SB Nation provides its contributors with a number of insider opportunities to gain press access to events, garner interviews and other opportunities only beat writers receive. However, it also provides the opportunity to wear the fan cap every once in awhile, while also maintaining a semblance of professionalism. Perhaps that fandom takes away from that professionalism, but we at Cincy Jungle like to think we tow a solid line.
I went to Arizona to cover the Bengals and attend the Sunday Night Football game as a Bengals die-hard. Saturday provided the rare opportunity for a meet-and-greet with Bengals players and coaches, while my nephew was the beneficiary of photo-ops and autographs. Sunday provided more family bonding and, of course, the exciting game between two NFL powerhouses.
Sunday started with a semblance of what my brother and I do on Sunday mornings out here in Southern California--a workout, tossing the football around and then getting set to watch the game. With the contest not being until 6:30 P.M. local time, we had a lot of time to continue to catch up with family, talk about the prior evening's events and get set to tailgate.
The plans for the evening were conducted over lunch, provided by a local pizzeria. Oddly enough "Cheezheads" in Sun City was a local restaurant owned by Green Bay Packers fans, and their began piling in to the booths for their late afternoon affair against the Vikings. If you're ever in that area, support a cool local business that also happens to make some solid pies.
Some of the faithful to both Cincy Jungle and Inside the Jungle reached out to meet up at the tailgate, which I had thought would be pretty easy. Unfortunately, the way University of Phoenix Stadium and its parking was situated, it just wasn't possible. Because of the scarcity of parking adjacent to the stadium and the high demand for attendance at the game, ticket holders needed to pre-pay for parking.
My astute uncle Jim and his connections informed us that free parking and shuttles into the stadium were available at a high school just a few blocks away. While we were notified plenty of times that tailgating wasn't welcomed at the school, let's just say we took our time getting to the shuttles. I donned my custom jersey, as we began to get our bearings and do some of the customary tailgating activities.
While in the parking lot throwing the football around and attempting to pinpoint where the shuttles would be picking us up, we met "Danny", who had come to the game with his family from New Mexico. His clan was comprised of Bengals, Steelers and Cardinals fans, and he sort of morphed into our group as we all got to know each other. He's on the left below--apologies for the blurriness of the pictures.
We found the shuttles and they took us to the stadium, where we made a brief pit stop at a parking lot ad-hoc bar, complete with TVs streaming the late games. After getting a few bottles of suds there, we continued making our way into the stadium.
The stadium was quite nice once inside, and it grew increasingly loud. I've been to a number of stadiums in my day and UOP Stadium is easily one of the loudest even with the roof open on a beautiful Arizona evening. Most of the Cardinals fans were agreeable, save a few when the Cardinals got a big third quarter lead, and I'm proud to say my homemade jersey made quite the impression.
Even though the Bengals didn't come out on top, the weekend was definitely memorable and enjoyable. Not one of the brief 48 hours we spent was wasted and hopefully the two teams will meet once again this February in San Francisco.