Sad Endings

I'm kinda happy right now.Last weekend was simply awesome.  The outcome of the Chiefs game – while disappointing – was secondary because it was a great roadtrip weekend with a couple awesome friends.

It started on Thursday.

I got a text from one of my really good friends on the way up to the Wing that night – “And we have a new mission.”  Potentially ominous if you don’t know my friend; promising-to-be-entertaining if you do.  So I get there, grab a beer and we start discussing the fact that we haven’t gone to a Chiefs away game this year and that Indianapolis couldn’t sell out their own home playoff game.  And since we’re loyal Chiefs fans and we love football we should

go ahead and help them out; heaven forbid if those fans who eschewed purchasing tickets were unable to watch their Colts play on television.  It took about two seconds of thought before I said “I’m in.”

We booted up Google maps and found that Indy’s only a 7-point-something hour drive, and what better way to spend a Saturday than driving down I-70, watching a playoff game and then driving back with three friends who are also loyal Chiefs fans?

A quick search on StubHub revealed a number of available seats so we grabbed the first set of four we could find that were next to each other.  Then it was time to convince the other two friends that they were coming with us.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s hard to argue when tickets are in-hand (or on the phone as it were) so after some initial reluctance (“no, there’s no way I can go”) it was relatively easy to get them on-board when I showed them the StubHub e-mail.

Our plan of action was simple – pile into the Jeep and leave KC at 5am Saturday morning, arriving at Lukas Oil Stadium around 2pm.  We’d watch the game and then hop back in the car and drive back.  The plan was perfect – it sounded like it, at least.

Friday night a couple of us watched the Cotton Bowl.  That was a great game to watch, and Kudos to Missouri for pulling off a nice win over Oklahoma State.  About three and a half quarters through the game, though, I was pretty sure there was going to be a new saying emerging from the game – “he Pinkel’d it”.  Granted the receivers forgot how to catch (they’d been taking lessons from the Chiefs receivers over the last few weeks, apparently), but Mauk clearly gave the Tigers the better chance to win.  Were it not for a defensive strip and touchdown at the end of the game Gary Pinkel may very well have gone home with a huge loss on his back, but at a clear conscience knowing he almost sold out the rest of his team for his senior quarterback’s legacy.

But that’s irrelevant to the weekend; what was relevant, however, was the fact that we didn’t finally crash until about 12:30am.  And then I couldn’t sleep for some reason – it was well after 1 before I finally passed out.

Let me tell you how early that 4:15am alarm came on Saturday morning.

But pure adrenaline was running through my veins – I was going to Indy to watch my Chiefs in the playoffs!  We packed up warm weather gear and a blow-up mattress in case we ended up getting stranded on the side of the highway, headed over to the Jeep and loaded it up.  About ten after five we were on highway 7, headed north towards I-70.

The first stop was McDonald’s.  That’s pretty much the only fast food place that’s open for breakfast, and since we were on a tight timeline (the game started at 3:30 central time, it was roughly an 8 hour drive with food and fuel stops) we needed something quick.

Clearly we should have stopped at Perkins.  Or Denny’s.  Or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  Any one of those would have been faster than our trip through the drive-thru at the McDonald’s off 70 and 7.  It was bad.  I mean really, really bad.  I can appreciate that at 5:15 in the morning there’s probably a skeleton crew working, but I’m pretty certain that I could have put my two youngest kids in there and they would have been faster.

Eventually we got our food and got on our real way.

It was a fast trip up there – time absolutely flew by.  Even with all four of us being dead tired we made good time, even with a stop at White Castle (luckily I wasn’t driving so there wasn’t any concern that we would cause an accident or run over a herd of baby fur seals getting to it) we were up there with plenty of time to spare.

Our expectation was when we made it to Lucas Oil Stadium we’d grab a couple of six packs, hang out in the parking lot with a few other Chiefs fans (we passed/were passed by at least ten cars packed with Chiefs fans) and tailgate for a couple of hours, then go in.

Maybe not.

We found the stadium fine – you can’t possibly miss it if you come up on I-70 – but while we expected a giant Arrowhead-esque tailgating experience in the parking lot we quickly discovered two things: one-way streets are the bane of everybody’s existence, and b) “tailgating” is something that fans at Lucas Oil Stadium events are clearly not aware of.

