Blitzed, Bootlegged

A group of my friends, five in total, flew into New York for the weekend. We had tickets to watch the New York Giants play American football against the New Orleans Saints. I met them at Cornerstone Cafe on Avenue B, a couple hours before kickoff. It was vital for us to get properly loose by drinking a few mimosas. Along with my sugary champagne drink, I ordered an omelet with bacon and avocado, just to get my protein levels up in line with my Irish. The food was decent enough, although I would have preferred if they didn’t put any dressing on my garden salad, since vinegar tosses off my taste buds.

From Cornerstone, we walked north on Avenue B toward SideBAR, a football-specific watering hole with lots of TVs and beer taps. We ordered a “bucket” of Bud Light, which is just six frosty beers in a branded tin pail. We got increasingly twisted with each sip of draft, ogling at the football games being broadcasted across America. This behavior appealed to our primordial impulses. Eventually, we took an Uber to Penn Station.

The most interesting thing about drinking and commuting with a group of 25-year-olds is how often someone needs to use the restroom. Sure enough, the gallons of beer that we consumed throughout the day needed to exit. We didn’t expect, however, that everyone’s bathroom schedules would be so comically misaligned. One person would need to use the bathroom, then shortly after, another member of the wrecking crew had to make a pit stop. This is funny only in retrospect, since at the time it was rather frustrating waiting and waiting and waiting.

At Penn Station, we almost missed the 3:14pm train to Secaucus Junction, because myself and Mark needed to take a leak. The next train was at 3:42pm and would certainly make us late for 4:30pm kickoff at MetLife Stadium. So, we sprinted to catch up to the rest of the group, who waited for us in the terminal and also realized that we’d all miss the appropriate train if we didn’t show some serious hustle. Once we met the group, we weaved through the crowds, jab stepping and shoulder dipping, much like a football running back, through the marble-floored concourse en route to platform 11.

After we arrived at the train, which spewed exhaust impatiently at the platform, it became clear that our dash was the most exciting moment of the day. There were no seats remaining on the train, so we stood in the vestibule, packed tightly with the other riders. For my friends from Calgary, who had yet to see New Jersey, the expanse of industrial buildings that ran alongside the train evoked the prosaic concrete portrait of Jersey that Springsteen painted. There was a sludgy green river that ran beside the train, too. I jokingly told them that’s the water people drink in Jersey, while the Manhattanites get the good, clean stuff. My friend Kyle, who works in commercial real estate, had fun estimating the price of each building. We eventually arrived at Secaucus Junction, where we had to make a transfer.

Once again, we found ourselves sprinting to the next platform, but this time it was because all of the other people wearing blue Giants gear were running ahead of us. This led to the assumption that we would be late if we didn’t follow closely behind them. The train wouldn’t depart for a while, but our charge through the station earned us some good seats together. We flipped the seatback so we could sit facing one another, three and three. Finally, we arrived at MetLife stadium. It felt as if the actual game had been preceded by a game in and of itself: making it there safely and on time.

Our first task upon arriving at the stadium was obvious: buying two beers each. We had some wicked drinking momentum and we couldn’t afford to stop. I was sad to learn that I couldn’t purchase alcohol without a Passport. I was the only member of the group without one,  since I was planning to use my Canadian driver’s license to purchase booze. So, we devised a ruse in order to procure me a couple brewskis before the game. We settled on a simple strategy: I would hold my friend’s beers, one in each hand, while they went to a different counter and bought two more. That was it. Nothing too complicated.

Our seats were in the end zone and we had a nice lower-level view of the field. It was a decent vantage point, although maybe worse than the at-home viewing experience. It’s an unfortunate reality of professional sports fandom that the couch experience – in which you can pause to grab food or use the restroom, fast-forward through commercials, recline and sit comfortably, avoid bad weather and smelly fans, among other advantages – has eclipsed the in-stadium experience. You might argue this cheapening of the in-person experience has happened in most facets of society (ie. movies, travel, dating). Sigh.

The game was fun and I did my best to look the part of a Giants fan. I wore a blue hat, blue sunglasses, and a blue golf shirt. The Nike Air Huarache shoes I wore also had a strip of electric blue. Possibly the most pleasant aspect of the in-stadium experience was the efficiency of the lineup for the men’s bathroom. I’ve been in horrible stadiums where the flow of the bathroom line is like cold tar. But here, in New York, one of the most sophisticated states in the world, they’ve figured out the whole lineup thing. My friends – and their aforementioned bladders – were relieved by this fact. The food lines were fast, too.

By the end of the game, I was able to order two hot dogs, five beers (with the help of my friends), one hot chocolate, and popcorn. Not to forget the bites I took from Mark’s tepid, stale, not-salty-enough pretzel. The Giants lost the game, mostly because of New Orleans’ star running back, Alvin Kamara, who seemed to borrow some of his on-field moves from our train-terminal zig-zagging earlier in the day.

The ride back to Manhattan was suffocating. After the game, it felt like the entire 80,000-person stadium tried to cram themselves into the same train car. I got stuck listening to a guy that left his wife at the game because she was purportedly flirting with her boss. We got back to Penn and walked over to Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, which is a restaurant. They have beef tips, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and various southern comfort fixings. We ordered a “beer tower,” which holds 120oz of suds and saves the waitress a lot of legwork, because it’s easy to pour and sits right on top of the table. That was awesome.

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