Around District 11: The Travels of Guy & Pam: Who’s On First?
Tagged under: District 11, News
Guy Smith | January 11, 2023
Around District 11: The Travels of Guy & Pam
Who’s On First?
2023.01 Guy and Pam are full of quirky sports attending goals. It’s all for fun. For football, in 2022 we finished our two-year goal of seeing all 47 District 11 high schools play a home game. We are now in the midst of adding all the District 11 JV teams that play home games on different fields than the varsity, and the PSAC Division 2 NCAA college teams.
After being shutout twice during late December in our attempts to see “just one more game” in 2022, we switched years and said “Wouldn’t it be fun to be the first from “PA Football News” to see a game in 2023? Yes, it would.
So we targeted a game on New Year’s Day. Because it was a Sunday, the NFL was playing. And if we picked a 1:00 game in the eastern time zone, that would have to be the first game of the year.
We are not big NFL fans, for the same reason we are not D1 college football fans. Too corporate. We don’t even have cable TV to watch that stuff. Give us an in-person minor league baseball-ice hockey-soccer, high school or small college football, local auto racing, or a local small college sport of any kind instead and we are much happier.
Thus, our NFL resume is thin. Guy’s claim to fame is having seen the Philadelphia Eagles play home games at three different stadiums: Franklin Field, Veterans Stadium, and Lincoln Financial Field.
The Franklin Field game was October 20, 1968 against the Chicago Bears. The Bears featured running back Gayle Sayers, linebacker Dick Butkus, and fullback Brian Piccolo. Sayers would go on to write the autobiography “I Am Third,” one of Guy’s favorite books as a preteen. And of course Piccolo’s tragic story would be told in the tearjerker movie “Brian’s Song.” The Bears beat the winless Eagles that day 29-16 on five Mac Percival field goals and a pick six. The hapless Eagles lost their first eleven games, then won two of their last three to blow the first round draft pick. The first pick then went to the one-win Buffalo Bills, who chose O. J. Simpson.
Since that day in 1968, Guy has not returned to Franklin Field. We had planned a return in 2019 to see the Philadelphia Fury of the NISA (professional soccer) who planned to use Franklin Field as their home stadium. However, the team only played one away game (an 8-1 loss to Miami) before their investor pulled out and they withdrew from the league before playing a home game.
Franklin Field is located on the University of Penn Campus. It is the oldest active football stadium in the United States, having been the home of the Penn Quakers since 1895. It was the second stadium to add upper deck seating, and the first to broadcast a football game on both radio and television. After writing the above paragraphs, a 2023 game at Franklin Field, 55 years later, is sounding like a real possibility for another quirky goal.
Guy also saw the New York Jets play at both Shea Stadium and at the Meadowlands. At Shea, Joe Namath was quarterbacking the Jets, and at Meadowlands, the visiting QB was none other than the G.O.A.T. himself, Tom Brady. Those two games were 50 years apart, but there was one constant – the Jets lost.
Besides football, Guy had been to the Meadowlands several times during the 1980s when the CART Indy Cars raced in the parking lot outside the stadium.
Our only other NFL game was a Los Angeles Rams game in the L.A. Coliseum. Pam was presenting (as usual) at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association national convention. And also as usual before COVID, Guy was tagging along. There was a StubHub window right outside the convention center, and Guy saw Rams tickets were available for only a few bucks, as they couldn’t come close to filling the massive Coliseum. Parking there, however, is another story. So we hopped on the train, which delivered us right in front of the stadium and enjoyed an NFL game in L.A.
One of the reasons we wanted to see the Giants, besides having never seen them before, was to see Saquon Barkley play. Guy taught for 30 years (OK, 29.74 if you want to get technical), almost all at Bethlehem Freedom High School. Saquon played for Whitehall, another school in the tough EPC South division. Thus we saw Saquon play high school ball a number of times. In fact, it was Guy’s Pates that ended his high school career. With Freedom hanging on to the lead and time running out, Whitehall drove inside the Pates’ five. The defense stuffed Barkley on a run, and on the next play Whitehall tried to force a pass across the middle that the Pates picked off to secure the win and eliminate Whitehall. Of note was that after the game, Whitehall did not want to line up to shake hands with the FHS players. But Saquon Barkley demonstrated his leadership and character by coming out alone to shake hands, and his reluctant teammates then followed. In fact, after going through the line Saquon continued to the Pates sideline and shook hands with everyone there, making sure to include the young kids.
Pam’s late brother Bruce had four season tickets to Penn State. Nittany Lion home games were his favorite place to be, and he wanted to share his happy place with his family. So every year, he took us to a game or two. We saw Saquon play every year that he was playing for Penn State.
After seeing Barkley play in high school and college, we wanted to see him play in the pros as well. As short as NFL running back careers tend to be, we were already risking missing him in the NFL. And if Barkley happened to be traded to a team far from Pennsylvania, that would have made it very much harder for us to see him play.
With the game being on New Year’s Day, we figured there would be hundreds and hundreds of tickets available on the resale market. We also thought that there was a good chance the Giants would be eliminated from the playoffs by then. Surprisingly, they were not, but there were still many good seats available. We didn’t get tickets quite as cheaply as we had hoped, but still bought great seats less than 24 hours before kickoff without paying above face value.
Getting parking can be a little trickier, as all parking is sold out for the entire year to season ticket holders. But we managed to snag one on the resale market for the regular price of $34, which is fairly cheap as far as NFL parking lots go.
Not only were the Giants not eliminated from the playoffs, they were actually in control of their own destiny and this game was a “Win and In” game for the team. If they beat the Indy Colts (who had a losing record, had already been eliminated, and were on the road), the Giants would be in and Saquon would get his first chance to play in an NFL playoff game.
One thing we learned when attending the Jets game at the Meadowlands the year before is that traffic in and out is far, far easier than in Philadelphia. That was confirmed for the Giants game, as we waited in traffic for a bit under a half hour to enter, then got excellent parking very close to the stadium entrance.
The place was rocking and with a playoff-clinching spot on the line, it was nearly full. This stadium is great for football, and we believe most seats offer a good view. There are plenty of food stands and restrooms. The prices are high, but not as high as at many major league, and some minor league, stadiums and arenas. Example: Two popcorns and a soda at the Giants game was $17 plus tax, while five days later the same was $20 at the minor league PPL Center in Allentown.
Meadlowlands is a no-cash stadium, which is a pain in the ass in my opinion. Of course, adopting the no-cash policy is a financial windfall for any stadium. Instead of including the tax with the price to avoid dealing with making small change for every purchase, with plastic-only payment, the tax automatically became an addition to the posted price.
The Colts took an early 3-0 lead that held to the end of the first quarter. But the second quarter was all Giants as they scored 24 points to zero for the Colts. Colts starting QB Nick Foles was injured in the second quarter and did not return. The Giants cruised to a 38-10 final score, and officially clinched a playoff spot.
Saquon didn’t have a spectacular game, rushing for 58 yards with a long of 19, only third best on the Giants. His two pass catches were for minus five. But he remained healthy and is going to get to play in a playoff game.
Attendance was announced at 77,000 and change, the stadium at 94% capacity. With a four-score lead, we headed out halfway through the fourth quarter and had no problem whatsoever getting out of the lot. Game one for 2023 was in the books. Sincere thanks to everyone who takes the time to read our blog. We enjoy the feedback at RTRYFBAR@aol.com.
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