First Football Game A Great Experience

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Today’s Extra Points column has been turned over to fellow Payson Roundup reporter Suzanne Jacobson, who was in attendance, along with her boyfriend, at the Arizona Cardinals’ dramatic 51-44 OT playoff win over the Green Bay Packers.

The football game was the first the 28-year-old reporter has ever attended.

After much arm-twisting, she was convinced to share her perceptions of the historic clash with our readers.

So here’s Suzanne’s view of Sunday afternoon at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Max Foster

Parting the sea of red and white, frothed with flying towels, sat a circle of Green Bay Packers fans. Other green shirts speckled the masses, but the circle inside which I sat seemed one of the more concentrated locations of “Wisconsinans.”

Nearby, cheese wedge hats rose above the rows of heads, and one gentleman even wore a hat made of a moose eating cheese. Inside the green frenzy sat my boyfriend, Joe, and I, who were not dressed for the occasion. I wore purple. He wore blue plaid. We are bad Cardinals fans.

Fortunately, Arizonans allowed Packers fans to proudly sport green jerseys without fear of getting mauled. Fans in Philly, where I come from, would likely not have been so judicious.

Joe is a football fanatic, and although a devout Kansas City Chiefs fan, he scored tickets to Sunday’s decisive playoff game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Packers.

I used to despise football, thinking it barbaric. But then I began dating Joe, who watches ESPN while studying various sports statistics Web sites.

Needless to say, I’ve become used to the game, and learned to appreciate the preparation and heart that drives it. Football is one of life’s biggest dramas, full of risks, upsets and courage — and the occasional guy who shoots himself in the leg.

The stories behind the game are interesting, Joe says, telling me about the mythic hero Kurt Warner who never abandoned his dream, even while bagging groceries at the local supermarket. And so now that Warner has led his much-maligned team to stardom in two consecutive seasons, the ascension is all the more sweet.

Perhaps that’s what led the 10-year-old sitting in front of us to don a Warner jersey. His little red head kept turning round to the Packers fans behind him, and as they chanted “Go Pack Go,” he would smirk and chant, “Go Back Home.”

At one point, he ripped a page with a Packer on it out of the program and gleefully crumbled the page into a ball — perhaps a 10-year-old’s version of an effigy.

And while the football game unfolded below us, Joe and I and the 20 surrounding Packers fans witnessed what I hear was one of the most dramatic playoff games in National Football League history.

We cheered and jumped for joy as the Cardinals killed the Packers early on. We felt bad for the loyal cheese heads that had traveled hundreds of miles to see their team get squashed.

Our excitement quickly turned to sadness as the Packers caught up to the Cardinals’ early lead and tied the game. The “Go Pack Go” cheers grew more belligerent and Joe and I turned grim. A fair weather fan, I began to lose faith.

But entering the fourth quarter, our voices were lost in the roar as we screamed and swirled our towels to distract the enemy from scoring. Still, somehow the Cardinals lost their early momentum.

Finally, we turned to quiet resolution when the Packers won the coin toss in overtime, giving them the ball.

A Packers fan behind us commented, “It’s a good thing we got the ball because we can’t stop them and they can’t stop us.”

An interception was clearly needed.

And so when No. 58 neatly grabbed the ball and floated into the end zone, the crestfallen Packers fans’ faces around me tempered my glee.

“Who’s No. 58? Who’s No. 58?” I asked insistently.

Karlos Dansby, a defense player who has only scored two previous touchdowns in his Cardinals career, a member of the same defense which allowed the Packers to gain on the Cardinals’ one-time huge lead, had miraculously wrapped his hands around the ball after it ricocheted off a man’s foot.

I thought he had the look of a man who couldn’t quite believe what had happened.

His run to the end zone was not the run of a man who made it there often. Joe always says football is the ultimate team sport.

After the game, people whooped and hollered through the halls, into the parking lot. Loyal fans of the underdogs were rewarded, along with a few new to the bandwagon, myself included.

In the car, we jokingly planned a trip to New Orleans to watch the Cardinals hopefully kill the Saints this weekend.

I couldn’t help but feel happy for Warner, who that night had beat the same team that cut him more than 15 years ago at training camp, knocking them out of Super Bowl contention.

The underdogs

But no matter how well the Cardinals play, the guys will still be the underdog.

For some, a good two seasons isn’t enough to erase years of poor performances.

I bet some fans never gave up on the Cardinals, just how Warner never gave up on football, or how Joe still hasn’t abandoned the Chiefs.

In Payson, we know what happens to underdogs when they stay the course and come to play. They win.

Maybe next year, it’ll be the Chiefs.

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