Saturday one of my dreams came true when I took Ty to his first football game along with my Dad. It was really a special moment and occasion – and one I have been anticipating for a very long time.
Given my own love of sports, it's only natural that I'd want to share the experience with my own sons. And it's definitely something I've been thinking about for most of my life. I have my own great memories of going to Cal football games as child – beginning around the same age as Ty.
I have to admit that as excited as I was heading into the game, I was a little nervous about it too. Ty is very sensitive to loud sounds so I wasn't sure how he'd react to the raucous Autzen stadium noise. I made a point of not talking about how loud the game would be in advance – I focused on how fun and exciting it would be for him. But in preparation Renee and I broke out a wireless headset I use for the computer – it has soft thick earphones that muffle a lot of outside noise so it was perfect as an ear protector as well. And as you can see in the picture, Ty loved having the headset on and wore it throughout the day before and during the game.
I've mentioned before how lucky we are that both Ty and Stone are such great travelers. They love riding in the car and never complain "are we there yet?" – no matter the distance. So the drive down from Edmonds to Vancouver (where we spent the night with my Dad and his wife) was a lot of fun. I picked up Ty from Kindergarten and we hit the road around 4 pm on Friday – just in time to hit the brutal Seattle commute. It took nearly an hour to get through downtown and another hour before getting past Olympia but eventually the traffic thinned out and we were able to make good time again. As a treat, I told Ty we could stop at McDonald's on the way down but we'd eat in the car in true road trip fashion. We pulled into my Dad's driveway at 8 pm and it didn't take long for Ty to crash.
Ty woke up Saturday morning at 7 am and was ready to roll to Eugene. We decided to hit the road early to avoid the heavy traffic and allow ourselves more time to hang out around Autzen Stadium and take in the atmosphere. After a quick stop for doughnuts and coffee we hit the road and made the 110 mile drive South. Given his love for freeways and bridges, Ty was thrilled when we crossed the Interstate and Marquam Bridges in Portland. He proceeded to correctly name off each of the bridges he saw crossing the Willamette River as we drove through the Rose City.
Once we got to Eugene Ty was very excited to see Autzen Stadium and kept asking where it was. We parked and walked towards the stadium with hundreds of other fans and Ty was thrilled with the atmosphere. I told him we were going to a big party before the game that was going to be held in a big building and it might be a little loud – but it would be a lot of fun. We went into the Moshofsky Center – which is the Ducks' indoor practice field during the week but is converted into a giant festival on game days. A band played 80s cover tunes and we wandered through the Center. Ty fit right in wearing his Ducks hat and #21 jersey as the center was full of children and families Ducked out in all kinds of Oregon gear. We took a brief tour through the Ducks Bookstore in a failed attempt to find long sleeve Ducks t-shirts for Ty and Stone before settling back in the center before kickoff. Ty participated in some of the games set up for kids and families – trying to throw a football through targets – and scarfed down his first sausage (he thought it was a hot dog). We met friends Chris and Donna – who were just great with Ty.
Finally it was getting closer to kickoff time so we decided to head to our seats in the stadium. As we walked to our seats, I asked Ty if he wanted anything to drink and he asked for some lemonade. We peeled off to buy some at a concession stand and when we turned around my Dad was nowhere to be found. I've heard about losing kids in large venues but not grandparents! Fortunately I was able to call him on his cell phone and direct him towards our seats so all was well.
Our seats were in the end zone below the giant scoreboard and about 8 rows behind the Oregon Marching Band. At first I was a little nervous (again) because I wasn't sure how Ty would react being so close to the band but my fears were alleviated when the Ducks took the field behind the noisy motorcycle and Ty screamed and clapped along with the rest of the crowd. He was having a blast. When the Oregon Marching band started playing "Mighty Oregon" and the crowd stood to sing and clap Ty joined right along and began clapping too. It was a really powerful moment for me looking down at my son clapping along to the Ducks fight song and fitting into the scene and environment so naturally. I was glad I was wearing sunglasses because I did cry a little – and I didn't think that would be considered very manly at a football game.
The game itself wasn't much of a contest – the Ducks won handily as expected, 56-7. But Ty did great during the game and never complained. He quickly learned about first downs and penalties – as well as high-fiving all of our neighbors each time the Ducks scored a touchdown. We stayed through the end of the third quarter (when the score was 56-7) and decided to head out to beat the traffic and hit the road back to my Dad's house. I asked Ty how he liked the game and he yelled out "I loved it!!"
It's not often an event lives up to high expectations one has in advance but this was one case when the experience actually exceeded anything I could have imagined. It was truly a magical day.
And on Monday when he was given a choice of clothes to wear, Ty naturally picked out one of his Ducks t-shirts. Mission accomplished!