Monday, December 04, 2006

Connoisseur of the Concessions

Tanya At Centerville
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
My wife, Tanya, witnessed her first football game back in 2002 when she attended the opening home game of the Powell High School football season. She was hardly impressed. Despite her sub-par initial reaction, it really had nothing to do with the quality of play regarding the hometown Panthers or their opponents that night, but rather it was about her idea of the game of football influenced by a land far, far away.

Since she was 11 years old, Tanya lived in New Zealand until moving to the States at the ripe old age of 30. And if there's any one thing you need to know about New Zealand, it is that (as a country) gridiron football is probably about as popular as badminton is here in the U.S. The Kiwi version of football held in high esteem is called Rugby. As you probably have guessed, gridiron football takes some getting used to if one has been watching Rugby most of their life. Undoubtedly, the same would be true of watching gridiron all your life and then watching Rugby.

But her sour outlook on gridiron football started to change a year or two later when she tagged along with me to towns like Dubois, Belfry, Heart Butte, Drummond and Lima; she started taking a liking to the game of gridiron football—especially the eight-man version. And soon after that, she even developed a fondness for particular teams.

In 2003, when we travelled more miles than any other year, it was my own wife who first told me that Drummond was the team to beat after watching them defeat Noxon early in the season. For the most part, I was humoured that she had come so far from her initial disliking for the game to picking a team that she considered the best. Nevertheless, I was confident that Harlowton was the best team after watching them trounce Joliet and Denton during the regular season—not to mention that my knowledge of gridiron football was much more credible than hers.

So, during the quarterfinals that year, we both watched Drummond defeat Harlowton 40-0 and (as many know) went on to win their first state title. What do I know?

Yet, Tanya's true passion for attending any game extends beyond the gridiron play—resting instead on the concession stands and their offerings of popcorn, nachos, candy, soft drinks, hot dogs and hamburgers. The outcome of the game (for the most part) is really secondary to her.

So, when I asked her recently to give me some kind of list of small town football's outstanding concession stands, here's what she had to say:

BEST OVERALL CONCESSION STAND: Big Sandy and Drummond (could this be the largest factor behind her loyalty for Drummond?). NEEDS-MORE-WORK CONCESSION STAND: Rosebud (candy was the only offering). IT'LL-COST-YOU-AN-ARM-& A-LEG CONCESSION STAND: Custer. BEST CHEESEBURGER (her favorite concession stand item): Drummond and Denton. BACK2BBQ CHEESEBURGER: Harlowton (served cold) and Gardiner (not cooked thoroughly). And although no single concession stand stood out in its excellence in popcorn, she only remembers the NEEDS-MORE-WORK POPCORN: Eureka and Dubois (Wyoming). HONORABLE MENTION to Rocky Boy for serving saveloys (the Kiwi name for a hot dog/sausage with red casing).

Of course, Tanya is not the only one who benefits from the concession stand when we travel together. There are those weekends when she doesn't travel with me and as a result, I might only purchase a small bag of popcorn and/or a candy bar. I typically don't stop long enough to savor the concession stand offerings on my own. But when Tanya is along, I can be sure that she'll find me on the sidelines somewhere and force me to pause long enough for a delightful, char-broiled hamburger or hot dog with a cold Coke.

And if I'm lucky, she'll help me in the long drive home after the game.