Thursday, January 9, 2014

chiefs! colts! where the most painful, yet most amazing game, i've ever witnessed in person, occurs (part 1) ...

"The stars will cry
The blackest tears tonight.
And this is the moment
That I live for;
I can smell the ocean air!

Here I am,
Pouring my heart
Onto these rooftops!
Just a ghost, to the world --
That's exactly, exactly what I need!

From up here?
The city lights burn!
Like a thousand miles of fire!
And I'm here to sing this anthem
Of our dying day!

For a second?
I wish the tide,
Would swallow every inch
Of this city,
As you gasp for air tonight!

I'd scream this song,
Right in your face
If you were here!
I swear -- I won't miss a beat,
'Cause I never, never have before!

From up here?
The city lights burn!
Like a thousand miles of fire!
And I'm here to sing this anthem
Of our dying day!

Of our dying day!
Of our dying day!
Of our dying!!!!!! ..."

-- "Anthem Of Our Dying Day" by Story Of The Year, off of one of the ten most criminitely, grousely, Zues in nature ignored cd's of all time, "Page Avenue" ...

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I sat in Section 450, Row 3, Seat 13.

I should have known from the first three minutes, what was to come.

I sat next to a Colts season ticket holder named Ty, who drives nine hours to every game from Mississippi, where he’s stationed with the Marine Corps.  (Let’s just say, the halftime show meant a lot to him.  As always, keep reading.)

After exchanging pleasantries (I bought his third season ticket seat off the NFL Ticketmaster Exchange), he expressed his remorse at having a Chiefs fan buying his seat, but noted “you were dumb enough to pay above face value to see your team lose!”  I laughed at that; that isn’t what should have made me know what was coming.

(Besides, paying $140 for a $104 ticket, with a comparable view of what I’m used to at Arrowhead?  An extra $36 means what, one night of sobriety for me over the next couple weeks?  I think everyone not named “Stevo” would think that’s a good thing.  And even this “Stevo” character, gun to his head, would concur a night of sobriety might be a good idea.)

Nope, when I should have known, is when Ty and I got into (for lack of a better description) a d*ck measuring contest, over who was the bigger fan of their team.

I’ve missed three games in the last ten years for the Chiefs at home – Miami in 2008 (a 2-12 team playing in negative nine degree weather.  No thanks.); Miami in 2011 (my flight home from – ironically enough, Miami – was delayed; I didn’t land at KCI until right before kickoff); and Pittsburgh 2011 (I made the tailgate; I was so sick I had “The Ex” drive me home before kickoff).  Considering I’ve made at least three road games since 2004 (2005 at Dallas, 2007 at Houston, 2010 at Seattle, plus Saturday), I consider that a break-even accomplishment.

Ty?  Has missed one, and only one, Colts home game since 2003.  I’ll just let his comment speak for itself.

“I missed the (2006 AFC Championship) Patriots game, because I couldn’t get Monday off.  (Pause).  I’ve never forgiven myself for that.”

And then, the capper.  “Because I will never have a chance to see a comeback like that, again, in my life.”

So it probably won’t surprise anyone, that as Andrew Luck took his third knee in the victory formation with :37 remaining, to seal the Colts comeback for the ages, a 45-44 victory that is both the most painful defeat I’ve ever attended, and the best football game I’ve ever witnessed, that I looked over to Ty, as the clock ticked to zero, and the Chiefs were powerless to stop it.

Most fans in section 450 – to say nothing of every other section in the nuthouse that was Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday – were screaming, shouting, cheering.

Ty?

Was sitting in his seat, his head cupped in his hands, crying.  Openly sobbing, at what he'd just seen.  Let that sink in folks: one of our nation's finest, a little bit older than me (I'm 37 and change now ... (gumby voice) dammit!), is reduced to crying like a newborn, at what happened in that second half on Saturday.

I can honestly say, without a hint of sarcasm, regret, guilt, or jealousy: it’s one of the coolest things, I’ve ever seen in my life.

OK, fine -- I can say it with many, many, many hints of jealousy.  Because I expect Ty's reaction?  To be mine, especially up 38-10.  (We'll get to that moment ... eventually.  Maybe.  Possibly.  If I can ever bring myself to recap the actual game.)

