So after watching UTEP beat Rice by 3 on November 6th, I spent the night in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and then took a long, lonely drive up to Albuquerque to see New Mexico take on Utah State (also a close game). The weird thing about driving in New Mexico is they have these border checkpoints really far north, a lot father north than you might expect, perhaps America's second line of defense against illegal immigration?
But I digress. When I started off my odyssey to see all of the FBS stadiums, I never imagined I could turn it into being a real journalist. But after 100 stadiums, I started writing for StadiumJourney.com, and the greatest thing about that is I sometimes get to watch games from the press box, which is a real treat. Number one, you can see the game much better since you can see the whole field, which makes for some great pics. Number two, you get to sit inside on a REAL chair, not out in the cold (or rain) on a hard metal bench, so that is a big plus, especially when the weather outside is frightful. They also usually feed you, which is nice, but another great bonus is that sometimes I am allowed to go out on the field to take photos, which is awesome, because it is a vantage point I wouldn't get to have otherwise - this doesn't always happen, depends on what "level" of credential they give me.
It is also great to sit in the press box and listen to the announcers, and hear the constant back and forth checking of...who make that tackle? Was that a 2 yard gain or 3? What number is he? Etc. I don't always get to sit in the press box when I write my reviews, since I can't always get a pass, but I love it when I can.
On that note, a colleague of mine asked me if writing reviews somehow lessens the experience, because now watching football has become "work". I laughed and said, heck no, because it actually changes my focus. I pay more attention to the stadiums now, the architecture, the chants the fans do, the layout, etc. so I actually have better memories of the stadiums I visit than I used to. Of course, that could just be a recency thing. But I also notice that I rarely miss any of the great plays on the field, even when I am heads-down writing, because I can sense it - I have noticed many times while I am sitting there writing during the game, I tend to look up at arbitrary times, just in time to see a TD run or an interception or a ridiculous mid-air grab. I can't really explain it, except to say that I can feel the anticipation - something changes in the crowd, there is a subtle murmur in the instant before the play as fans (and my fellow journalists) realize what is about to happen. I somehow feel that change, and it makes me look up just in time.
One thing about sitting in the press box that you might not now is that cheering for or against either team is not allowed, per NCAA rules (in working press boxes a professional atmosphere needs to be maintained, so people can work). The rule is not followed perfectly (you will usually hear some whispered cheers when the home team has a great play), but in general the staff keeps us honest.
I know I haven't said much about UNM's stadium here, but that's okay because I wrote a review (check it out below). I will say the best thing about their stadium is the food - you can buy fried Twinkies there. Fried. Twinkies. What more could you want?