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A Game Like No Other

Last night, I had one of the strangest and most vivid dreams I’ve had in a long time. It was about Texas football, so to the site it goes.

I’m sitting in the Rose Bowl, right at the 50-yard line, ten rows up from the field – a perfect vantage point. What’s odd is not that I’m sitting in thousand dollar seats, but that I’m the only spectator in the entire stadium. I’m sitting, literally alone, in a 100,000 person arena.

There is a football game being played, though, and I am watching. Texas and Michigan are on the field, playing a game like any other. The only extraordinary thing about it all is my singular presence in the stands.

It is immediately an odd experience. When I groan in disappointment, I do so self-consciously, for my reactions do not blend, as they normally would, with a throng of surrounding fans. When I cheer, it is awkward and seems futile.

Watching a football game by yourself in the stands makes you acutely aware of how much your external reactions to the game are tied to those around you. It seems almost pointless to jump up, and you quickly learn to forget about high-fives. Even the groans of disgust after bad plays start to seem pointless.

After a while, you begin just to react in your mind.

The soundscape is disorienting, as well. Without the usual crowd noises, the audio of real football takes a different shape. The crunch of pad on pad is crisper, certainly louder, and becomes a part of the way you digest the game in a rather unexpected way. When there aren’t any competing noises with the football game itself, you begin to expect to hear what you see. And you do.

A diving player slams into the ground with a Thud you would not normally expect to hear. The grunts of exertion from the players themselves coincide with their physical actions. There is yelling – lots of yelling – that you forget exists when you’re watching with a hoard of other people.

In my dream, there are officials on the field, calling the action like they would any other. Their whistles are shrill – too loud, I think, considering the circumstances. I am at first surprised when the lead official does not walk toward the sideline and stare blankly at nothing in particular while announcing the penalty through his microphone. Instead, he simply announces the penalty to the coaches. Everyone seems aware that the stadium is without fans. If they know I am watching, they give no indication.

A glance at the boxes high up in the stands reveals further emptiness. Even the booth where coordinators call plays is unattended. If not for the offcials, the fully functional scoreboard, and the fierceness with which I can see the players competing, I would wonder if I were watching a scrimmage.

The play of the game itself moves at a speed with which I am unaccustomed. The lack of distractions heightens my focus on the battle below, the effect being a slowing down of the action as I concentrate with greater intensity on each play. My appreciation for the warfare among linemen in the trenches is heightened. The ability to hone in on individual players, as opposed to a play as a whole, improves.

It is a zen-like experience, and I think, for a moment, about when an athlete talks of blocking out everything around him, focusing so intensely that he believes he is the only ones in the arena. That is how I feel, and even though I am the only one in the stadium, it is a different experience than I would expect.

The game itself proceeds rapidly, no doubt because it is a dream. Chunks of time disappear. The score fluctuates without cause. The dream is about the experience of watching the game, rather than the competition itself.

That is, until the end, when there is but eight seconds remaining on the clock. Texas, trailing by seven points, sits at the fifteen yard line, needing a score to tie. As can only happen in dreams, Greg Davis is suddenly sitting beside me. Texas has taken a timeout, and he asks me what to do.

At this point, nothing surprises me, so I don’t hesitate even momentarily to respond.

"Veer-22 Jack Right," I tell him. He nods.

Texas runs the play, a fade pass to Limas Sweed, for a touchdown. Ryan Bailey matter of factly ties the game with an extra point. Excited, I ready myself for overtime, but it never comes. The players instead remove their helmets, shake hands, and begin processing off the field. I turn to ask Greg Davis why there won’t be any overtime, but he is no longer there.

I am alone, once again.

I awake.