So let me open by saying this – I’ve had better birthday weekends.  And I’ve had worse.  But I’ve never had one more memorable.  I will never forget this road trip for as long as I live.  From the euphoric highs to be described  below, culminating in a 38-10 lead barely two minutes into the second half … to the greatest second half I have ever seen a NFL team play in person, that might be the worst second half, in the Red and Gold's history.

Saturday’s outcome was a blow to the nuts with a tire iron.  It was Professor Plum, with the candlestick, in the bathroom.  Just a full on (old school “batman” tv show voice) POW! BOP!  SOCK! to the junk with the conveniently placed at ringside steel chair.

But in the words of Ronnie Milsap, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world”.  The game was that much damned fun.

Even if it’s going to take six months of therapy with … hell, might as well make it official.  Even if it’s going to take six months of therapy and counseling with Stevo’s Site Numero Dos Official Man of the Cloth, the right Reverend Al. K. Hall, to begin to cope with what Saturday was.

So here’s the beginning of your recap, of both the most painful, and most amazing, National Football League game I have ever paid to witness.

This'll take you to kickoff.

I cannot promise, I'll ever go farther.

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We left a little after 8am on Friday morning.  Everything went just fine for the first three hours – I spent it alternating between playing solitaire, and thanking everyone who took the time to wish me a Happy Birthday, either on Facebook or Twitter or email or text message.  (I hope to come back to this, in the close of the post.  Assuming I eventually get there.  Again -- I have not even remotely gotten over Saturday yet.)

We entered The Lou* a little before 11am.  Stopped in O’Fallon to get some snacks, visit the facilities, and put some gas in the Jimmy.  Upon getting back onto I-70, the radio station we were listening to, before going to commercial, began to prepare us for what was to come.  A major winter storm sometime that weekend.  With wind chills lower than any day I have ever experienced, and I’ve been here for 37 years and some change now.

Still, despite the warnings, we didn’t really take it credibly.  The idea of an inch plus of snow falling every hour for twelve to fifteen hours doesn’t really register in the mind.  The sheer ridiculousness of hearing “wind chills of fifty degrees below zero” really doesn’t register in the mind.

Turns out, the warnings on Friday, if anything, undersold what was going to occur.

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(*: no description more accurately describes that hellhole, than comparing it to a toilet.  God bless you, Great Britian and King’s English.  God bless you!  And yes, I am fully aware I chose a St. Louis based band, for the opening lyrics.)

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Funniest moment of the drive up.  If you’re from the five county metropolitan area known as Kansas City, and have ever made a trip to Indy, be it for a basketball game, the 500, the Brickyard, or a football game, or even just for sh*ts and giggles, then you have no doubt seen the cross as you enter Effingham, Illinois.

This thing is impressive.  It’s a solid 60, 70 foot tall white cross, on the grounds of whatever church is there.  No matter how religious you are, for whatever religion, it is an impressive display.

Russ’ reaction (he had never seen it before)?  “Jesus, that’s a big cross!”

I love unintentional comedy sometimes.

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As we crossed the border into Indiana, things got appreciably worse on the roads.  Apparently a snowstorm hit eastern Indiana on Thursday (or the day before).  The freeway was relatively clear of snow, ice, flotsam and jetsam, but the 79 miles from the border to downtown Indy was a virtual graveyard of cars and trucks.

We passed at least two overturned eighteen wheelers.  One car was in the median, halfway sheared by the wire barrier there to prevent crossover wrecks. 

Then, we got to downtown Indy … and apparently, the mayor caused a boatload of anger there, because with the coming storm over the weekend, he made the decision to plow the freeways and the main streets downtown … but nothing else.  I can tell you, the side streets were a disaster.  The road that led between our hotel and the parking garage, was nothing but an ice skating rink with a thin layer of snow on top of it.  Most of the sidewalks weren’t shoveled on Friday, although the Colts did clear the walkways immediately around Lucas Oil Stadium sometime Friday night.

It took a few minutes to find where we were staying, the lovely Comfort Suites in the downtown Centre.  Yes, they spell Centre as Centre should be spelled.  God bless you, Indianapolis.  God bless you.

