I am off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Rose! Happy New Year everybody!
I had better mention baseball here. Kirk Gibson and Darin Erstad (among others) were stand-outs in baseball and football. To paraphrase Pete Rose, "I don't know where my next ticket will be. It all depends upon where I want to buy it." Most likely it will be just outside the southwest gate of the Rose Bowl just before kick-off. Give me some competition! See you there!
Of Ann Arbor
January 2, 2004
Can you top this? True story. Why do I go to the games? Because I do not know what is going to happen next! I went to the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena on New Year's Day. I got off of the 210 freeway one exit earlier (Allen Avenue instead of Hill Avenue) than I usually do and got caught in a horrendous traffic jam. Forty minutes after exiting the freeway I finally pulled into the Parson's parking structure. The usual $5 parking charge had been upped to $25. I thought that it would be doubled, not squared. Never mind, I paid it because I wanted to get off the street.
I leafed through the Michigan Football Media Guide gaining some insights on the Michigan team. I left my car 49 minutes before game time for the 30 minute 1.5 mile stroll to the Rose Bowl. Scalpers appeared on street corners about three-quarters of a mile from the Rose Bowl. I did not give them the time of day. I do not talk to scalpers until there is no road between me and the stadium.
Face value for a 2004 Rose Bowl ticket was $125. At the 2002 Rose Bowl I purchased a $150 ticket for $40. I figured $40 was a good opening bid at this Rose Bowl auction. The stealth F-17 military flyover took place and I commented to a prospective seller "That is cooler than a frisbee." Eight minutes to game time. After making my $40 offer to a half dozen prospects, one bit. I suspect that he was a scalper who had doubled his money in ten minutes. I thanked him and set off.
I chugged a can of 25 cent lemonade I had carried in my pocket (hey, you get thirsty asking people if they have an extra ticket for sale), bought a game program, passed through security, and walked through the turnstiles.
There was a new security wrinkle. Free clear plastic ticket holders with neck straps were handed out free to all of the fans. Outside the fence the scalpers had been trying to sell these plastic ticket holders (anything to make a buck!). My ticket was for section 12, row 63, seat 120 in the north end zone. The opening kickoff occurred about the time I was walking past the 50 yard line outside the stands. I bought a beer and made my entrance. Michigan was driving towards the opposite end zone.
About one hundred other latecomers were clogging the aisle stairs. A half dozen plays were run before I made it to my seat. If the Rose Bowl was a baseball stadium with home plate situated in the northwest corner, I would have been looking straight down the first base/right field line. As it was, I was peering directly down the west sideline. This perch was ideal for watching a Chris Perry sweep to the right (west) sideline before turning on a dime and cutting inside for 9 yards and a first down. After USC blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt, Keary Colbert caught a 25-yard td bomb from Matt Leinart on the Trojans fourth play from scrimmage. That was coming right towards me, sitting in the midst of the Michigan Wolverine section.
I cheered the Trojans score while explaining to the Michigan fans behind me and to my right that I was a UCLA fan who felt obligated to root for the Pac 10. I comforted the Michigan fans with words of encouragement, quoting Joe Falls of the Detroit Free Press "Oh How I Hate Ohio State!" I told them this was the 11th Rose Bowl game I had been to and that in the five previous Rose Bowl games I had seen Michigan play, the Wolverines had won once. Hey, I had to give them hope!
For almost the entire first quarter we were on our feet. We only got to sit down during change of possessions and at the end of the quarter. The fans behind me wanted me to sit down. I could identify the problem as being two Michigan fans that were standing five rows in front of me. They were causing a domino effect. I was thinking if the Big House in Ann Arbor is like this where everybody has to stand, I don't want to go there!
