Rose Bowl or Bust!

 
Column by Jim Gordon
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Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, a young man who is a big sports enthusiast usually becomes an Ohio State football fan.

I was no different and since my dad was a graduate of the OSU Law School, he was able to get tickets to the Buckeye home games and once or twice a year, he took me to see them play before they started showing the games on TV on a regular basis. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, either Ohio State or Michigan went to the Rose Bowl almost every year, depending on who won the showdown in the final game of the regular season.

If the Bucks prevailed, everyone got together with their friends and watched the game on their 12″ black and while TV screens and my mom and I also enjoyed watching the Rose Bowl Parade, especially after more and more programs were shown in color and folks started buying color TVs in the 60’s.

Through the years I always wanted to go to that game whenever OSU won the Big 10 title to earn a berth in what Midwesterners always considered the best of the bowl games. But with mortgage payments,Christmas presents for a growing family, those dreaded December taxes and eventually college educations to pay off besides the regular monthly bills, those dreams of a winter trip to the sunshine and colorful pageantry of such an expensive trip were put on the back burner.

But a few years ago, my youngest son Michael moved to LA to find fame and fortune in the technical end of show business as a Webb-page producer for Billboard Magazine which allowed him to rent a large enough apartment to put up family from the East Coast once or twice a year. So when the Buckeyes defeated Penn State and Iowa to clinch the Big 10 title this fall, I decided that if I was ever going to make the pilgrimage to the granddaddy of all bowl games while I was still upright and able to make the trip on my own, I had better sell some stock and pony up the inflated $450 round-trip plane ticket and two $145 game tickets so I could take my son to the game in return for putting me up at his place and showing me a good time while I was there for four days. Micheal’s Christmas present to me was paying $53 a ticket for the Rose Bowl parade seats for both of us and his girl friend, plus $10 for a parking space two blocks from our seats in one of the bleacher sections along Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena.

This was not the bleacher section where the bands and other groups stop and face the crowd and TV cameras to perform, by the way. Paying that much money to watch the parade while looking into the rising sun was not worth it, although there were portable restrooms right behind the bleachers. But we were far enough along the parade route that there were a couple long delays while the tow-trucks came to the rescue of over-heated floats. Then the shuttle buses which were to take fans to the Rose Bowl from the parade route were not where they were supposed to be which caused some added frustration. Fortunately for Michael and I, his girl friend was not interested in going to the game so she dropped us off near the old stadium and then picked us up after the game.

The Rose Bowl itself is sadly outdated due to the fact the only way to the inside of the stadium is through a couple dozen narrow tunnels which take 40 minutes to get through before climbing steep steps up or down to your seats from row 24 where the tunnel ends inside the stadium. Now there are 77 rows in the Rose Bowl and while there are no obstructions, our seats up up in the 73rd row and we could not see the replay screen because it was up behind us and far enough to our left that you could not see it very well.

Now I got these two tickets from an old neighborhood friend of mine who was an OSU alum. You would think they would be decent seats on one side of the field or the other but our seats were in the end zone right behind the goal post. And I heard that all the tickets were the same price which means that the big financial supporters got the good seats while the rest of the alum are given the cheap seats down low or in the end zone sections where you need binoculars to see the other end of the football field. This reminded me of the seats UVa. fans always ended up with every time the Wahoos went to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. At least the fan seats at the Music City Bowl in Nashville were on each side of the field so the spectators had a decent view of the game, no matter which end of the field the action is at.

If I were an athletic director, I would insist on decent seats for our team’s fans before forcing them to pay out all that mula to go to the game, stay in their motels or hotels and eat in their restaurants. This is why many fans stay at home and watch the bowl games on TV, especially in these tight economic times.

I was also shocked when my son came back from the Rose Bowl concession stands at the end of halftime and reported that they were all out of hot dogs and burgers. Our lunch that afternoon consisted of an order of fries and a soft drink. I’m glad I took an apple and an orange with me to the game. I didn’t even buy a souvenir program since they were $10 each.

But for all its drawbacks and inflated prices, the game itself was worth the trip since the Buckeyes played their best game of the season and came back from a halftime deficit to pull off the thrilling upset over favored Oregon. It was also an emotional high to watch in person as the best band in the land marched from a block at one end of the field while playing their signature song to once again spell out script Ohio which chokes up any true Buckeye fan. It is a tradition much like when UVa. fans sing the old song after every Virginia touchdown and victory.

So if you see me around Waynesboro wearing an Ohio State cap or visor, you will know why. Buckeye blood runs scarlet.

As one of my favorite songs proclaims, “When you get the chance to sit it out or dance … dance.” After all, we only go around once during our life-time, so when opportunity knocks, don’t be afraid to go for it.

This past summer, I decided to take most of a week and join a group of church folks from Augusta County and go out to “Wild and Wonderful W.Va.” to repaint and refurbish some homes of people who can not do it themselves for financial reasons or because of poor health or disabilities. I was never a boy scout and had never camped out where you have to pitch your own tent and sleep on the ground atop an inflatable mattress.

Although the trips to the restroom in the middle of the night were a little dicey in the dark, I did purchase a battery-operated lantern which turned out to be money well spent. During the week, they gave us one afternoon off so the youngsters on the work crew could go white-water rafting down the New River Gorge which has some Class 5 and 6 rapids.

When the guide asked our group if we wanted to be tipped over on purpose as we were about to go through a Level 2 rapid, the two of us who were the oldest crew-members picked disgression over valor. But the kids and even our minister were so disappointed that we finally gave in and decided we would risk drowning for a ride down through the churning water on our backs with feet forward since we also had life-preservers and helmets to keep us afloat and protection from bashing our heads against one of the many boulders in our path as the water swept us down-stream.

The problem was that once the guide righted the raft and got the rest of the crew back in the rubber boat, they were approximately 60 yards down-stream from this floating walrus. When I heard the pastor say “Hey, I think we are missing someone,” I shouted out, “Yea, me” and they started back to fish yours truly out of the H2O. I had lost my paddle and had to swim 20 yards to my left to retrieve it which was not easy since my life-preserver had stretched and was up under my chin by that time.

Another raft picked me up, but the transfer back to our vessel in the middle of the river was more of an X-rated adventure which I will delete from this account for censorship reasons. Needless to say, I declined the chance to climb up on this cliff and jump 20 feet into the river for fear of losing my life-preserver or having it entangled around my head while attempting to make my way back up to the surface.

While the experience was harrowing at the time and my legs were sore for the next couple of days due to the way one has to straddle the side of the raft while paddling, I remember with pride that I did not get thrown from the raft like some of the other much younger and nimbler novice members of our crew.

Maybe I should have been a bull-rider instead of a sports writer. No deadline stress which leads to chain smoking and early heart attacks.

 

Jim Gordon is the former sports editor at The News Virginian in Waynesboro.

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