
But I digress. (Those of you who have read my work over the last 25 months surely know about that problem.)
This game was rainy, muddy, and hard-fought. The Packers struggled to score for most of the game, but Brett Favre drove us to a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter, as he often did against San Francisco.
Then the Niners had one more shot. They were driving right toward where we sat, and making just enough plays to keep the chains moving.
Time was running out, but they were within striking distance with about a half-minute left, facing a fourth down: It was a good thing the lead was four, not three, because that extra point negated the field goal they were already in range for.
Jeff Garcia's fourth-down pass came right toward us in the corner about five yards in front of the pylon. But as always happens to the Niners, including in all three regular season matchups since, the Packers were there to make the play, and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground.
And a Niners fan who had been combative with me all game long dumped a beer on me. But it was worth it: I got my wife, and we got our win.