Going bowling

Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham
sportsdom@ntelos.net

gatorbowl1.gifI still hate the bowl system – think it’s dumb, pointless, a horrible way to end the season for the best sport on the planet.
That said …
I found myself (I hate to admit this) having a good time at the Gator Bowl.

Ahem – not that I wouldn’t have had a much better time if the game actually meant something toward the crowning of a national football champ.
But …

“Wanna go to the Gator Bowl?” the e-mail from my college roommate beckoned from the ether the day that the bowl bid became official, and within the hour, the details were beginning to get set in stone.

gatorbowl5.gifThe wives would tag along and make it a family outing – not to mention a group excuse to escape the early winter in Virginia for the warmth of North Florida.
More than anything, it was a chance for the group to get reacquainted. Jay and I go to a few football games a year together, as we have since we were first-years at the University of Virginia in 1990 – our first game was the 20-7 win over Clemson that ended the historic 29-game losing streak to the Tigers – but the four of us hadn’t spent any quality time together since Jay and Jennifer’s UVa. Chapel wedding in 2006.

gatorbowl2.gifOf course, once we’d made the 600-mile drive, it was all about the game – at least for the fellas.
“We’ve got to win this game,” Jay said to me more than once, and even in spite of my sentiments toward how silly the bowl system is, I had to bellow out my agreement.

gatorbowl3.gifI was surprised at how many people I saw wearing orange – the papers back home had been all aflutter with details of how UVa. had not sold out its ticket allotment, and how this was going to be bad for the Cavs’ chances to get invites to big bowls in the future and that kind of thing.
Our hotel near the airport – about 10 miles from the stadium downtown – was a sort of unofficial Virginia Headquarters, or so it seemed to me when we first got into Florida. As it turned out, I think the same was true pretty much of the entire city of Jacksonville – where there were pockets of Texas Tech fans here and there, but the predominant mantra of the moment was Go Hoos!

gatorbowl7.gifThe Representation of the ‘Hoos was also felt at the stadium – where our side of the field was filled from endzone to endzone in the 100 and 200 levels, probably doubling what we saw on the red side of the field.
And you could hear it in key moments of the game – it was actually louder down there than I’ve heard it in years at home games at Scott Stadium when Texas Tech had the ball.

And even here at this writing, on Friday morning, I’m still hoarse from the bit of screaming and yelling that I tried to offer to the cause.

gatorbowl8.gifThe game, as you are no doubt aware now, didn’t end up the way it had seemed to be going for most of the day – Texas Tech scored 17 points in the final 3:31 to pull out a 31-28 win.
But in the end, the fact that I’m about as big a fan of the bowl system as I am of having long needles inserted into my eardrums was a bit of solace.

“Oh, well. So we lost a meaningless exhibition game,” I lied to myself walking back to the parking lot afterward.

gatorbowl9.gifThe good news – I came back home with a sunburn for my troubles, which is actually something that I had wanted; you know, a sign of the decadence of being able to get away for a few days in the dead of winter and get some sun.
And I came back with this – a feeling that this was my first bowl game, but certainly not my last.
You know, until they wisen up and decide to have a playoff – and then I’ll become a regular there.

   

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.


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