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Let me ask you a serious question. How many of you have ever spent any quality time in the ladies' restroom at an NFL stadium, excluding "most" males? It's really much more pleasant than you might think. However, my experience outside this secure place was much different. In fact, Roger Goodell should insist that the NFL offer life skill classes to teach folks to interact properly with other fans. The League is multicultural and contemporary, but I spent the entire day Sunday with many fans who missed that memo. I haven't decided if the majority of NFL fans didn't have a collegiate football experience or they just haven't had enough social interaction with people with different opinions - because normal behavior was nowhere to be found in the stadium that day.
My game day experience started badly and ended badly and the middle unfortunately was not any better. So here we go. Eagerly arriving in my bedazzled Ravens jersey and wanting not to miss a minute of the excitement, we arrived to the stadium early. Upon entrance I was called names that I was unfamiliar with but realized were not loving or endearing names. I really didn't even know some of those words could be used together!
You know a little fame is a mixed blessing. Many people quickly realized who we were and after their taunts, it was amusing to see them try and dig themselves out of the hole they were in. They expressed their apologies, saying they really liked the movie, but today was not about that; it was about competing. Then I heard one guy say to another, "is your date a newcomer to the NFL experience?" My question was "What experience?" The "experience" I was currently going through resembled something out of a Saturday Night Live skit. It was cold and wet and thus far everyone I encountered was rude. Even the guy who helped us park our car was rude. Maybe he was mad I had such a good parking pass, or that I was wearing a Ravens jersey, who knows.
When we arrived at our seats, it seemed my neighbor had one too many adult beverages. He was the epitome of inconsiderate and was driving me nuts. I allowed him to step on my toe several times and slosh his drink on me, all while making out with this girlfriend - to my dismay. Finally when the National Anthem started they darted off to refuel. Unfortunately, they found their way back and once again it became uncomfortable.
So after the first quarter, I retreated to the ladies' room where I took a few brief moments to gather myself. Then I heard the announcer over the speaker say Michael Oher was being helped off the field. I'm not sure what I said, but it was apparent to every person in the ladies' room I was upset. One heavily decorated fan looked at me and proceeded to tell everyone, "Ladies, we forget those players on the other team have mothers. This lady is obviously a friend of one of the player's mothers so we need to be a little nicer." I held back my chuckle, thanked her and wanted to tell her she needed to say this to those several thousand people in their seats. Honestly, it was quite homey in that bathroom and I pretty much stayed there the rest of the game. I braved the crowd at halftime just so Sean would think I was watching every play and to see if he had a report on Michael's injury. The announcers, kept saying "...as Oher hobbles off the field" and "Oher blocking on one leg," and I was sinking further and further into my stall. I was so nervous that I couldn't do anything but sit in the corner and worry and fret. What a way to spend the evening!
I decided as The Ravens missed that field goal that I had to man up and leave the security of the ladies' room that I would live by Donna Favor's advice which is, "Why give into rudeness when you can fight back with kindness." The Ravens played their hearts out, and the final score was not in their favor. It was time to go to the team buses and see them off so I had to slap a smile on my face and man up! I did that for about 5 minutes until Michael came out with a boot on his right leg. Never in 10 years had I seen him in anything like that, and I didn't handle it very well. The tears came at a fast pace and my heart was breaking for how close this young man had come to a dream that had sustained him for so many years.
All the times we talked about the NFL and going to a Super Bowl. It was within reach, but obviously there is a better plan, and I thought his tweet the next day was so spot on. It simply read "Day 1." You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and lock and reload. The haters will still be haters; the sun will keep rising; and the cycle of life continues. The would ofs , should ofs and could ofs of this game will haunt many fans for a long time, but there is no need to look in the rear view mirror because we've already been down that road once. I don't think I can spend another football game in the ladies' room! The Ravens had a great season. They need to let go of the regret and focus on the future. It looks bright! And I am definitely offering etiquette classes as soon as my schedule opens up to my neighbors north of here!
It all reminds me of the Winston Churchill story goes when the lady said, "Mr. Churchill, you are drunk," and he said, "Madame, you are ugly!" Then the lady said, "Oh my, you are very drunk!" Finally Mr. Churchill replied, "Yes I am, but tomorrow I will be sober and you will still be ugly." I hope that "tomorrow" when we are given the opportunity to host guests at M&T Stadium that fans treat other fans the way they want to be treated.
I will close with a quote from Barry Goldwater. Mr. Goldwater said, "to disagree one doesn't have to be disagreeable." Let's allow the players to play the game, and we need to watch and enjoy with character, common courtesy, descent manners and responsibility!
Photo credit by: Twcollins
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