The game became emotional almost immediately after walking into the building. I have always found it challenging to be in new surroundings. Without really understanding if the uncertainty comes from a shy personality or the inconsistencies that come with being disabled. The answer most likely lies inside a combination of both. Wired in personality influenced by the environment I have lived within. An environment influenced by the reality of a physical disability. We acquired our seats for this game late in the process. With much of the stadium already filled by purchased tickets, our options where pretty limited. We looked over the choices and selected seats in the upper reaches of the stadium. A stadium which had been refurbished from baseball, into a complex better designed for watching soccer. Having never been inside a stadium designed with soccer in mind. It was challenging to know what to expect. It turned out, our seats were at the top of a structure built for soccer. When the stadium was used for baseball, these seats weren’t there. We set out from Woodinville, for Portland on Saturday morning, beneath the sun filled sky. The ideal fall afternoon would light the way, with a great evening of football waiting. I anticipated a pretty convincing win from the Beavers. As Montana State plays in a less competitive college football environment. Upsets happen, and we have seen them take place early in this year. But, the Beavs have looked good in their first two outings of the season. Plus, playing in front of fans in Portland, who might not have the time to travel down to Corvallis. It felt like they would be ready.
The trip would be easier than going to Corvallis. Cutting the travel time down by about an hour and a half. We chose to stay in the Beaverton area, about a fifteen-minute drive, west of the city. After finding the hotel and settling into our rooms, we were ready to head into the city. Without having familiarity with the area around the stadium. Locating parking was weighing on the mind. The concern turned out to be useless, as we found a spot without struggle. Leaving us with a short walk through the city streets of Portland. Passing people wearing the traffic cone orange color that defines Oregon State. Portland has always been a city fascinating to my senses. When I’m walking through the streets of Seattle, my head is usually down. I often feel buried between the huge building and anxious in the overwhelming surroundings. The chaotic noises have me walking quickly, no matter which area of the city. Trying to reach my destination without incident. The opposite feelings engulf me when walking through the streets of Portland. No matter the reason I have been in the city. I have often romanticized that if Portland ever landed a major-league baseball team. It would probably be challenging to keep me in the Seattle area. There has always been something about Portland that brings a feeling of comfort. I took the time to enjoy the surroundings along the walk. Looking up and down the city streets, struck by the feeling of familiarity. There was no feeling of being overwhelmed. The air had a slight crisp from fall, but the feeling of summer hadn’t quite departed. We arrived at the stadium and made our way through the gate without hesitation.
Walking into the stadium was a little disorienting. The concourse felt wide open with exceptionally high ceilings. Our first task would be to figure out where our seats were inside the stadium. Finding an usher, he pointed us to a bank of elevators on our left. They would lift us up to the level of our seats. He informed us the seats would be on the second level. While the information inside the elevator told us the third level would be our destination. The highest deck in the stadium. My heart skipped a beat for the second time in those first few minutes in the stadium. The first skip took place while waiting for the elevator doors to open. I had taken a minute to look around, trying to locate the stairs. Often, the stairs inside a stadium provide a good alternative to a crowded elevator. Looking toward the rear of the stadium, I noticed the stairs leading to the upper levels. They were elevated almost strait upward and freestanding. The staircase even looked to be scary to navigate. Adding to my apprehension was, these stairs where completely empty. I couldn’t identify a sole using them. Granted, we had arrived at the stadium early. Hoping to get settled before the scheduled sellout crown descended. But, for no one to be on the stairs, was a little unnerving. We loaded onto the elevator with a group of fans. Finding ourselves to be the only people exiting onto the top floor. My anxiety level was climbing, hoping by some miracle, getting into the seats wouldn’t be too challenging. My hopes would be dashed in a matter of minutes.
Getting into our seats on Saturday night was challenging. Of all the stadiums, I have visited, these were the most difficult of seats. The pitch we had to navigate by using the steps was intense. The picture might not do it justice. As the surface of these steps wasn’t very wide and their height was incredible. When I walked up to the section, peering down the stairs for the first time, I was intimidated. There was a blessing involved in our seats. Of the six rows making up the section, we sat in row four. Meaning we had a relatively short distance to descend. It would have been scarier; had I been asked to make my way down to the first couple rows of the section. There were a couple more positives going in my direction. We had arrived early, without the bustle of other people. Leaving me with all the time and space needed to get situated. The first thing I did when arriving is find my way into the seat. Making sure to grasp onto a railing before taking any step. I found a way to arrive safely into the seat, but knew I couldn’t move around at will. There was a little more than a half-hour before the game was scheduled to begin. Thankfully, with help, I went up to grab something to eat and drink. Again, doing so before the majority of fans arrived at the stadium. We made it back into the seats without incident. I knew, I didn’t want to attempt those steps again. It even made me anxious to think about getting up to exit.
Seats like the ones I’m describing, make the game challenging to watch. I have been in similar positions throughout my life. Being seated high in a stadium, where steep steps need to be navigated. There becomes a part of my emotions spending the entire time sitting in fear. Worrying about my ability to move again. The feeling playing with my ability to fully enjoy the contest. But, the emotions have never completely stopped me from going to an event. I have declined invitations, knowing the seats chosen will be too challenging. For the most part though, I’m willing to take on the discomfort. The time spent with friends and family often feeling too important to pass up. And I like to think I have gotten better over the years about managing the fear. Not allowing those emotions to ruin an evening at the stadium. As I sat, wrestling with my own feelings. Watching others move around easily, doesn’t help. It often adds another layer of frustration and sadness. Looking at other fans walk up and down these stairs. Carrying food and drink for not just themselves, but the others in their care. Seeing fathers with handfuls of goodies, as they walk down the steps with their children. My heart hurts with the knowledge that I will never get to experience that. But, I try and find the joy in watching them with their children. As I watched a little girl walking down the steep steps with her dad in tow. She was carrying a small bag of chips with dad carrying the rest. The whole stadium was clapping in rhythm just before a kickoff. She had to stop mid-step and start clapping along with the stadium. Her dad, put on the breaks quickly. And after a few moments, gently reminded his daughter to continue moving back down to their seats. It was a moment that made me smile and warmed my heart.
Even with all the unforeseen challenges. I’m happy the football game in Portland wasn’t missed. The Beavers looked good for the third week in a row. Outlasting Montana State by forty points when all was said and done. Moving Oregon State on to a 3-0 record. Awaiting the mighty Trojans of USC next Saturday evening in Corvallis. The game will be a serious test, with the Trojans coming in undefeated, ranked number seven in the country. I will be there, hoping for a miracle. Oregon State had this game in hand by the end of the first half. Leaving little doubt around the disparity in talent between the two teams. We decided to depart at the end of the third quarter. Providing ample time and space to make our way out of the stadium. The final fear of the night was upon me, preparing to walk up the steep stairs. There were many more people around compared to before the game and I hoped the stairs would remain clear. I stood and turned toward the steps. There didn’t appear to be anyone on them, nor was there anyone about to walk down. I grasp the hand rail and began the short climb. When the moment was reached. I had to let go of one railing in order to gain hold of the next one in line. My body experienced a moment of instability. Just as the moment occurred, I heard Bernard telling me to tighten my core. Something he reminds me of over and over during our training sessions. The reminder works, my core tightened, balance was regained. I found hold of the next hand rail and reached the landing above. We made our way to the elevators and exited the stadium into the Portland night.