I Wanted Tim Riggins But All I Got Was Condoleezza Rice

Ever since I became obsessed with America, which I estimate to be somewhere around 1993---but which could actually be traced to a moment six years earlier in my school library in Hong Kong, when I picked up this horribly outdated 1970s-era book entitled something like "America: We Swear This Is What It's Like," featuring pictures of orange Camaros parked at gas stations and people wearing bell bottoms eating hot dogs in stadiums---I have wanted to go to a football game. 

I have, in fact, had "go to a football game" on my Big Important List of Very American Things To Do for as long as I can remember, despite the fact that I don't really know anything about football. My Big Important List of Very American Things To Do, you see, is sort of like Maggie Mason's fabled Life List, except it involves a lot more jello salad. (The jello salad is one of the things on it that I have actually managed to accomplish. The remainder is a mishmash of frat parties, high school reunions, diners, pep rallies, sock hops, and homecoming dances. I don't even know if pep rallies and sock hops even exist anymore. Do you think I watched Grease one too many times as a child?) 

There is something about football that is just so American. It is so American, in fact, that English people don't just call it football, they call it American Football, the better to distinguish it from English football (soccer to you), which is just called football to us. (Is this confusing you yet?) It's kind of like how American people call English muffins English muffins, but English people just call them muffins. (But what do English people call muffins? Why, American muffins, of course! For real!)

So when our very kind friend Nathan and his wife invited us with them to the Stanford-ASU game on Saturday night---in special fancy VIP-style seats, no less---we jumped at the chance. It didn't hurt, of course, that we have recently discovered the joys of Friday Night Lights, only the best television show in the history of television shows (cover your ears, My So Called Life. You didn't hear it from me.) Because, Internet, I have to admit that in a distant part of my brain, a very, very, very tiny part of me was entirely convinced that Tim Riggins was going to be there.

Seriously.

I swear, when I thought about going to the Stanford game, I could totally imagine Coach Taylor pacing the field in his windbreaker, Lyla Garrity sitting prettily in the stands, Matt Saracen's grandma and her enormous plastic glasses purchasing a hot dog during the halftime show. I have, after all, something of a problem separating television shows from real life upon occasion, which would make me a very good candidate to write creepy fan fiction if I ever decided that was the direction I wanted my life to go.

(But hey! Let's hope it isn't! The world does not need more crazy letters to Sara Gilbert from teenage girls who aren't entirely convinced that she isn't actually Darlene!)

When one goes to a football game, one has to tailgate---it's all part of the experience, I'm told, and my sweet friends were extremely dedicated to ensuring that their neophyte pal got the full experience---and so a little light pre-game tailgating is exactly what we did. Since we were a) in California and b) none of us the biggest fans of baked beans, our particular tailgating involved  takeout pizza and wine. This made it pretty much the best picnic in a parking lot I have ever had:

And just as we were sipping the last of our Chardonnay with our pinkie fingers raised delicately in the air, who should walk past us, not ten feet from where we were sitting, but former Secretary of State---as well as former Stanford provost---Condoleezza Rice, who appeared to be en route to the stadium. Look, I even took a very blurry picture of her!

"That was Condoleezza Rice!" we said, and "Hey, we should Twitter that we just saw Condoleezza Rice!" Except no-one could remember how to spell Condoleezza Rice, and whether it had two Ls or two Zs or two Es, and so in the end no-one Twittered that we'd just seen Condoleezza Rice, which is just as well actually, because when you've only got 140 characters to work with, "Condoleezza" is going to take up a heck of a lot of them.

Upon entering the stadium, Internet, I am not afraid to tell you that I was just a smidge overcome with emotion. Of all the things that make me slightly verklempt---orchestras, national anthems, old people, two men on stage bending their heads to sing into a microphone at the same time---walking into a stadium crowded with fans is certainly right up there, which, again, is pretty weird given my general ambivalence towards sports, but there you go. I'm sure that 70s-era storybook is to blame.

Stanford's official color, by the way, is a sort of dark cherry red, and since I couldn't seem to find anything in my wardrobe in a dark cherry red---nor could Sean, bizarrely; apparently it is just not our hue, I guess we're both Springs rather than Autumns---my only concession to school spirit was these ancient ballet flats I forgot I had, so I decided they would just have to do for both of us. Also, I cheered extra hard to make up for it.

Wow. Those are actually kind of dirty. I had no idea.

