The Houston Texans Sideline Experience
Photos By Craig Hlavaty
(Note: I didn't know that a man had fallen to his death yesterday at Reliant Stadium until I was leaving the complex on Thursday night. )
Check out Groovehouse's spectacular slideshow from the Texans and Vikings match-up.
Yesterday afternoon I had the honor of seeing a side of the Houston Texans home game routine that some fans would give their right something-or-other to experience. The match-up between the Texans and Minnesota Vikings was the last pre-season game of the year. We go live and hot next Sunday, taking the safety off against the Miami Dolphins.
According to Ferrell, our Houston Texans guide for the BMW Sideline Experience, our team is the only one in the NFL that allows fans the chances to gain pregame access to the field and the sidelines on game days.
The BMW Sideline Experience allows fans to walk the perimeter of the playing field at Reliant Stadium for about an hour before a home game. You get to witness pre-game rituals, like the ceremonial hauling of the ice to the Texans sidelines. You can reach out and touch the industrial cooling fans that the teams use, and even see the kicking net used by kickers and punters alike.
OK, I'm being facetious now. Everything aside, I am still just a fan, a yokel, a guy with a cellphone camera.
The BMW Sideline Experience comes with free food inside a banquet room yards away from the playing field -- they had a great spread for us -- with an open bar, dessert, and coffee included.
This room is also mere footsteps from the referees' locker room too, where the officials -- replacement refs in place while a labor dispute is figured out -- lay in a fetal position and try to find some sort of spiritual solace before they are called retarded and dickless for the next three hours by fans.
Female referee Shannon Eastin was on the squad last night as well. Not that her gender is a reflection on her refereeing skills. (Seinfeld bass)
Ferrell lets us know a few of the rules of the pre-game experience. Don't get on the grass -- frown -- and don't attempt to engage the players or ask for autographs. But if they wave you over to hang with them, you may do so. It's not a good idea to take souvenirs either. I didn't want that rusty stationary bike anyhow.
Connor, what's up with not letting me work out with you guys? I am but wee, but full of heart.
Another (informal) rule? Don't root for the other team. A few Vikings fans in the room laughed. None of us in Texans garb did.
You are also not to "park" behind either teams bench areas. This seems fair enough, since I saw a stack of Texans offensive playbooks. No telling how many bones I would have left unbroken if I would have attempted to flip through one of them.
There was also the Instant Replay machine nearby, the scourge of fans everywhere. It would be used plenty last night, including for that botched unnecessary roughness call early on in the game. The Tiger Woods-looking ref didn't look to pleased to have to rescind his call. It was a simple, beautiful, and brutal sack of a quarterback, and nothing else.
Once we had our fill of food, we were escorted out to the field. The floor of Reliant Stadium is a lot breezier and cooler than the rest of the stadium, as I am sure any sports writer will tell you.
ABC's Bob Allen was spotted sitting behind the Texans bench scowling. How can someone so tan scowl so much? Texans owner Bob McNair -- resplendent in a light gray suit -- was milling around with other rich guys just feet away from the bench.
Thursday's game was for the guys on the roster bubble to show their wares to the coaching staff. 22 of the guys who suited up yesterday won't be Houston Texans by next week. The main Texans nucleus, the franchise and marquee acts, weren't playing yesterday, but they were still out in force on the field.
Players and coaches spilled out of the massive bull mouth in the corner of the field. Andre Johnson sauntered out in PT gear with barely a wave. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips walked out by himself and gave the crowd a wave. Gary Kubiak looked pissed, but I have never seen the man naturally smile in my lifetime.
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of Sundays (and sometimes Monday nights)
The crowds on the sidelines before a game are teeming with media personalities, families of the players, and various people in suits.
About 30 minutes before kickoff we are told to exit the field and let the professionals get ready to open up shop. Gone are the fat men in their too-tight Brian Cushing jerseys and the women in their cleavage-baring Texans tops.
The BMW Sideline Experience is a must for any Texans fan with the means to lay down change for it, and not just because Ferrell and his crew make you feel at home. You can also almost get hit with a football fresh off the foot of a place kicker.