One Man Does Three Bowls in Four Days
The challenge: Three games in three cities, coast to coast, on a four-day bowl bonanza, including back-to-back stops in two of America’s latest late-night cities.
I survived and was able to read enough of my notes to file this report:
The teams: Texas Longhorns vs. Michigan Wolverines.
The setting: Nothing beats coming down Arroyo Seco and catching that first glimpse of the Rose Bowl sign, the huge stadium somehow fitting right in with the natural surroundings. Any walk on a golf course feels good, even if the Rose Bowl’s course is filled with SUVs on game days.
Color and pageantry: The pregame featured flyovers from F-15 jets and a classic P-51 Mustang, plus a B-2 Stealth bomber. Way cool. High school and the competing teams’ bands were the only performers on the field. What a concept. And few songs sound more like college football than Michigan’s “The Victors.”
The game: An instant classic. Michigan’s Braylon Edwards kept catching touchdowns and Steve Breaston kept returning kicks to midfield, but Texas’ Vince Young was the best playmaker of all, running for 192 yards and four touchdowns and passing for 180 yards and another score.
The game featured three ties and four lead changes, the last one coming when Texas’ Dusty Mangum’s field goal cleared the crossbar in the final seconds to give Texas the 38-37 victory.
The experience: After 91 years, the Rose Bowl folks have this thing down pat, right up to their control over the weather. It’s always a classy presentation.
One hard part is trying to shake off the effects of the New Year’s Eve parties. It’s also difficult to find a central rallying place before or after in the widespread metropolis that is L.A.
I thought Pasadena’s Old Town seemed like the perfect place for postgame partying; it wasn’t overrun with happy Texas fans.
The teams: Auburn Tigers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies.
The setting: The dungeon-like Superdome in New Orleans. With every year that passes, it feels more outdated, from its dim lighting to the blue, orange and purple seats that look like a 1970s airline cabin. There’s nowhere to tailgate around the stadium, but who needs grills and coolers when the world-class restaurants and bars of the French Quarter are within walking distance?
Color and pageantry: Can’t have flyovers in a dome. But for patriotism, high school bands performed a nice rendition of “God Bless America.”
At halftime, flag girls and cheerleaders dressed like pirates performed while the bands played “A Pirate’s Life for Me.” Arrr, matey.
Virginia Tech’s band was big on dancing, including the hokey pokey. And will someone explain to me how Auburn, deep in Dixie, adopted the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, the North’s song in the Civil War, as its fight song?
The game: Unfortunately, this one held to form. Put two of the nation’s top three scoring defenses on the field, and you’d expect a result like this, Auburn’s 16-13 victory. In the first half, the teams had a total of three field goals to show for four trips inside the opponents’ 10-yard line. Auburn did manage a touchdown in the third quarter, but Virginia Tech scored twice in the fourth on touchdown passes from Bryan Randall to Josh Morgan -- the second an 80-yarder with just over two minutes remaining. But Auburn recovered the on-side kick and ran out the clock.
The experience: Laissez les bons temps roulez.
For debauchery, nothing beats Bourbon Street. I keep expecting to turn the corner and see the end of the world. I’ve made enough trips to New Orleans to learn that you always bring a pair of shoes in their waning days down there -- and leave them. Not even a chemist could tell you what’s in the mix of liquids and trash on Bourbon Street, and I’m not sure any solvent can remove them.
A Virginia Tech fan was dragging a stuffed tiger through the French Quarter. I’d rather be hanged and burned in effigy than have my likeness dragged through the muck of Bourbon Street.
Of course, most people aren’t looking down. They’re looking up, to the balconies, where there are always students ready to show their
For those who kept their clothes on, it was hard to tell the Auburn fans from the Virginia Tech fans. Even though orange is their teams’ secondary color, orange attire was plentiful.
The teams: USC Trojans vs. Oklahoma Sooners.
The setting: Pro Player Stadium is just another place, a structure that doesn’t give you any glimpse of the outside -- not that there’s anything to see in the surrounding areas.
Color and pageantry: After the low-flying jet that looked as if it would hit the scoreboard, it was all downhill. The Sooner Schooner, Oklahoma’s covered wagon, is cool, but it always looks smaller in person. The Trojan marching band, tucked behind the end zone, could not dominate the proceedings the way it does at USC home games.
The Orange Bowl halftime show is one of the greatest threats to fankind, an overproduced, overly long tribute to shlock. It’s a bunch of kids in brightly colored outfits running around the field, with unimpressive singers on stage. This time it was Kelly Clarkson and Ashlee Simpson. Simpson was booed at the start and finish of her act, and was complaining about the audio system to an underling as she left the stage.
The game: When the teams exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter, it looked as if the matchup between the two top-ranked teams would meet the hype. But after USC recovered a fumbled punt return and scored an easy touchdown, you could see the entire Oklahoma team slump on the sidelines. They were out of it and the Trojans put a hurtin’ on them.
USC quarterback Matt Leinart was outstanding, his receivers even better. Leinart threw an Orange Bowl-record five touchdowns. This game was over by halftime, and the celebrities, from Sean “P. Diddy” Combs to Shaquille O’Neal, started leaving in the third quarter. Final score: USC 55, Oklahoma 19.
The experience: South Beach is still one of the best nightlife scenes around, and fortunately it’s up to the challenges of providing party spots for fans who wanted to celebrate following a game that ended after midnight. Trojan fans took over the Clevelander and packed it until the early, early hours.
The game was so lopsided that by the time it ended the majority of the Oklahoma-heavy crowd had cleared out, leaving empty seats around the stadium. The whole thing felt anticlimactic.
I should’ve just stopped at the Rose Bowl.
J.A. Adande can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Adande, go to latimes.com/adande.