HOUSTON – It had been more than 15 years since I attended an NFL game, but I found myself sitting high up inside Reliant Stadium’s press box this past Sunday for the Jaguar—Texans game.
And what a game it was.
The Texans won 43-37 in overtime when Andre Johnson hauled in a quick screen pass from Matt Schaub and won the game, with the help of some great blocking. For a young sports journalist covering his first professional game, there couldn’t have been a better game.
It was much different than my last experience at an NFL game.
Last time, funny enough, a team from Houston was on the field. It was the Cowboys and Oilers at the old Cowboy Stadium. There are some huge differences in the two experiences.
For starters, I’m 24 years old now and not someone looking forward to his 10th birthday.
Another big difference was how I got to the game. This one was simple. Put in a press credential request and a day or two later I was approved.
Previously, the way I earned tickets to an NFL game isn’t one I brag about.
On a weekday 15 years ago, my mother, younger brother and I stopped at a radio booth doing a remote broadcast from a car dealership in Dallas, which was giving away tickets to the upcoming Cowboys game. As a young boy living in Dallas, of course I wanted to go. So, my brother and I put in our names into a drawing.
Sure enough, we won.
Unfortunately, it was my brother who won. Being the young, naïve kid I was, I proudly walked up to the radio booth and told the man we needed three tickets.
The dealership was just giving away two at a time. That hit me like a ton of bricks because I knew my brother would get to go with my mom, and I would be left at home with our grandmother.
So, I did what any other little kid would do when a dream of his is crushed – I cried.
As I’m crying, my brother has a smile from ear to ear and my poor mother was trapped. “Who do I take to the game,” she asked. The disc jockey suggested my brother because it was his name that was drawn. It made complete sense, but it didn’t help one bit.
Thinking back on that day, I feel terrible. First, for putting my mom in a situation like that, and, secondly, for the disc jockey that I can only imagine was just as stumped on what to do as my mom was.
When all hope seemed lost for yours truly, a man in the crowd yelled out “oh, just give him the tickets.”
“You know if I do I’ll have to give him two,’ the disc jockey responded.
By then, in what I’ve been told and what I remember, everybody felt bad for me. Everybody was in agreement.
So, I got my tickets to the game and proceeded to walk around thanking as many people as possible.
My brother, mother and I (not sure what ever happened to that fourth ticket) had a blast at the game. The seats were amazing. We were sitting on these bleachers on the sideline and were within arms’ reach of the famous Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
Both my brother and I left the game with some souvenirs. After the game the Oilers walked right past us, and we were giving out high fives to the players. In what turned out to be a huge prediction of my own football career, an offensive lineman gave me one of his gloves.
My brother got a kiss from a Cowboys cheerleader (now I know that was karma at work).
Sunday was a very different experience. There was no tailgating. No cheering. No shyness around the cheerleaders. No traffic issues. No parking fees.
Most importantly, it was a great game to witness in person.
I don’t remember what happened in that Cowboys game, but I’ll never forget last Sunday.
I’ll never forget I was there for the first game in NFL history where two receivers topped 200 yards receiving. I’ll never forget Schaub proving himself as one of the league’s best quarterbacks with 527 yards, five touchdowns and 43 completions. I’ll never forget the Texans scoring 14 points in the final 5:40 of play. I’ll never forget Shayne Graham making a 42-yard field goal with ease and then turning around and making one of the worst kicks I’ve ever witnessed ten seconds later.
There were so many great things about it, and it’s a shame every game I go to won’t be that good, but I will be going back (hopefully soon).
And no, there won’t be any tears shed for these tickets.