Mona checked us in, while Russ and I got the bags, the coolers, and other assorted things out of the car.  The room itself was quite nice.  Two king sized beds, plus a sleeper sofa, and a really comfortable lazy chair.  We picked this room, because the initial plan was for Ron and Michelle and their son / my buddy Ryan to crash there after the game.  (They weren’t coming in until Friday due to Ryan’s work schedule.)

The view of the cozy surroundings for the weekend:



(Photo: me or Mona, via one of our digital cameras.)

That was the plan – enjoy a fun tailgate, enjoy the game, enjoy a fun night out in Indy afterwards, wait out the storm, and head home Sunday.

But the best laid plans, almost never come to full fruition.

--------------------

Marty McDonald, who founded the Save Our Chiefs movement last year, and has given the domain away to yet another “Save A Franchise Stevo Roots Passionately For” movement*.

He sent out a Tweet Friday morning, urging Chiefs fans coming in on Friday, to meet up at a bar called the Tilted Kilt at 7pm Indy time on Friday night.  Apparently the Tilted Kilt is an official bar of the Indianapolis Colts.  Which meant by taking it over, we were taking it right to the heart of the enemy.

We were up for it, so about 6:30, we ventured out to find the place.  (It wasn’t hard to find.  Especially since our courtesy car driver seemed to know exactly where she was going.)  I honestly expected to see maybe 50 people, if that.  Marty had only reserved two room-length tables at the back of one of the rooms in this bar, for the gathering.  Clearly he wasn’t expecting what occurred.

Because what occurred, was effing beautiful.  By 7pm, there were over 500 Chiefs fans in that place, and the number just kept climbing.  Here’s how you know it p*ssed some folks in Indy, specifically in that bar, off – they booted 610 Sports (which was broadcasting live from the Tilted Kilt), Channel 41, Channel 5, and Channel 9, from the building.  They were not allowed to come back in.

So, being the enterprising folks us Chiefs fans are?  We took the party to them, on the street. 

The look of disgust and contempt on the Colts fans walking past, was absolutely worth the price of admission.  (Which, granted, was free, but still.)

By the time we left a couple hours later, there wasn’t an empty table in that place, and there weren’t more than five Colts fans in the joint.  The pic below doesn’t even come close to doing it justice, as it’s just a panoramic view of the room we started in.  There were three more rooms this size, plus a gigantic bar, crammed with Chiefs fans.  And a line out the door, to get in as well.

I tried to do it justice, but honestly, just click on Marty's Twitter account; the pics he took are better:


(One room, out of four plus a bar, crammed with Chiefs fans.  Image: me, via my iPhone.)

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(*: I'm getting damned sick and tired of teams I love, needing a "Save Our (Team Here)" movement.  Just saying.)

--------------------

 To be fair, I had a good feeling that there would be a lot of us there, if only because when we contacted the Chiefs ticket office on Monday morning to order from the Chiefs allotment of tickets (which was 5,000 tickets per NFL policy) … we were informed that the Chiefs had already sold out of their allotment of tickets.

Sweet merciful Jesus.  5,000 tickets gone in less than half a day.  For a road game.  That we were underdogs for.

When I get to the game recap portion of this post (and I should note up front, I am not sure I’m going to be able to recap this game, the pain is still too intense), I’ll hopefully have an in-game shot of the bleachers behind the Chiefs sideline.  (I honestly don’t know what all is on my iPhone and my digital camera; I haven’t downloaded the pictures yet.) 

Because at best, the Colts occupied forty percent of the seats on that side of the stadium, and at best they occupied only half of the seats in the 600 section (opposite end zone from where we sat).  There were at least 10,000 Chiefs fans in that place … and it still was so damned loud when the Colts were on defense, that you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone hear what someone was saying to you.

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I gotta say, it’s weird sleeping in Indianapolis on “GameDay”, and not being woken up by a gigantic BOOM!, as the cannon is set off to officially open the Speedway for the 500. 

And it also was weird not immediately getting up, half frightened of the noise, half frightened you just peed your pants, throwing on a t-shirt, and heading out to survey the scene, buy the commemorative lineup poster the Indy Star puts together every year, and coming back to find a healthy breakfast of biscuits and gravy and Bud Light waiting for you.  Very, very weird.

