Travelling to see 9 professional baseball games at 3 different stadiums was probably enough for one year, right? Well, that was the plan, especially since Joel had started his Masters and was having to spend most of his free time working on that, we’d started discussing selling our house and buying a new one, and we’d entered the NCAA Final Four ticket raffle to get tickets to the games in Arizona in the following spring. But when I found out that I had to go down to Houston for training right after state volleyball was over, my obsessive planning self went to work and figured out a way we could hit up 6 stadiums in 4 days. And while Joel was stressed about getting all his work done and having to fly alone to meet me there, he was in when I surprised him with the plan for his birthday gift and was actually super excited (or at least pretended to be).
Most of the trip would happen in Dallas, but we lucked out with a game in Houston the night I finished training. In our travels, we’d never been to a college football game together before, and I had actually never been to a major college football game- my experiences were limited to the Ivy League, Montana colleges, and the University of Wyoming, so I was excited to see what the bigger time schools were all about!
Game 1 of our Texas trip was a matchup of two trendy college football teams that year- University of Houston and University of Louisville. Houston had started 5-0, including a big upset of Oklahoma (who was #3 at the time). They dropped 2 out of 4 in October, so they were quite as buzzworthy by the time we saw them in November, but their opponent had some buzz of their own in the form of Lamar Jackson, who was closing in on the end of his Heisman campaign. Lamar was just 2 touchdowns away from beating the single season record (and averaging about 4 per game), so we figured we’d get to see history being made against a skidding Houston team.
First observation of the stadium was that it was unlike any stadium we’d seen before. It was a cool but somewhat dated outside venue in the city- parking was extremely limited and we had to park quite a ways away and traffic was pretty rough getting both in and out. It was mostly concrete with accents of red speckled throughout with a bit of a coliseum type feel. Normally when you go to games, you hear really recognizable music, typically of the pop or country variety with maybe some more popular rap mixed in. Here, they played pretty much exclusively rap that I had never heard before- apparently hadn’t made it up to Montana yet. By far the weirdest part, though, was the food/drink situation. First of all, it’s one of the limited number of college stadiums that actually sells alcohol. Additionally, there didn’t seem to be much consistency or planning to the food or drink sales- we took our typical route around the stadium and there was really no rhyme or reason to the types either being sold and we even found that pricing was different from vendor to vendor.
I bought our tickets pretty early from StubHub and got my first lesson in double checking whether you have to print your tickets off or not. In the past when I’d used StubHub, we’d been able to use my phone to check in. However, these tickets were not that case, so I had to find one of the stadium workers who took me to a lady with a computer who printed them off for me. We had gotten there early, thankfully, but I was still pretty panicked that I was out of options. The lady was super nice and helpful, thankfully, and didn’t charge me to print them (as I learned later other stadiums do). I went with the usual endzone seats- we were just right of the uprights in the second row. The best part about the seats for this game was that we were right above the tunnel that Louisville came out of, so we got to see the Heisman trophy winner and the team’s pump up huddle right in front of us, which was cool.
Unfortunately for us, this game was Lamar Jackson’s least productive game of the season. Houston’s defense came out and crushed it, allowing only one touchdown from him (scored on our end) and Houston went on to win the game. We were bummed we didn’t see Lamar break the record, but we did see him tie it, and the environment was probably cooler with Houston winning. Their sideline was hilarious to watch- they were swaying back and forth and going crazy the entire fourth quarter and the crowd was great for a Thursday night.
We were worried about traffic (as we should have been) and wanted to get to the stadium early (which we needed to) so we didn’t stop anywhere for dinner when we left Sugarland. Instead, we got food at the game. Joel went with a hot dog while I went with a pretzel- our stadium usuals- and we each got a couple of apple ales. The apple ales were probably the best part- the vendor we found was the cheapest we’ve ever gotten in a stadium!
We’ve rented cars in several states, but Texas has the strictest rental laws in terms of insurance, etc. I wasn’t expecting to need my insurance card (others hadn’t needed it) but they insisted. They also would only take a credit card, not a debit, so that was surprising and different for me, as well.
As I mentioned, parking was horrible but at least cheap- I don’t even think we paid to park in the lot we did, but it was also about a mile from the stadium. The walk wasn’t bad, though, as the weather was perfect for mid-November; I wore capris and a blouse and was comfortable the whole time.
On our way back to our car after the game, we had one of the weirdest experiences we’ve had on these trips- we spotted some guy full-on sprinting in business casual clothing with a bag of popcorn under his arm. As he ran past us, Joel said a name (which I won’t share) and the guy turned- it was a kid Joel had gone to a couple years of high school with! He had been at the game, where he had clearly consumed some sort of drugs, based on the incoherent conversation we had with him. He kept asking Joel if he could have his phone because he his was dead and couldn’t find his car. Joel wisely told him that his was also dead and he shared a few more inexplainable phrases (“I need the popcorn because the Mrs. is keeping me hungry” was my favorite) before he ran off again into the night. Later, when we had made it to our car and were navigating back to the hotel, we saw him again, sprinting across a busy street about 2 miles away from where we’d seen him before. Don’t do drugs, kids.
Just a couple of sports fans touring the world, one stadium at a time.