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 it so hectic. KNBR radio host and 49ers sideline reporter Rod Brooks has been through it all, making him an expert. 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.**It was a pretty standard business trip out to Indy. We left an hour early because it was a further flight going into Central Indiana, but really it was a normal trip, nothing out of the ordinary. It was quite business-like. Obviously the team knew they had themselves a pretty serious challenge ahead, so there was no goofing around. The players had to be ready to rock mentally and physically to deal with an undefeated team like the Colts.
And even though the 49ers came up short, the focus was there, all the way around.
When we got into Indianapolis it was a beautiful weekend, the weather was great, especially on Sunday. It was so beautiful they left the roof open!
From what I understand that's a rare occurrence there, even when it's not bone-chilling cold, they do not always open the roof. Why they did it? I don't know, but it was great. It was a little cold, but it was nice being outside.
I hadn't been to Indianapolis since I was a child and it was when I went on a road trip with my family. We stayed overnight in Indianapolis and I was what, maybe 14? I'm significantly older now, so it's been awhile since I've been out there. It really was like a brand new trip.
Living out in the Bay Area, (which of course is beautiful) doesn't compare to the Midwest in some regards. When you go out to the Midwest in the fall, it's actually the fall. The leaves are changing colors, and everything feels like it has that fall crispness in the air.
As I write this now, it's 80 degrees in San Francisco and its November 2nd! When you look at other places around the country, especially at this time of the year, you start to think, "Oh! This is what fall is like! This is what a change in the seasons is like!"
And another thing about the Midwest while I'm on the subject, I'm always floored in a good way by the relentless-niceness of people in the Midwest.
Generally, people are good no matter where you are, but in different parts of the country there's just a different kind of vibe. But in my travels around the country, I have found that people in the Midwest are just unfailingly nice.
I say that, because when you go into a visiting city, people in that city wherever it may be – love their football team. When you're with the visiting team, even if you're not a player, which I'm not, but being with the visiting team means that you represent the enemy.
So there will be some places that I won't name, but they'll find out who you are and what you do and then they'll treat you like as if you were coming into town to give their children night terrors.
But in the Midwest, they love their team, and my goodness, they were just so nice.
"Oh, we hope you're having a nice stay! We're so happy the weather has cooperated! It's beautiful! We're looking forward to a great game! And, we're just so happy you're here!"
I just remember looking around like, "What's the joke? Why aren't you folks foaming at the mouths?"
The people are just so, so nice. It's a weird vibe, which I mean in a good way. It's a weird vibe, to go into an opposing team's city and have the fans be nice to you instead of being hostile. The folks in Indianapolis had niceness in spades.
That same niceness carried over even on Halloween, which was the day before the game.
We went out as a radio crew to dinner, Ted Robinson, Gary Plummer and myself. Thanks to Ted's generosity we went to The Capital Grille, a very fine eating establishment. And again, people were just very nice. They found out who we were, and they asked us if we were having a nice time and all that sort of stuff.
I didn't' get to go out with all the Halloween revelers, for two reasons. One, I'm not really a Halloween-guy. When you get into your 30s, the whole point of dressing up gets lost on me. And the second reason I didn't go out was because it was a school night – the night before the game. You can't be out all night the night before game. But the interaction I had with people with on Halloween night was much of the same. They were just as ridiculously polite as they has been on Friday night and on Sunday, before the game, during the game and after the game.
Last Saturday was all about my field trip to what I think is the Vatican of racetracks, the cathedral of speed in this country, The Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And while I didn't get a chance to ride the track, I was driven around it. If you ever get a chance to go out to Indianapolis, go there. It's just like Lambeau Field or old Yankees Stadium or Wrigley Field. It is American history.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been around for 100 years, since 1909. And it's one of those places where you walk into it, you know you're somewhere where a lot of history has happened before you and a lot of history has happened once you're gone. You can just feel the history in that place.
You see the cars that won the first couple of Indy 500's and they do not look like cars. You go from that to the technological marvels that are doing laps at 220 mph, it's amazing. To see the evolution of the automobile and racing in this country was a really cool deal. I have to give a great thanks to Eric Powell of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for taking me around. I was just a kid in the candy store.
I got to kiss the bricks and all that kind of good stuff. I got to cross one more place off my list. That was pretty cool.
The next day, I was amazed once again by Indianapolis' football fans.
When the Colts were on offense, you could hear a pin drop. Lucas Oil Stadium holds about 69,000 fans too. And when I say it was quiet, it was quiet! When the Colts did something positive, people would politely clap for about five seconds and then they would stop, because they knew Peyton Manning is at the line of scrimmage and he had some plays to call.
I never experienced that before, where a home crowd had the wherewithal to just totally in unison, be quiet. When the 49ers were on offense it got louder, but it wasn't raucous like it was in Houston or other cities. But when it was third down for the 49ers, all of a sudden it got really loud. After that play happened, they got quiet again. To not have that constant hum of noise throughout a three hour football game was weird. I had never experienced that before, where a crowd knew when to be quiet and knew when to make noise on cue.
In Indianapolis, the crowd was quiet, loud, quiet – kind of like a Nirvana song. Which are typically quiet in the beginning, loud in the middle and then quiet in the end. I guess it was just a football phenomenon.
At the end of another close game that didn't go in the 49ers favor, I still have to get my job done. No matter what I have to help get coach Singletary on the radio with Ted and Gary. I try not to get in Coach's way. He's got a lot on his mind.
The thing about Coach Singletary which we've all grown to love is that he says what's on his mind, he's not giving you coach speak. He's very deliberate about what he says and he thinks about what he's going to say before he says it. I just stay out of his way. Ted and Gary ask the questions and I just give Coach Singletary the equipment so he can get answer their questions.
I've always found it interesting that in professional sports, we get to go into the locker room to pester people about what just happened. We have our jobs within the media; we want to know things so we can pass that information along to fans. But, I've always found it odd that we go into the locker room right after a defeat, especially one as a close as the 49ers were dealt to the Colts. And the last thing these guys want to do is talk about the game.
It's almost like someone is in your bedroom as soon as you wake up in the morning and they want to ask you about how you slept or what did you dream about? You wouldn't like that, but after a win or a loss, in this case a loss, the media goes into a locker room and they basically say, "Tell us what happened…"
The flight home was a pretty standard flight. Guys were disappointed in the loss, but they knew that they played well enough to win and they didn't do enough to win. I think it was a teachable moment, no matter who the opponent, you have to take care of business.
The thing about the flights on the way back from road trips is that it's a great decompresser. You're strapped in this aluminum tube for four hours with your teammates. In the back of the plane where the players sit, they hash it out.
They haven't seen film yet, but the players replay it in their minds. They're all together, so it's a perfect time for them to talk it all out. By the time the plane lands back in the Bay Area, they've kind of dealt with the loss. It still sticks with them, but after a four-hour flight, the players say to themselves, "OK, this is what I didn't do, this is what WE didn't do," then they talk to each other and they get some input here or there. The bottom line is that all the talking doesn't heal the wound, but it gives them the opportunity to talk about it, instead of stewing alone.
The 49ers will be home for the next two weeks, but I look forward to breaking down the team's road trip to Green Bay. It should be a one-of-a-kind trip, and as always I'll have all the details for everyone.