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Los Angeles San Diego

14th August 2010

A Long Crawl to San Diego Only To Discover One of Life's Mysteries - American Football

Panorama of Qualcomm Stadium, Home to the San Diego Chargers      (please use scroll bar)

    After stocking up with fuel, liquids and ice, we left Los Angeles early, intending to pick up breakfast in Long Beach. The long drive around the 405 was uneventful, and we skirted past the Queen Mary as we sought breakfast near the seafront. Having rapidly concluded that we wouldn't find anything by the shoreline, we headed to the East Pacific Coast Highway, and eventually found a cafe on the outskirts of Long Beach. Trust my luck to find the only cafe without a restroom; I had to beg a nearby liquor store to use their private facility!
    The Pacific Coast Highway would not be the fastest route, but it would be more scenic than the freeway. The road took us past gorgeous looking towns such as Huntington Beach, Newport, Laguna Beach, and Oceanside, all packed with holiday makers and buzzing. However, they, and many places between them, had more than their fair share of traffic lights and traffic jams. Progress was painfully slow. The 150 mile journey took us six hours in total.
    We arrived at our hotel, one of many arranged on a large circular roadway within the Mission Valley, rapidly checked in, and then headed to the local metro station to catch a train up the valley to the Qualcomm Stadium, home to the San Diego Chargers American football team. It was only a short walk to the station, but during it we noticed a few apparently stricken fans flagging down taxis. The match started at 6pm, but we thought an hour and a quarter to reach the stadium and collect our tickets would be enough. Hmmm ....
    On arriving at the metro station, we were greeted with chaos. There had been a fire further down the line and the trains were stopped. This was a major artery to the stadium, and understandably panic was setting in amongst the fans. A bus presently turned up, and a large section of the crowd calved off and headed to the bus, Dan and I amongst them. We managed to board the bus, ticketless, but we would face the consequences of that later, if indeed there were any at all. The bus was one of the long 'bendy' bus varieties, and there was a huge cheer from within it as we set off to the stadium, leaving hundreds of crestfallen falls standing waiting for hopefully another bus to take them to the stadium. The cheer lasted the whole of three seconds before we ground to a halt. The back part of the bus was about to collide into another static bus. After getting the other bus to edge forward a few feet, we proceeded again to huge cheers.
    The journey to the stadium was probably only a mile and a half, and if we had known about it, it would have been quicker to walk. The mile and a half journey took over an hour; all approach roads to the stadium were clogged.
Outside Qualcomm Stadium
    The bus driver got a far as he could, and then we all piled out and made our way across the prairies of car parks surrounding the stadium. Minor panic was setting in Dan as we had only 10 minutes to get to the stadium, collect our tickets and get to our seats before the match started. Walking through the car parks, we noticed people sitting out by their vehicles, with picnic tables and chairs set up, enjoying feasts, totally relaxed. Nobody was dashing to get to the stadium for a 6pm kick-off. I started to think that perhaps it was only the razzmatazz that started at 6pm, and the real game started later.
    We collected our tickets, and also learned that the match did start at 6pm. We were seated about 5 minutes after the start of the game. I was about to witness one of the unsolved mysteries of the world, the game of American football.
The Game of American Football
    The lad we had met on the cruise had warmed us up to some of the idiosyncrasies of this game, but watching it for real was totally baffling. The game consisted of four 15 minute quarters. However, each quarter was lasting about 45 minutes. Play would start, and for me it was like a three cup shuffle, the game where three upturned cups are shuffled on a flat surface and you have to guess under which a ball lies. Players were dashing about in all directions, blocking each other, and what with all the dummy runs etc, I hadn't a clue who had the ball most of the time. When a tackle was made the game would stop, the commentator would rapidly reel off sponsors messages, cheerleaders would prance around, occasionally onto the pitch, armies of floosies with towels and drinks would invade the pitch to pamper the players. During these stoppages, the clock was stopped at times, and at other times it continued ticking down. During some stoppages, players would gather into huddles to discuss tactics, knitting plans or cookery tips; I'll never know. The whole team seemed to change over after some breaks. During one stoppage, characters hurtled onto the pitch with two big sponsor's boards and plonked them near a set of goal posts, and some lucky ticket winner had a chance to kick a ball over the sticks from the 10, 20 and 30 yard markers, all within a space of less than a minute. Totally bizarre. There were also seven referees for the match, and occasionally one or other of them would toss a yellow 'duster' onto the field and blow his whistle frantically. I never did discover what the infringements were.
    But the behaviour of the fans intrigued me. There was just short of 56,000 fans at the game, and the stadium was certainly not full. One section of the stadium had been reserved for Chicago Bears fans. The away fans must have flown 2,500 miles down for the match. But, overall, the fans were totally chilled out, it seemed to be more of a social occasion than anything else. Fans were still picnicking outside when the game started, and fans seemed to drift in and out during the game. After the second quarter, there seemed to be a steady stream of fans leaving the game, and at the final whistle, the stadium wasn't even half full. Perhaps they knew about the mayhem and gridlocks they would experience after the game, and left well in advance.
    As I said, the whole game was a mystery to me, but with all the razzmatazz, it was a unique experience. I am glad I visited at least one American football game in my life. For anyone wanting to visit a game, a word of warning, alcoholic drinks cannot be bought without ID, even if you are American.
    We managed to get the metro back at the end of the game, and picked up a quick meal before ending the day.
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Los Angeles San Diego

Uploaded from Courtyard Mariott, San Diego CA on 16/08/10 at 09:45

Last updated 16.8.2010