Sunday, September 09, 2012

Saturday Service

If a football stadium is the closest many will get to a house of worship, this weekend I had the chance to serve as a doorkeeper in the house of a god.

Not my God, not the God (per Psalm 84:10), but certainly one that commands allegiance and adoration in my new home town. Sometimes known as Mighty O.

More than 50,000 worshipers - most clad in the florescent yellow and forest green of the Oregon Ducks - joined a staff of hundreds of contract workers who coalesced from all over the city and every walk of life.

I had an eight-hour game-day gig with an outfit called Crowd Management Services. I pulled on the bright blue polo shirt I was issued, tucked it into my regulation black trousers, and tried to look tough, non-partisan, and in the know.

My assignment was to stand outside the stadium for about five hours welcoming and directing people and doing my best to answer their questions about which line to stand in. My partner (known only as No. 133) and I were also tasked with chasing away the ticket scalpers lurking on our perimeter, as well as "educating" any member of the crowd who tried to light a cigarette on campus property. This was forbidden.

As the hours passed, I was able to tease out No. 133's life story. I also learned quite a bit from a patron named George, a lawyer from the small town of Hermiston, OR, also a second-generation Duck and father of Ducks. Others gave me various glimpses of their hopes, dreams, and concerns. Many were sporting fashions that in any other venue would look ridiculous - golden wigs, green body paint, etc. Quite a few chose our designated spot as a good meeting place; they called to tell the people they were meeting with (in all seriousness) to look for the woman in the yellow hat. I do not know when I have seen so many men and women in yellow hats. 

As kickoff approached, the crowds outside thinned. The scalpers made their last deals and left. We helped stragglers and lingered until after half-time, when it was time to tear down much of the crowd-management equipment and be redeployed to a stadium tunnel. Halfway through the fourth quarter we were sent to ring the field itself. We turned our flint-like faces to the wall, not the game. This time our job was to prevent the premature access of fans eager to swarm the field.

Per Pac-12 regulations, members of the general public were not allowed on the field until five minutes after the game and when the field was cleared of athletes, coaches, and journalists. We held a long rope and tried to look menacing and courteous at the same time. Only when the gates were open were we, the crowd management staff, allowed to drop our rope and turn to face the field - partly so we would not be hit in the head by the hundreds of footballs being thrown back and forth by children and child-like members of the crowd who had been waiting for their own chance to toss a pigskin.

For someone like me - born without depth perception - a hundred footballs flying at once was unnerving. The sun was setting and a chill quickly descending on the stadium. When the chance came to decide who would stay and who would go, I volunteered to check out. I signed off, handed over the polyester polo shirt, and once again returned to the world of ordinary citizens and Duck fans. I could be confident that my service had not only provided extra padding for our slender finances but had also helped keep the event decent and in order.


Gretchen O'Donnell said...

OH, my goodness - I can't imagine doing that! Good for you! I think that I would have been exhausted...but I hope it was fun, too! I remember one woman years ago telling me that she often served at the consession stands at Autzen Stadium and she said that the Grateful Dead fans were HUGELY PREFERABLE to the Women of Today (or whatever female Christian group it was, I'm not positive) fans. Interesting...

Marti said...

I'm not used to being on my feet for eight hours but it wasn't too bad - I enjoyed the novelty of it all and meeting some new people. Really wish I could have been up in the stands with the alumni band, but maybe next year :-) The regular Oregon Marching Band has yet to form - school doesn't start for another two weeks.

Have to laugh at what you say about the Grateful Dead v. [Christian women]!

Sunday after home games, sports teams from the kids' high school go and clean the stadium - along with. I saw the coach a few days ago and he urged me to join the family members that come along. Big job. Some 70 people with leaf blowers still take hours to go up and down every row and aisle.

Marti said...

I told the employment service I'd be happy to work next week's game as well... if they can use me. It's $60 we wouldn't have otherwise, and maybe this time I'll have a post inside where I can catch a bit of the game :-)