In this week’s My Thoughts Exactly, Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson relives his first ever live NFL game.
When most people talk about their first-ever NFL football game, it usually is a nostalgic story that includes Uncle Bob, brother Jim and dad driving eight hours in the family station wagon to watch the closest team dominate some weak opponent.
They gorge themselves on peanuts, hot dogs and pop while Bob and dad have a couple beers and the home team wins by at least thirty. On the way home, the story teller falls asleep and has dreams of throwing touchdowns for the home team and bringing home a Super Bowl title.
Well, that never happened to me. My dad, or any of my uncles for that matter, was not a huge football fan. The early fall event was farming related, whether it was a machinery show or harvesting. Football was something to pass the time while you sat in the tractor and went back and forth over an 80-acre piece of land.
So, after 23 years of life without seeing a live NFL football game, I jumped at the opportunity to go to one. It didn’t matter to me that it included two of last year’s worst teams in the NFL. It did matter a little bit that it wasn’t the Dallas Cowboys, my favorite team since I was five.
The game was the season opener for the Minnesota Vikings as they took on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams had no great expectations for the upcoming season and I held no allegiance to either one. So, while down in the cities, I bought a Jaguar t-shirt so I would stick out in the middle of a sea of purple.
However, in a twist of fate and a lost bet, I was shouldered with the duty of wearing a purple jersey. I’m still washing off the feeling of having that piece of clothing draped over me.
As I walked up to the Metrodome, I remembered the countless times I had been to Twins games in the old building. Specifically, I remembered the games themselves, not the building. The building does not hold any significance in my mind. I cannot wait to see that thing go. The day they blow that thing up, I’ll be there to push the detonator.
As I get up to the “Party on the Plaza,” I notice that the fans are much different from fans at a MLB baseball game or a Bison football game. They are more rabid, older and colorful. There is more intensity as fans are getting ready to watch grown men run into each other as fast as possible.
They are older because the sport itself does not seem as family friendly like it would at a MLB game. Younger children have a tough time sitting down and baseball allows you to move around during the game without missing too much. The NFL is more of a sit down, watch and move at risk of missing something important.
They are more colorful because face paint seems to be a make-up of choice for men and women. For some reason, they believe that this is going to help Jared Allen make that sack on a critical third down play in the fourth quarter.
As the game kicked-off and 50,000 fans rise to their feet, you begin to understand what critics mean when they say the speed of the game is different. From where I was sitting, the size of the players didn’t stick out as much as how quick they were, especially the lineman.
Jacksonville’s starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert appeared to have a Vikings’ defensive lineman in his lap every other play. He had approximately two seconds per play to make a throw or else the turf and he were going to become quick friends.
The game itself proved to be a humdinger, with both teams going back-and-forth. The Jaguars scored late to go up 23-20, but Vikings came back to tie it up with two quick passes and a 55-yard field goal from rookie kicker Blair Walsh.
The Vikings prevailed in overtime, 26-23, and a majority of the fans left the game happy. I left with the memories of my first football game that included nachos, an overly excited fan wearing a Christian Ponder jersey and brushing shoulders with Hall of Famer Chris Doleman.
The drive back home wasn’t filled with thoughts of tossing touchdowns or winning titles, but with thoughts of finally getting the chance to go watch football played at its highest level. Maybe someday, when I have kids of my own, I will have the chance to take them to their first game.
I will make sure, however, that it won’t be at the Metrodome. That place cannot go fast enough.
Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson is the producer of the “Mike McFeely Show” on 790-KFGO. You can follow him on Twitter @pintoKFGO or on Facebook.