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When we arrived in Indy on Friday afternoon, the forecast was for the snow to begin during tailgating, intensify during the game, and push through sometime overnight Saturday into Sunday.  That forecast played perfectly into our plans for what to do after the game.

By Friday night, the arrival was pushed back a few hours.  Now it was supposed to begin snowing during the game, with the worst hitting between 9pm and midnight, before tapering off before sunrise.  That was manageable, even if it meant a late arrival time home Sunday.

Saturday morning, the forecast had changed again.  Now it wasn’t going to start snowing until overnight Saturday into Sunday, and the worst of it would hit during the day on Sunday.  And in looking at the radar (because by this point, I didn’t believe a word out of these weather dude’s mouths), and doing some quick calculations, I concurred with this forecast.  I thought they finally got it right.

So did every other Chiefs fan, almost all of whom had booked their rooms for two nights, Friday and Saturday.  Breakfast that morning in the cafĂ© / bar on the ground floor of the Comfort Suites, that was all the talk – “Storm of the Century”.

The mayor of Indy (who, again, is not well liked right now for doing what I thought was the right thing, and avoid wasting clean-up resources on Thursday night, when round two was coming forty eight hours later) held a presser, and flat out said that if you are here on Sunday, you’ll still be here on Tuesday.  I thought that was a bit ridiculous, but it turns out, he was right.  I work with a guy, Jarow, who went with his son to the game, and they didn’t get home until after midnight Tuesday night / Wednesday morning.

And so, faced with the forecast, nearly every Chiefs fan decided to do what we decided to do: cancel the reservation for Saturday night, check out Saturday morning, and get the hell out of town ahead of Sherman’s troops after the game. 

There was just one problem with that idea – Samantha, the front desk clerk.

Who refused to issue refunds for folks who had already paid for both nights.

Now, to be fair, this woman was a b*tch.  Everyone on Friday night staying at our hotel that came out to the Tilted Kilt was complaining about this woman.  She was not happy to have so many Chiefs fans in her hotel, which was literally located across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium.

No, really – here’s the view from the hotel bar:



(Pretty neat, huh?  Image: me, via my iPhone.)

To say that riot-like conditions existed in the lobby at about 10:15 Saturday morning, is an understatement.

But again – Chiefs fans, if we are anything, we are a resourceful bunch.  If you can’t get the front desk and hotel staff to give you what you want?

Call the 1-800 number.

We spoke to a nice guy named Felix, explained our situation, and he was sympathetic to Chiefs fans’ plight.  But he couldn’t issue a refund / chargeback to the credit card, until you had checked out.  Once you checked out, and he confirmed the checkout via the hotel staff, then he could credit back your card for the unused night.

Which set off a mad dash to the elevators, as now we had about thirty minutes to get checked out, and there were a solid 20, 25 Chiefs fans in that lobby.

Amazingly, everyone was officially checked out by 11am (the deadline).  Fully moved out, not necessarily, but checked out officially.  Samantha had no idea why we were doing this, I should probably note, because then the phone calls from the 1-800 number to the front desk started flying in.  She was NOT happy, to put it mildly.  She eventually stopped answering the phone, just letting it ring.  Which got her a reprimand from the hotel’s general manager, which was suh-weet!  Chiefs fans 1, Mean Front Desk Dudette 0.

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Another funny, laugh out loud moment: at breakfast Saturday morning, X-Factor (who was staying at our hotel) came down, already decked out in his embarrassing, pathetic get-up.  (Note: I do not care for X-Factor, Weird Wolf, that Elvis impersonator, or any other of the collection of “Super Fans”.  Save for Arrowman.  He’s the only one I respect.  The one I respect the least?  That crazy broad who brings the two fighting puppets to every home game.  Jesus, lady, you’re sixty.  Act your age, please.)

I mention this, because we were sitting next to a couple of Colts fans who had come in for the game, and were making small talk with them over some waffles and eggs, when X-Factor walks in.

The Colts fan’s exact comment upon seeing X-Factor for the first time?

“What the f*ck is that?”

Bango!

