When caught up in the moment, it’s easy to exaggerate and embellish the facts. That’s not the case with the Autzen Stadium experience.
There’s truly nothing like watching a football game in one of the most raucous, breathtaking and spectacular stadiums in the country. Whether you’re an Autzen regular or a first timer, I can promise that the experience will be a memorable one. But just in case you need some pointers, here are some observations and suggestions as to how to enhance the Autzen experience.
This coming from one who started attending there since the Autzen’s inaugural 1967 game versus Colorado (whoops, we lost that game!). The venue and success have changed in enormous ways since then (shout out to Uncle Phil, as well as the other mega donors).
Get there early when the gates open. Milling around outside the edifice gives one the perspective of just how massive the complex really is. Early arrival beats the throngs that will soon follow you in. Many come late from either poor time and travel management in transit, or some just love having to make everyone in their row get up and acknowledge how stylish and inconsiderate they are!
Walk the turf: this surface is scientifically engineered to maximize both performance and safety of the athletes. You will also notice how domed the field is in the center, and lower on the sideline boundaries. This is for drainage during the monsoons, despite the fact that, according to legendary PA announcer Don Essig, “it never rains at Autzen Stadium!” Run your hand over the turf and feel the black small rubberized aggregate embedded in the field, designed to mitigate impact.
Check out the donor sky boxes and dream of one day being a big shot like them. They have meals, drinks, TV monitors of other games going on, and they hob nob with other big wigs. Fun dream time, and though void of reality, it is cool though to ponder life in those oh-so-expensive seats.
Find your seat and bring cushions for the back side to sit on. Smaller to park your behind on, aren’t they? You own that piece of real estate for as long as the game lasts.
Wear the gear of your heroes. Duck fans, we have confiscated almost all the colors of the rainbow and we wear them proudly. If you’re the “sacrificial lamb” of the day, by all means wear your team colors. Black and blue may just suit opposing fans after we’ve finished working your team over!
Eat the food. It will never have a Michelin rating (though it may temporarily satisfy hunger pangs), and some have used the term “gut bombs” with a certain accuracy. Almost without fail someone with excess alcohol and food will barf on others. Be alert, because you can usually see this foul regurgitation coming. For better eating fare, see the sky boxes above.
Check out the restrooms beforehand and know the speediest way to get there. Excitement, tension and stressful competition from the game and fellow fans, can make bathroom trips more frequent. Know your body capacity to avoid accidents. Don’t be a victim of elimination, unless it is merely time burnt from an unexpected loss at our stadium.
Stand and doff your cap for the color guard and the National Anthem. Honor the flag, country and the abundance of freedoms that let us attend these events.
Cheer and yell your head off. Getting hoarse is write of passage, and Autzen is renowned for its massive crowd noise across the football landscape. Be a force multiplier; leaving the game with slight hearing loss is a minor side effect.
The jumbo-tron is pivotal to maximize the entertainment. You may get a birthday greeting, have the whole crowd watch you kiss your significant other, or be highlighted wearing and cheering our team. Miss a play while gabbing? Watch that replay on the big screen. Of course, does one ever get tired of watching ‘The Pick,” cause “Kenny Wheaton’s gonna score!” always goes down smooth before kickoff.
“It makes you want to shout!” A tradition sung by friend and foe alike between the 3rd and 4th quarters. It will be on the jumbo-tron, so cut loose and join heroes of the past singing our unofficial Duck song. Group karaoke to the max!
Stay after and let the masses crush each other heading for the exits. Savor the win, time and place, as it passes all too quickly. Drift down to the field in a victory celebration with straggling players.
High five total strangers with each great play or score. Indeed they may become eventual friends to unite with you in vanquishing our future foes.
Be courteous and show some class. Respect others especially opposition fans. We all know what it feels like to be verbally trashed at other venues as Duck fans.
Forget the booze and umbrellas, as they are not allowed in through security.
The add-ons. Check out the Moshofsky Center before the game to get revved up with gear and suds, and admire how spacious the indoor practice facility is. If you enjoy a long walk, spend time in the Oakway Mall with some great boutique shops and better food before kickoff.
Be a missionary. Invite friends, family, colleagues and others to enjoy the experience that is Autzen. It is a trip to behold, and promoting the Duck Universe is needed now and in futurity. So sell Duck-dum with your passion, verve and commitment.
Finally, there are good reasons why top football teams cannot seem to find flights into Eugene. The risk is simply too great to get their collective hat handed back to them. Keep the home field advantage ever in our favor! Our stadium is easily a top-10 venue. Make it even better, louder, and with the superior home field advantage, we will storm Autzen time and again!
Steven E. Smith
Powell Butte, OregonTop Photo by Kevin Cline
Spencer Thomas, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches football at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, GA.
Steve Smith was born and raised in Eugene, and has been attending games since 1957, and is a long time season ticket holder. He is an avid student of Duck football and basketball and is a retired Dentist currently living in Central Oregon. He loves his family, Ducks, golf, Toastmasters, his church community and this site.
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