Part of our fancy VIP ticket included a special pass to take a secret elevator up to the roof like celebrities and watch the game from there, which we did at halftime. There was food up there and free cans of soda, and also two very large dispensers of water and lemonade boasting official-looking labels on them saying STANFORD WATER and STANFORD LEMONADE. We all joked about drinking special official STANFORD WATER and STANFORD LEMONADE, but then when I downloaded the photos I'd taken of the labels this morning---that's how awesome they were, so awesome that I actually took pictures of them---I realized that they actually say Stanford Catering Water and Stanford Catering Lemonade (except the catering part is in really tiny letters), which kind of makes them not so hilarious after all. I mean, there I was thinking I was going to invent the next Google, just from drinking the official Stanford Lemonade!

I wish I could say that I actually understand football now---I don't, though I am at least starting to get it (but still, what's with all the stopping and starting?)---but I can at least say that I had pretty much the best Saturday night ever, lack of Tim Riggins notwithstanding. Next up, team, we need to find me a sock hop. And possibly also a time machine.

1
Imogen
Oct 25, 2009

Who won? Ha, ha, just kidding. Who cares?! Glad you had a great time.

2
Nathan
Oct 26, 2009

Aside from seeing Condollee... no... Condoleez... no... Condi, my favorite part was walking into the stadium as a drunken ASU fan yelled, "MY MOM PARTIES HARDER THAN THIS!"

To which we nodded, "Yes. Yes, that is true."

(Mmmm.... American muffins...)

3
Jane
Oct 26, 2009

Do you know what? I think I have the same preoccupation with the U.K. as you do with America. I'm not quite sure where it started. Maybe it was Harry Potter.

4
Sarah
Oct 26, 2009

Reading this makes me want to eat hotdogs. So I need to do something about that.

5
beyond
Oct 26, 2009

i totally understand your problem separating television shows from real life... i once told my husband that if i am ever really ill and no one knows what's wrong with me, he should bring me to dr house. i was only half joking.

6
Sarah
Oct 26, 2009

Purely American experience to add to your list: homecoming dance. Ahh...the awkwardness that comes with a bunch of 15-year olds girls trying to look like a movie star and 15-year-old boys trying to look like anything but 15-year-old boys.

(Sadly, I'm from New England. We're not "homecoming" people. But I used to flip through Seventeen magazine and look at the homecoming dress/makeup/hair articles with envy. I longed to grow up in Texas, or Pennsylvania - some place with small towns and big high school football teams and where the Prom was truly the event of the season, and where I could buy that Gunne Sax dress, with the polka dot bodice red ruffle trim and win that homecoming queen crown. (I may have been slightly awkward and such during my high school years, if THAT wasn't a clue.)

7
Nicki
Oct 26, 2009

Oh, you have so much to learn about tail gating! Living in a town with its own NFL team, even if it isn't a very good one this year...(Go, Panthers!)...has taught me to enjoy a good tail gate party.

We have friends who serve lobster tails, bleu cheese filets, mushroom caps, etc. on REAL glass plates with REAL silverware at the game. It is an EXPERIENCE.

Hope your next game is NFL and that you REALLY live it up.

PS. That pizza looked so amazing. I haven't had ham and pineapple in SO LONG!

8
loonytick
Oct 26, 2009

I have a British friend who, like you, is now living here and recently married an American. What really grabbed her attention about America as a kid were cheerleaders. She thought it was just awful that there weren't any at UK schools. So for her day-long hen do, her sister arranged for a middle school cheerleading coach to come in and teach some routines. A friend here even scared up some old cheerleading uniforms from a local high school and we all put on something from it (not too many could manage the skirts, but plenty had the tops on). Most of us Americans in the crowd had been somewhat anti-cheerleader back in the day, but boy, did we have fun doing it as adults!

9
Carolyn
Oct 26, 2009

Some of your friends back home might be on board with the whole American football thing now, Holly. Our beloved New England Patriots played at Wembley Stadium yesterday. I told my husband I didn't think people in the UK would be interested in that on the whole, being so mad about football as they are. (English football, I mean, soccer, etc.)

But supposedly that whole dang stadium sold out in a matter of minutes. Go figure! Maybe you could be their American football ambassador? How cool would that be? You could wear your red flats!

10
soul-fusion
Oct 26, 2009

aw, I love college football so I'm glad you enjoyed it.

