Ah, what a weekend! For someone obsessed with who loves football, it doesn’t get much better than this: a big time college football game Saturday between my favorite team (Penn State) and a big rival (Ohio State) in a crucial match-up, then a very important game NFL Sunday between the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers with a 50 yard-line suite and pre-game VIP sideline passes. Other than the fact that both my teams lost, I had a fantastic time at both games.
Melissa was kind enough to travel with me to the Penn State game in State College, PA, about 4 hours away from NYC. We left at 9 am with our lovely bright blue rental car, and then sat in traffic for nearly an hour and a half in the Lincoln Tunnel waiting for construction (I think). We made a slight detour to grab some Chick-fil-A on the way to the game, and arrives about an hour before kickoff. That was still a bit too late, as we parked so far away we needed a shuttle bus to get to the stadium. The weather was a pleasant 55F at kickoff with perfectly blue skies. The temperature fell to a chilly 45F once the sun went down, but it was still very nice throughout the game. Penn State lost 24-7 in an important game they should have won. It made for a bit of a downer on the way home, but overall it was still a great experience. Nothing beats a college football game in my book, win or lose. Still, a win would have made the entire experience that much better.
After coasting into Manhattan on fumes (literally), we finally got home around 12:30 am Sunday morning, and got up to return the rental car and go to church later that morning. After church I had the privilege of heading to Giants Stadium with a friend of ours. Vincent owns an investment firm on Wall Street, and was invited to a box suite for the game so the Giants organization could try to sell him a suite in the new stadium (New Meadowlands Stadium), set to open next year. He was kind enough to invite me as a guest, and what an experience it was. We were in a newly designed luxury suite (which serves as a model for the new stadium’s suites), with the best parking, elevator ride to a lounge area outside the suites, and free food all day and during the game. The highlight was a chance to go to the sidelines during the pre-game warm-ups with VIP passes – we got to see the players up close, and met a few famous athletes including Joe Girardi, manager of the Yankees, fresh off their World Series victory.
The suites themselves are amazing. The elevator ride up and lounge area outside give the feel of a small hotel lobby. Going to your suite is like going to a small but nice hotel room, which opens on the opposite side to a private seating area with superb views of the field. With 5 flat screen televisions, sofas, and a spread of food that was replenished throughout the game, there is no better way to relax before a game. While you can relax inside, there are also private seats outside overlooking the field. Having had seats in a variety of stadiums in a variety of locations, these were definitely the best seats I’ve ever enjoyed. Compared to the cramped bleacher seats of the game at Penn State, the luxury cushioned seats with a variety of food in the suite behind was superior in every way.
And what about the difference between the college and NFL games? Well, I had a great time at both, but two differences are obvious: the NFL has better players and better overall quality of play, but college football has more passion and intensity, particularly from the fans. Only the top 3-4 players on the field during the Penn State game will ever have successful careers in the NFL – the speed, size, athleticism, and understanding of the game is just higher at the professional level. Even so, while I love the NFL and had a great time at the Giants game, to me there is nothing better than a college football game. Penn State fans were in their seats – all 110,000 of them – 15-20 minutes before kickoff, whereas Giants Stadium was only 80% full at kickoff. And the college fans were completely engaged in every single play, whereas the NFL fans were more apt to “miss” a few plays here and there. Plus there’s no beating the college gameday atmosphere: the tends of thousands of tail-gaters, the band, mascots, cheerleaders – none of that integral to the pro game the way it is in college.
So as a football fan, this weekend was about as good as it gets. It’s hard to beat attending either game in person, but attending both, even though they ended up as losses for my teams, was a one of a kind treat…