Tickets for this game were exceptionally cheap. Combined, including a parking pass, I spent all of around $40, which these days, is very good. And I thought it could enhance the trip a little bit, add another fun activity at night a time when, usually, a lot of activities for trips slow down (at least when you have a child, right?). So, it seemed like a good idea, although once the afternoon and evening came, it began to feel more like a burden, admittedly.
It is going to take a little longer to get pictures of this game online, since the cell phone battery was completely dead by the time the game started. There is a reason for it, although I am not entirely certain that it qualifies as a good reason.
Essentially, I had taken so many pictures in Tombstone and of the surrounding desert, that the battery was running considerably lower than usual. Then, there were heavy rains and flooding at some point, and despite being so far away, I flirted with possibilities of using the GPS on the phone to find some alternative routes to Phoenix. By the time we got to Phoenix, the battery was basically dead.
So, I used the better camera, on loan from my girlfriend.
The drive out from Tombstone to Phoenix is quite long, roughly two hours and a half, essentially. But it was through desolate fields with cactus lining the highways, and mountains (as well as lightning) off in the distance. It rained very hard, until approximately the point where we hit Tuscon, where it looked like it was more or less clearing. By the time we got maybe half and hour past Tuscon heading west, it was sunny and bone dry, and you might never know that there had been essentially a downpour not far from where we were. We enjoyed the cactus, particularly the Saguaros, again. But the temperature gauge kept going up and up as well, until it reached a peak of 108 degrees Fahrenheit. That, from a daytime cool of around 67 shortly after leaving Tombstone. Weird weather!
But we managed to get through all of that and reach Phoenix, which was cool. We were doing surprisingly well on time, as well, arriving in Phoenix half and hour before the game. But that was when traffic picked up, and there were other complications.
We struggled a bit finding the place. I had not bothered printing out the directions, foolishly, because there was the assumption that I could rely on the GPS, although the battery was teetering on death. I had assumed (wrongly) that the stadium was in Phoenix proper, but it was not. In fact, it was in a town called Glendale. When I asked one of the very few people on the streets (because it was so hot) how to get back on track, he said that I had to get out of the downtown district and onto the highway that we had just been driving on.
He kept mentioning another highway (it eludes me which one it was at the moment), and so that is what I did. But I was starting to worry a bit, so I pulled over at some convenience store and asked further directions. This time, it was a kid, and he said that I just had to drive down this side road, get onto the highway, and the stadium would be hard to miss. It is really big, he said.
Feeling better now, this is what I did. We drove for a few minutes onto the highway he mentioned, and indeed, before too long, there were signs for stadium parking. Even better, there was the stadium itself.
Unfortunately, the game had already started. Also, we had a Blue parking pass, which meant very specific areas only where we could park, and these were as far away as possible (of course).
We drove past a pretty bad accident (the second such accident that we drove past on this particular day, although the first had been likely due to the heavy rains), found the area, and then got to walking in the rather excessive evening heat. Throughout my life, I had been taught that while desert days are hot, desert nights are surprisingly cool, and so this had become my expectation. But it did not cool down enough to be really comfortable in Phoenix on any of the nights that we were down there, and this was the worst of them (or felt like it, anyway).
It was a surprisingly long walk, also. There are other things there, other big buildings, that might be malls or businesses, or I do not know what. It seemed like there were a lot of people about, even though the game itself had already started.
Still, we walked, and eventually, caught our first glimpse of the stadium proper. Indeed, it was huge, and impressive! I mentioned to him that this was the stadium where the Super Bowl that we watched a few months ago had been played, and also, the Giants had won one of the most famous and highly rated of Super Bowls here some years ago (that was why I decided to wear my Giants hat and Eli Manning jersey).
Finally, we got inside. Indeed, this place was very impressive! It was simply huge! I do not believe that I was in as big of a stadium as this one, and possibly never in a building quite so big as this, more generally. The amount of space in there is quite staggering, and it makes the event feel huge.
There was a time when I fully agreed with John Madden and Pat Summerall, about how the game should be played in the elements, preferably on real grass. But admittedly, once we got inside, and could feel the nice, cool air-conditioning, I had to admit that this was better this way, inside of a dome. If there is one criticism that I have of the stadium, however, it is that it does not allow more of the Arizona sunlight than it does. This is one nice aspect of Arizona, and it always seemed to me that they could have found a way to incorporate the sun more in the designs, perhaps with a glass roof and slightly lower walls, or something. Just my personal slice of opinion.
Another thing that was surprising was that it seemed like all of the stands in the stadium were full. Surely, there must be clusters of empty seats somewhere, although I could not exactly see where these were. It sure seemed like a packed house.
For whatever the reason, there were people wearing jerseys of other teams not playing in this game. Admittedly, I was included, with my Giants jersey. But I saw numerous people wearing 49ers jerseys, a few wearing Cowboys jerseys, and then some others, as well. Broncos, Vikings, Bears, Eagles, Lions, and, of course, Chargers and Cardinals. That was a little unusual, although it really was only a bit more than you might usually see at an NFL game or, more generally, at a sports event in general.
The Cardinals were winning, 6-0, when we took our seats, although they had had the ball when we entered the stadium, and now the Chargers had the ball (again, I need to emphasize the size of the stadium here). I caught a glimpse of Carson Palmer, the once legendary quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals who had moved out to Arizona, where he was finishing his career.
Both of these teams had realistic shots at qualifying for the playoffs, although not necessarily in going anywhere or doing anything once there. San Diego fans, however, have been particularly enthusiastic about their team's chances this season, and I could see why. This figures to be a tough team, and could well give Denver a serious run for the money for the AFC West Division title this season.
The Chargers were able to get a touchdown in response, although I believe that the extra point was missed. Since the NFL has been experimenting with longer extra point kicks during this offseason, there have actually been quite a few misses.
There was a time when I would go to such events, and make a point of arriving early (to the extent possible) and never dream of leaving early, usually even hanging around until there were few people left, and we were among the last ones remaining. But those days are mostly gone, particularly when it comes to NFL preseason, and especially since this was a trip out west to Arizona. We had hotel reservations in Flagstaff, which was still a couple of hours and change away. So, we left well before even the third quarter was fully over, thus avoiding traffic.
We were on our way to Flagstaff.
But the Chargers wound up winning the game, 22-19, off a last second field goal. This took place while my son and I were well on our way to Flagstaff, as we watched (and to a lesser extent, felt) the temperatures continue to plummet as we climbed higher and higher altitudes.
At one point in Sedona, up in the mountains, I stopped, having heard that you can really see a rich amount of stars in the sky. I had done similar the previous night, somewhere in between the drive from Nogales to Sierra Vista. But tonight, it was even clearer and more amazing! You could really see why they called it the Milky Way!
The desert already had offered us some amazingly clear night skies to enjoy. How could either of us know that this would be the last time that it would be clear enough for us to enjoy it?