Indigo On The East Coast - Part 3
When I reach Powers Field, the Princeton University football stadium, I am disappointed to find it closed. I'm already annoyed that I won't be in town for the Tigers game on Monday, but I'm doubly annoyed that I can't take a look round.
Vet Nov Testamentum? Old and New Testament? I'm more of an Apocrypha man myself, my blog being mostly of dubious origin. As if to prove a point, my attention is drawn to a pair of metal tigers guarding the front gate. One is hissing at me.
Hey, pal! You lookin' fer a way in?
The Brooklyn accent is unmistakable. We're a long way from New York, albeit still in the right bit of the country. I wonder idly if they have a zoo there?
Um, yeah, that's right.
Without looking round he whispers conspiratorially, Round the side. The groundskeeper always leaves one open for staff.
I wink at him. Thanks, man. I correct myself just in time, Beast! These lads looks ready to pounce.
A quick circuit of the perimeter locates a small white mesh gate. It's open. There's nobody about. So I walk in.
I find myself in the wide, vaulted access area under the stands, which is mercifully cool, if a bit heavy on the concrete chic. The place is deserted, though I expect to be challenged at any moment. It's the hottest part of the day, perhaps it's lunchtime?
A short walk and and a flight of steps provides access to the topside of the stadium. It's very impressive. I've never been inside an American Football stadium before. I stand for minutes just taking it in. It feels huge, though I know from watching games on TV that this is tiny compared to its NFL cousins.
Suddenly, I know I have to go down to the pitch. I walk down through the rows of seats to the bottom of the stand, and discover that there's no easy way to do this. But there's an access gate nearby with a six feet drop to the ground, and with a quick hop - one small step for a Roth - I'm on the field.
It's an odd experience. In my time playing Left Guard and Right Tackle at University in England - yes, both ways, there were only eighteen or so of us - we were lucky if we played on a properly marked pitch. We didn't expect an audience and didn't get one. And here I am in a purpose-built facility; I wonder how many of us would have joined the team if there'd been twenty thousand people screaming for their team every Sunday?
I notice that I'm wandering down the pitch. Thirty yard line. Forty. Then I'm into opposing territory. Roth, number 57, offensive lineman. First and ten from their forty, making a bold push towards the endzone in a sustained drive. The perspective from ground level is totally different from TV. My heart is pounding; I'm quite swept up by it. As I reach the endzone, the roar of the fans is deafening. I'm walking on air.
Actually, what am I walking on? The playing surface is peculiar. From the stands it looks like grass, but from down here I'm uncertain. I've played on AstroTurf, a relatively hard all-weather surface that's unkind during high-speed tumbles. This looks like realistic-but-fake grass growing from a dark, soft, oily material. It has a rubbery, yielding quality, which makes sense; it's probably easier on the bones when being stomped on by a three-hundred-pound lineman.
Unnecessary roughness?! Oh, I hardly touched the man!
My eyes are drawn up to the tiered seating. Somewhere up there, positioned exactly on the halfway line, is an area with three seats surrounded by a low railed fence. My curiosity is piqued. The roar of the crowd dies away as I walk across the field to a conveniently placed set of portable stairs. This is a piece of luck; other than walking the dark tunnel in one corner, I don't think I could have made it off the pitch.
I climb the stairs up through the stands in the hundred degree heat, and eventually make my way to the enclosed area. It's marked as The President's Box. What, The President? This is too good an opportunity to miss. I step through a small gate and try the seat out. The view is magnificent, as it should be.
As I sit down, the air beside me shimmers. Ghostly forms emerge from the aether. As I sit sweating in the midday sun, I am joined by the spirits of former Princeton Alumni; President John F. Kennedy sits to my left, and President Woodrow Wilson to my right. JFK is tucking into a Berliner hotdog enthusiastically, ketchup and mustard dripping. President Wilson nibbles sullenly on the contents of a box of popcorn.
I'm not surprised; it's been that kind of day.
Hey Roth, you're looking good! says JFK, wiping his chin. Are we ready for Dallas?
Thank you Mr. President, I smile, fairly sure that he's mistaken me for Uncle Jericho. Dallas? I play along. Yessir, were good. I've made all the arrangements. Beside me, Wilson grunts disapproval of something he's found in his popcorn.
I shift uncomfortably in the seat. It's like a brick, and too upright.
You OK, Roth? asks JFK between chugs of Doctor Pepper.
To be honest sir, I say, embarrassed, I'm surprised that they couldn't find something more comfortable for the President and his party to sit upon.
The Democrat laughs, We choose to sit on these things, not because they're easy, but because they're hard! I can't help but laugh along.
Schmucks! sighs Wilson.
Concluded in Part 4 - Ironing In All The Right Places
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009