To be fair to Colts fans, though, it’s not really their fault.  Where Arrowhead – where people go to learn how to tailgate – is a gigantic sea of places to tailgate opportunity the parking at Lucas Oil is scattered.  A lot.  Parking was certainly cheaper – we found a lot that held maybe twenty cars and only paid $20 to park in it – but the setup made it absolutely impossible to get any sort of real tailgating going.  So I’ll give Indy fans the benefit of the doubt that they probably deep-down know what they do isn’t really tailgating, but that they’re held hostage by the setup of their stadium.

It was pretty neat!We did find a few other Kansas City fans to hang out with for a beer, though, so we chatted with them for a while and made immense amounts of fun of the police officer sitting in his car 30 feet from an intersection yelling at people who were trying to jaywalk.

We headed in to the stadium with about an hour before kickoff – somewhat because we didn’t know anything about the stadium except that our seats were in section 619…but mostly because tailgating was pretty weak.

The walk in was pretty quick – we were only a block or two away from the stadium.  It took no time at all to get into the stadium; security was quick and there weren’t any lines at all.  Getting to our seat took a lot longer – our seats were about halfway up in the upper deck but were right on the outside aisle which made it perfect.

I’m not going to go into the details of the game beyond a couple of things (if you need a better summary pick something here on this page):

  1. In addition to not tailgating fans in Indy also failed on actually making noise on third down for most of the game.  I was carrying on conversations with my friend next to me while the tornado sirens were blaring and – in theory – all the Colts fans were making noise.  I will say they came alive in the fourth quarter, though, and while they weren’t in danger of breaking any records they at least were loud.
  2. Speaking of third down, if you’re from Kansas you need to not go to to a Colts game.  They sound a tornado siren when the Colts are on defense and it’s third down and if you’re from the land of Oz when you hear a tornado siren you take cover – not sit in your seats sixty feet up in the air.
  3. Things are cheap.  Beer was several dollars cheaper than even at Arrowhead which is already on the low end of the scale for food and drinks.
  4. Indianapolis fans are, for the most part, pretty damn nice people.  Every fanbase has the exceptions to the rule – the 1% that make the 99% look bad (except for Oakland and Philadelphia where it’s the 99% that make the 1% look bad) – and Indy was no exception.  But aside from the wench who was heckling the Chiefs players who went down with injuries the fans were pretty cool people (even the other Colts fans all around us were ready to test the laws of physics with her and see how long it takes a body to drop from section 619).

After the game was over and we endured our punishment and the walk of shame (seriously – we gave up a 28-freaking-point lead in less than two quarters!) we discovered that there was one positive to the lack of tailgating at Lucas Oil Stadium: getting out and back to the highway wasn’t bad.  It took us probably a quarter of the time to walk from the gates of the stadium and back to the highway as it does in Kansas City.

Where the ride to Indianapolis was the shortest eight hours ever the ride back home was the longest.  Gabe – who drove all the way there – drove back, as well.  I’m pretty certain he didn’t blink for three days given how much caffeine he had.  We were mostly silent for the first many miles; there wasn’t a whole lot positive we had to say, and apparently all our mamas taught us that if we couldn’t say something positive not to say anything at all.  Eventually we broke the silence, listened to the post-game and heard the Saints pulling out a win in Philly.

We had originally planned on making it a day trip, but after we checked the forecast there was discussion of grabbing a hotel room Saturday night and then heading out Sunday morning.  And then we saw the forecast again and said “hell no” – which was clearly the right decision.  It took us about eight hours to get home; it took some other KC travelers that long just to make it to St. Louis.  10 inches of snow saw to that.

We, however, beat it.  We hit some big snow as we got into Columbia and then some light flurries most of the rest of the way home, but that was it.  Nothing we couldn’t make it through in with a 4×4 Jeep.  My HHR was fine aside from sliding right on past the exit to 150 from 7.

No matter what, though, it was an awesome experience and one that I’m glad I got to be a part of, even if the outcome of the game wasn’t what it should have been.  Good friends, a spur-of-the-moment trip, football and – you knew I couldn’t leave it out – White Castle.

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