11
whoorl
Oct 26, 2009

I really question people who don't love college football. The crowds! The bands! The team ethic! Do these people have HEARTS? ;)

And I would be more than happy to explain the intricacies of American football to you! (I'll even include Tim Riggins in the examples...)

12
Erin @ Fierce Beagle
Oct 26, 2009

Oh my goodness! I went to my first professional football game this weekend (American) and tailgated for the first time too. Oodles of fun.

13
Corina
Oct 26, 2009

Ooooh, college football is great and all, but to really get an American football experience you need to go to a high school game in a small town. Please add that to your list. There's something about sitting in the bleachers with kids and parents and grandparents and just random small town people with nothing better to do on a Friday night. I hated high school with a passion, but I loved sitting in those stands on Friday nights with the lights on and the fog rolling in and the popular girls cheering on the popular boys and our crummy band playing bad versions of Queen songs. Even at 17 I knew there was nothing more quintessentially American.

14
Linda
Oct 26, 2009

Did you get to see the Stanford Tree mascot? How arborial!

15
Abby
Oct 26, 2009

I actually had a similar experience last year in which my love for Friday Night Lights led me to attend my very first high school football game. This due in large part (or approximately 110%) to the fact that Matt Saracen was going to be attending. Apparently Zach Gilford graduated from the high school where I work, so some how the school got him to come and attend the first game under the field's new lights. My friend and I managed to stay through half time and didn't even make fools of ourselves when he walked 10 feet in front of us.
Anyways sorry for the long comment, but I felt that I needed to share my own obsession with that show :)

16
Mir
Oct 26, 2009

Go Cardinal! (Not dark cherry red, Holly. Cardinal. The color, not the bird. But then their mascot is a tree, so it's not like we can complain about people being confused.)

And now I want pizza. Thank you.

17
Heather
Oct 26, 2009

I have those very ballet flats! They came from Payless, I do believe, and I love them to bits and pieces. You have just reminded me I need to drag them out of my closet and wear them soon.

18
ni
Oct 26, 2009

funny thing is that I'm from Canada so it feels a lot like the US but its not the same. Unless you went to a Catholic school (is it a Notre Dame effect? I thought so after watching Rudy), football was not a popular sport. And so we didn't have homecoming and our prom was called grad night (and only for graduating class). And flipping through Seventeen magazine did fill me with a certain amount of envy.

19
simon
Oct 26, 2009

1. Condi. Quick, easy, fewer characters. Next time, Tweet "Condi."

2. Starfurd? Maybe next time, you should try a stadium that actually feels like a real old-school genuine football stadium. Hint: there's one in Berkeley. Plus, the Cal mascot isn't a stupid fuc*ing tree.

3. Sky boxes are fun, but there's nothing like sneaking into the student cheering section. That's where it gets exciting. Sure, there's more sweat and noise and beer breath emanating from Frat Boys, but there's a real palpable excitement that you can't get anywhere else.

20
Caroline
Oct 26, 2009

Yes on the pep rallies, no on the sock hops.

21
Kelly H
Oct 26, 2009

I thought I was the only one who has a hard time realizing life isn't like it is on TV. The first time I visited Las Vegas and the strip I could not get out of my head the theme songs to CSI and the TV show Vegas (with Josh Duhmal & James Caan)...the Elvis song "A little less conversation...little more action!". I kept thinking I'd see the CSI people show up somewhere on the strip to investigate a crime scene when walking back to the hotel in the middle of the night!

And as for tailgating and attending football games, I have to say that as US experiences go, Stanford's is pretty LAME. Go to a Badger game in Madison, WI on a Saturday and you'll know the true meaning of College football and tailgating. For the NFL experience, only the frozen tundra of Green Bay will give the supreme experience.

22
Kristabella
Oct 26, 2009

Ahhh, I saw many a football game at The Farm when I lived in the Bay Area.

And since I'm an ASU alum, and that was one of the very worst games I've ever seen, I will have to blame our loss on you and your magical Stanford cardinal shoes!

Glad you had fun!

23
Chrissy
Oct 26, 2009

Oh, The Stopping and the Starting! I'm SO happy to hear you have issues with that too! Football is this awful conundrum for me, as I'm from Buffalo, NY, a city I love deeply and fervently, and am so grateful to be rooted in. Thus, it follows I would root root root for the home team (the oft-tragedy-stricken Bills) during football season but I just cannot. Get in. To Football. And it's the stopping and the starting I can't take! And they play so rarely during the season it almost feels WIMPY compared to other sports (like hockey, woowoo Buffalo Sabres! Hockey, man. An experience to have if you, you know, ever find yourself in the very-select-part-of-the-US-population-and-Canada-spirit.)