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We waited around for a little bit after checkout, because we had two groups of friends still headed in – Terry and his guys (Colts fans), and Ron, Michelle, and Ryan.  Terry and his two buddies got there first. 

And again, if Chiefs fans are anything, we are resourceful – Terry and Russ went out to the Jimmy, grabbed about ten beers, and we sat around the lobby, enjoying a couple adult beverages, while Samantha fumed even more at the front desk.

Finally, a little after noon, we headed off to where Ron and Michelle and Ryan had set up shop, at the cash lot across from the south side of the stadium: 315 Meridian.

But not before snapping a quality photo of our good buddy and his clan:



(Hey, who's the overconfident, arrogant as hell dumb ass in the middle of the pic?  Image: Mona, via her digital camera.  Our buddy Terry is on the far left.  Don't ask me the names of the two Colts fans on the right.  I know one of them is Gordon.  I couldn't tell you which.  I think the other one begins with a R, but don't hold me to it.  It's been seven years, and I still refer to Jeff and Paula as "Tony and Lisa" at least three times every time they come in for a game.  Hell, I've sat next to Kimberly for five months, and I still screw up her name at least twice a day, at work.  The lesson?  I am (chuck barkley voice) TURRIBLE! with names ...)

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When we got there, we noticed the guy who tailgates across from us, was there with his tricked out van.  We also noticed that Mix 93.3 had set up their tailgate party zone in that lot.

By 2pm, there were a solid 100 Chiefs fans in that lot, enjoying the playlist the Mix 93.3 DJ (who was this guy that I’d never heard of before … but in my defense, I don’t listen to local radio on the FM dial, unless it’s 98.1 KMBZ; I pay $18.95 / month to XM radio for a reason) was providing, and every couple moments, it seemed yet another Chiefs fan had arrived.

I tried to take a pic to do it justice.  Unfortunately it couldn’t, but in the far left side of the picture, I hope you can see the sweetest addition: a fully inflated Chiefs menacing tackler doll, standing up through an open sunroof.  I thought that was spectacular:


(Doesn't do it justice, but I tried.  Image: me, via my iPhone.  The Mix 93.3 van / DJ setup, is hidden between that open area between the white and red Chiefs tents, on the right.)

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The two runner-up funniest / best moments of tailgating on Saturday?

1. When Ryan walked up to me about fifteen minutes into that Steve’s playlist, and deadpans “your playlist is better man.”  When I asked why (because quite frankly, I didn’t think it was at that point), he responded “because that guy has no idea who David Allan Coe is”.  Mixology, represent!

2. About 1pm, the beer just wasn’t cutting it.  So Ryan and I hoofed it six blocks back to where the Jimmy was, to grab a whiskey bottle and a plethora of Diet Coke with lime cans out of said cooler.  It was a full handle of Weller (not exactly cheap stuff, and definitely potent).  It was gone by the time we headed towards the stadium a little before 3pm.  And there were only six of us drinking it.  Now THAT’S what I call tailgating!

But the funniest / best / least classy moment, hands down?

There were a few, uuh, gee, wow, how to put this delicately … a few girls who showed up because they saw the Mix 93.3 van and heard the music, and let’s just say, they thought that parking lot was a strip club on a typical Tuesday.  They definitely, in the words of R. Kelly, didn’t see “nothing wrong, with a lil’ bump and grind”, if you get my drift.

Mona walks up to me after about the sixth “this would barely get a R rating, and they’d have to cut a few scenes to get that” dance maneuvers out of these fine looking chicas, and goes “you know the future Mrs. Steve is one of (these girls).”

You know you have absolutely zero going for you in the dating / sex life department, when someone who is your second mother suggests marrying a skank letting it all hang out in a parking lot in a run-down part of Indianapolis at 2pm on a Saturday.

(In her defense … the blonde was really, really, really attractive.  And she was rocking the single sexiest accessory any chica can possess: the diamond nose stud thingy that springs me the moment I see it.)

Also should note, since this section of the post is approaching its’ own R rated status, that the best part about the Tilted Kilt?  Every waitress (and they were all chicas) was rocking the Britney Spears school girl outfit from the “Oops, I Did It Again” video all those glorious years ago … except this time, they were sporting some healthy looking tattoos in some naughty places as well.  And proud of it.