At the end of the quarter the story came out that there were three people occupying the two bench seats next to me. They were two brothers, one with his girlfriend. They were college-age, likely Michigan students, and a bit drunk. Somebody had given them the two tickets for free (there is always somebody that is too hung over on New Year's Day to go to the game!). Their third ticket was on aisle 15, row 62, seat 23. When they found out that I was a party of one, they asked if I would trade tickets. I said no, I did not want to squeeze past 19 people to the aisle, exit the tunnel, reenter the other tunnel, and squeeze past 22 more people. This Godfather from Ann Arbor then made me an offer I could not refuse. He said he would give me a hundred dollars if I traded tickets with him. I questioned him "for real?" and he pulled a one hundred dollar bill out of his pocket. I handed him my ticket and he handed me the hundred dollar bill and his ticket. I said "Happy New Year!" and started my "excuse me" move to the aisle. Meeeeechigan! A Wolverine fan sitting behind me gasped "he just gave him a hundred dollars!" See ya! This was not scalping. I would bet John Ashcroft's ass on that. That was an exchange of a used ticket for another used ticket plus $100.
The move from aisle 12 to aisle 15 caused me to miss five plays. At twenty dollars a play, I would have been willing to miss the entire game! Aisle 15 is closer to the west sideline. I was still 25 yards deep in the end zone, three aisles north of my UCLA regular season perch on the 35 yard line. I had not had a ticket on aisle 15 since the 2002 Rose Bowl. On that occasion I discovered I had purchased a lost/stolen ticket and my seat was already occupied by a Miami fan. I then vamoosed and bounced from seat to seat until end of the first quarter before aiming for the 35 yard line on the east sideline. That would not have been so easy to do this year with almost everyone wearing their ticket in a plastic ticket holder strapped around their neck. This year the ushers at the tunnel entrances were checking every ticket closely. Damn terrorists! They are making it harder to seat jump!
This time the seat was empty and everybody was sitting. I reached my new improved seat in time to watch a fluke Trojan interception by Lofa Tatupu off a John Navarre pass that bounced off of Wolverine receiver Braylon Edwards' heel. A 3-yard td pass Leinart to LenDale White followed that put USC up 14-0. A couple rooting for UCLA (hey, this game was played on the Bruins home field) was on my left and a couple from Michigan on my right. Two doctors (USC fans) behind me had a discourse at halftime about Alzheimer's disease "the only way you can tell that it is Alzheimer's for sure is when you do the autopsy and you check the nerves at the stem of the brain." Tell that to Ronald Reagan! It turned out that the UCLA fans were from Villa Park. I commented about the El Modena high school student who had been shot to death two months ago in Orange Park Acres. That is about halfway between Villa Park and our home in Santiago Hills.
USC won a share of the National Championship with their 28-14 win over Michigan. The win for USC was easier than I thought it would be. I thought the Trojans would win by more than a touchdown, say by ten points. Monday morning quarterbacking you say? No, today is Saturday. Here's a non-negotiable prediction for tomorrow's Sugar Bowl game: LSU will beat Oklahoma by ten points or more. I also predict that it would cost more than $40 for a last minute ticket to that game.
Do I know any LSU fans? Robert and Margaret, our neighbors across the street, are from Louisiana. The proprietor of the Southern Comfort Apartments/Bourbon Street restaurant on Sukhumvit Road (behind the Washington Theatre) in Bangkok is a Geaux Tigers fan. In 1984 I saw LSU beat USC 23-3 at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. The LSU fans I met that day were all happy campers. Prediction: on a neutral field (say the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona) the 2003 USC Trojans would beat the 2003 LSU Tigers. LSU would win the game if it was played in the Sugar Bowl and USC would win if it was played in the Rose Bowl. Yes, yesterday's Rose Bowl victory should count as a home game for USC. Michigan is now 1-5 in the six Rose Bowl appearances I have seen them in. Three of those would count as road games (vs USC) for Michigan and three as neutral site (two vs Washington and one vs Stanford). Indeed it was the 1970 Michigan vs USC Rose Bowl where I first bought a "student" ticket (hey, I was only 17) at face value to get in. I learned early on that the L.A. Times was a liar when it came to quoting the true scalper's ticket prices. The closer you get to the stadium and to game time the closer you get to the 1929 stock market crash for the scalpers. Prices drop fast as kick-off approaches.
To recap, yesterday I spent $25 for parking, $40 for a ticket, $10 for a program, and $6 for a beer. That's a sub-total of $81. The bartered $100 gave me a profit of $19. But was that a real hundred dollar bill or a counterfeit? I examined it real closely, copied down the serial number, and purchased two PlayStation2 CD's at Toys `R Us for Rickey's birthday tomorrow. Upon further review, the play stands! Come back soon, Michigan!