Life on the road in the NFL is certainly an eye-opening experience. Different stadiums, different cities and different weather are just some of the things that make road life in the NFL so hectic. KNBR radio host and 49ers sideline reporter Rod Brooks has been through it all, making him an expert in life on the road. After each road game this season, Brooks will fill 49ers fans in on what his life on the road is really like in his "On the Road with Rod," column exclusively on 49ers.com.**
The trip to Arizona was great. To go in there and see the team do what they wanted to do was cool. They were playing hard and coming together as one. It was kind of a validation for all the hard work they have put in so far.
You can tell these games are becoming a rivalry because each time the 49ers come in to town the Cardinals fans are greeting them with a little more hostility each time. This is my fourth year doing this and I have seen it grow into a very meaningful game between these two teams. So, to go in there and beat a rival is very cool. I remember someone asked Justin Smith if there was anything better than shutting up a crowd and he said, "Nope." To hear all of those people go silent as Kurt Warner fumbled away the ball at the end of the game was really great. It never gets old seeing the celebration from these guys.
After the game there was a lot of satisfaction after a job well done. It wasn't perfect, but it was effective. Again, the game was a validation of the work put in from training camp. It was a group of guys who stuck together. It might have been difficult at times during the game but the guys stuck together and that was important. Mike Singletary talked about that in his postgame session. The guys stayed the course. It sounds cliché, but it's so important in football.
The individual players take care of their responsibilities and then see how their responsibilities play out in the larger picture of things. There was a sense of satisfaction and pride that because each guy did his job and that it all worked out. The players were very excited after the game coming into the locker room, but as they loaded the bus to head to the plane, there was a realization that we have to do this again against a different opponent every week. Reality creeps in during the grind of a 16 game football season.
I think the flights seem much quicker when we win. The coaches are in a better mood, and those are the first guys that we see on the plane because they sit up front along with the York family. When you walk on and see Dr. York smiling and you see coach Singletary has a look of satisfaction on his face, it's nice to see that when you first get on the plane. Guys are laughing and joking and the vibe is lighter. It's a lot more relaxed. I remember the flights home after the road losses of last year. Those were some really long flights. It's a real gloomy mood after a loss.
In working for the 49ers I can say I have become emotionally attached. I root for them to do well. When I see that it puts a spring in my step, but that's not always a good thing. Case and point, I'm getting on the plane and because of the television sets that hang down; I'm always bumping my head on them. In fact, I'm always hitting my head on planes. When you're freakishly tall, that just happens.
But anyway, I bumped my head and a couple of the coaches laughed. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and special teams coordinator Al Everest had a good laugh especially. They were laughing at me because I do it almost every single time I get on a plane. It's like death and taxes, those things are for certain.
So is me hitting my head on an airplane.
Thankfully it happened after the win so the coaches just laughed at me. It ended up being a lot cooler. But if it was after a loss, I think they'd look at me like I was dumb for not ducking my head. Either way, I was happy to provide some entertainment.
A lot of people ask me where I am on the field during the game. And I tell them, when I'm on the field reporting, I stay in front of the play no matter where it is on the field. I try to stay in front of the play no matter what. Let's say the 49ers are on offense and they're driving. I would be 5 yards behind the first down marker. That gives me an opportunity to see if the defense is blitzing or not. I can also get a good understanding of the pass protection and I can see all the wide receivers or different personnel groupings. I can also see the routes that are being run or if the tight end is staying in.
If you just stand to the side it would look like a jumbled mess, especially at the line of scrimmage. If you watch on television, you can see everything thanks to the overhead view. But if you're on the sidelines, a lot of people don't realize you don't have the best view from down there.
You're a lot closer, but it's not the best view.
So that's why I stay in front of the play. If the 49ers were on defense I still stand 5 yards in front of the first down marker, so I can see what the entire defense is doing and how they're lined up. It helps me get a better understanding of what's going on.
When it's a field goal, I station under the uprights. If you were to stand by the side, you can't always tell if it's good or not. Ted Robinson and Gary Plummer are up in the booth looking at a side angle so I try to help them out.
I'll tell you guys a dirty little secret about the NFL that I've picked up from standing over there. It's also the main reason I stand under the goal posts.
If the ball goes directly over one of the uprights, a lot of times, it's difficult to tell if it went or not. I've seen instances where the officials that are back there, one would look at the other and shrug his shoulders with a confused look on their face as if to say, he didn't know if the kick was good or not.
The other guy, would have to be the one who make the call. So because of that, I stand under the goal posts so I can see it one way or another.
Most of the time they get the call right, but my rationale is if they have to stand under the goal posts, I should be standing under the goal posts too.
For all field goals for both teams and extra points, provided I can get there in time, you can find me standing under the goal posts. I'm not hard to miss either. I'm standing literally under the uprights. Pretty much, I'm the guy standing there who's not wearing a striped shirt under the goal posts.
I also stand there so my mom can see me and so she knows that I'm alive.
Minnesota is our next road trip, and it's going to be the first time I've been to the state of Minnesota, which is odd, considering I've spent most of my adult life traveling the country like a nomad following football games. To go somewhere I've never been before is exciting. Going to the Metrodome will be quite a rowdy atmosphere and I know that Brett Favre will be there too. He's going to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time and I always say no matter what sport it is, make sure you watch the great ones when they were around. Because when they're gone, they're gone. I say to myself all the time I don't think I watched Joe Montana enough. I saw him play a lot, but I didn't watch him enough. It was almost like I didn't appreciate it when he was around.
But I will say that I'm looking forward to seeing Favre play again. And of course, I can't wait to see Adrian Peterson up close and personal.
It's going to be another intense atmosphere for the 49ers. I think more so than it was in the Jiffy Pop Dome in Arizona. If you don't know what Jiffy Pop is – Google it. Then Google Arizona's stadium and you'll know what I'm talking about. It looks just like Jiffy Pop.
And for some of you who don't know what Jiffy Pop is, for some of us old folk, we used to have to make our popcorn almost by hand. We didn't just stick a bag in a microwave then just hit a little button and walk away and then all of a sudden you have popcorn. We had to make our popcorn. Physically make it.
Yes, I'm an old man… Get off my lawn!
But to be serious for a minute, that atmosphere in Minnesota will be loud. And on top of that, it's their first home game.
When I'm out there, I'll make sure to visit the Mall of America, the largest mall in the United States. It used to be the old site of their stadium; many people do not know that!
After checking out the mall, maybe I'll go check out where Prince was born. I'm a big fan of his music, I don't know what else to do out there, so why not. I think as long as it's warmer than 5 degrees I'll be happy. Hopefully it will be another fun road trip. But it won't be easy. The Minnesota Vikings are good. But it should be a great football Sunday. I can't wait!