24
L
Oct 26, 2009

If Tim Riggins attended Stanford games, I would be there for every game, even though I find football excruciatingly boring. Except, of course, when the football "game" is actually comprised of exciting running shots interspersed with shots of Coach Taylor and all the other characters reacting dramatically to the triumphs and errors of their beloved Panthers.

25
MazingAmy
Oct 26, 2009

I am a football NUT and for one of the kick-assest pep rallies ever -- check out USC's NorCal pep rally when they head up next fall for the Stanford game. In fact the pep rally starts in LA and is pretty much a car/bus/SUV parade of USC students and alums the whole way up the 5. Friday night before the game. Look for it next year. :)

Or any American High School with a football program - Friday afternoons in the school gym usually. :)

26
Belly Girl
Oct 26, 2009

Um. Who cares about the football game. All I want to know is where did you get that insanely delicious looking pizza? OMG, I'm dying over here. Actually, don't tell me because I live NO WHERE near San Francisco and it will just remind me that there are no good pizza places in Colorado.

27
slynnro
Oct 26, 2009

I cannot believe it took you this long! Football is THE ultimate american thing!

28
Samantha
Oct 26, 2009

Stadiums always make me tear up. Whenever we went to a baseball game as a kid (I know, different sport, but bare with me) my step father would say, "Ah, the green green grass and the red red dirt and the white white bases." It's like a poem. And poetry makes me emotional.
I liked your dirty shoes, BTW.

29
Peter Dow
Oct 27, 2009

Well I guess that "Tim Riggins" is something to do with American football but if I was really interested I would google him.

Rice for President Yahoo Group

"Condoleezza Rice for President in 2012. Join this group of supporters from everywhere on the world wide web."

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rice-for-president/

30
Operation Pink Herring
Oct 27, 2009

I also went to my first real football game a few weeks ago and I was crushed when the cheerleaders didn't do any cool choreographed dances. I guess I also have trouble separating Hollywood from reality. Bring It On LIED TO ME!

31
Daisy
Oct 28, 2009

Love the shoes!

I went to one sock hop in high school. No, I did not grow up on the set of Happy Days. My high school did a few random dances (aside from the big ones: Homecoming, Winter Formal, and Prom) but they were usually not the same year to year, so I went to a Sadie Hawkins dance (leap year, obviously), a Welcome to the Jungle dance (the first dance of the year), and one year we had a sock hop.

As a late blooming germophobe, now I wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea for a bunch of high school kids to run around the gym (where we had, you know, gym classes during the day) without any shoes on. Gross.

Most of the girls did not run out to buy cute poodle skirts, so it was mostly rolled up jeans with socks. And by the way? Most of the guys didn't bother putting on their good (clean, white, newish) socks. Lots of dirty, dingy socks with worn heels or holes.

My sister and I had more fun playing 50s make believe when we were little. We didn't have dress up poodle skirts or anything (this was before you could buy princess costumes and all sorts of cheapie accessories at Target), so we thought just putting our hair into a high ponytail and adding a scarf qualified us as looking like we were 50s sock hop girls. We didn't know any 50s dances (except the hand jive, which my mom taught us after we watched Grease), so we just ran around the house dancing.

If you don't see any choreographed dance routines at a high school football game, stage a walkout on the grounds that it is not a real football game without synchronized movements set to music. My high school always had those little sideline cheers set to the marching band's music. And part of Bring It On was filmed at my high school! My sister's friend was one of the cheerleaders, but she said that when she got her film developed (you know, back in the olden days before we all had digital cameras), all the pictures of Kirsten Dunst and the big name actors had mysteriously disappeared. That just made me wonder: if the pervy teenage kid working at the photo counter really wanted those pictures, why didn't he just make extra copies for himself instead of stealing the originals, thereby alerting people that he was a pervy photo stealer?

Congrats on crossing American football game off your list! Next up: drunken fraternity party.

32
Rachel
Oct 28, 2009

holy hell, that pizza looks amazing.

33
heidikins
Oct 28, 2009

You lost me at English Soccer Muffins, I'm not so much of an American Football fan, and do quite adore English Muffins, and I'm sorry but I just stopped paying attention after that. :o)

xox

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