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We headed in a little before 3pm (for a kickoff at 4:30pm).  I wanted to see the stadium; I’d never been to Lucas Oil before.

My second favorite pic of the weekend, the three of us -- me, and my second parents, who I love so damned much I consider them as my actual parents ... on the walk in:


(It's cold ... but it ain't Milwaukee.  Apparently Mom didn't get the message about that, with the thumbs up "AYYYY!", uuh, thumbs up.  Photo: random Colts fan I gave my iPhone to.  Thanks dude!)

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My favorite pic?  Closing down the tailgate, the six of us that have had each other's backs and then some, during this season:



(photo L to R back row: Ron, Mona, Russ, me, Ryan.  Second row: no clue.  Front row: the blonde destined to be "Mrs. Stevo", and Michelle.  Photo: not a damned clue.)

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The coolest feature about Lucas Oil Stadium, you have to be a multi-sport fan, to get.  It’s not immediately noticeable, and if you only love football and don’t give a damn about anything else unless the local team is participating, you won’t notice it.

Because Lucas Oil Stadium is a genuine football facility … built like a basketball arena.

There was a really cool Lucas Oil racing exhibit underneath where I sat (I noticed it on the painfully slow descent on the escalator after the game).  The walkways were beyond spacious.  There were bathrooms everywhere (hooray!) 

I would rank it as the third nicest stadium / arena I’ve ever been to, behind (1) Reliant Stadium in Houston (trust me gang, if you’ve never been?  That stadium whips every one else’s ass) and (2) American Airlines Center in Dallas.  The AAC is honestly what Lucas Oil reminded me of.  Very similar feel when you’re sitting there.

Here was the view from my seat, pregame, towards the Chiefs sideline (and notice the Red already very visible):



(Photo: me, via my iPhone.  Ty, referenced to open the post, is the guy in the Luck jersey.)

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The pregame was pretty much as boring as a regular season game, up until about ten minutes before kickoff.

Here's the Chiefs headed off to the locker room:


(photo: Mona, via her digital camera.)

The pregame, was disgraceful.  I'm actually kind of glad I didn't capture any pics of it.  denver fan?  You're off the hook.  And you're not only off the hook?  Wade -- boo the sh*t out of whatever the Colts bring next week, if its Indy at denver (and it will be).  

Because during the Colts' mascot's pregame sketch, he openly mocked a Chiefs fan sitting in the lower bowl (note: this was most assuredly NOT scripted, given both reactions), then threw a cream pie in said Chiefs fans face.  So be it.  That's tasteless, but doesn't cross the line.

But oh no -- Colts mascot had to cross that line.  Because he grabbed a conveniently placed full beer cup, and dumped it over the Chiefs fan already reeling from the cream pie.

And that wasn't enough.

The red "Power Towel" from the 2010 opener against San Diego?

Colts mascot literally wiped his ass with it, during the two minute warning timeout, in the first half.

Even Ty, the guy next to me, (who if I ever recap the game, you'll gain either a healthy hatred or appreciation for; there's no in between), even Ty thought that crossed every last line of decency.  The Colts mascot literally grabbed a red Chiefs towel and wiped his ass with it, Mark Mangino-style with a towel, for those of you in Lawrence.

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The National Anthem was performed by the Indy Philharmonic, and it was incredibly good.  

And there was a very loud and audible "home of the CHIEFS!", to end it, as some bald eagle came flying down to some trainers wrist.

I mean, really?  I hate to sound unpatriotic ... but for God's sake, it's a football game, indoors.  Do we really need a field length flag with a bald eagle to boot, at this point?


((paul page voice) WHOA!  BIG FLAG!  Image: Mona, via her digital camera.)

In all seriousness, the Anthem (you can see the Philharmonic in the front middle of that picture above) was amazing.

And this was your scene, at kickoff:


(Look at the non-blue folks.  Look at the non-blue.  (vice president biden voice) Folks!  A three letter word -- look!  L O O K look!  Especially to the center and right.  Photo: Mona, via her digital camera.)

And that gets us to kickoff.  Light a candle in hopes and prayers I can do a recap of the game itself ... and the drive home from hell itself ...

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