To the Valley of the Stun – pt. 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Finale

Game Day – January 1st, 2007

I woke up and realized that I had missed the new year. Oh well… I was only marginally interested in the new years anyway. I’ve always been one of those people who hated New Year’s Eve. When I was a kid, they were great. I would hang out with my parents who would play board games with their friends the Fishers. Even then I loved Trivial Pursuit. Then, some years, John would spend the night. We would load up on candy and pizza and hang out in my parent’s basement watching the stand-up comedian marathon that HBO would run. (then we would concoct some sort of lethal homemade firework out of our stash… Mom, you didn’t read that).

But as an adult, New Year’s Eve is always a let down.

That is, until you have the best New Year’s Day planned that you can remember. And that was what I was looking in the face this day.

We partook in our usual breakfast of McDonald’s and got prepared for the game. John spent the morning complaining that his legs were killing him. Obviously, it had to do with his ‘drunk walk’ episode of the night before. He was taking 3 steps for my every 1 step. Not a great ratio. Perhaps it might also have something to do with his overall health, but that is just a theory.

After breakfast and some laying around, we ‘oranged’ up (not that I hadn’t been wearing orange the whole time) and set out for the stadium.

fiesta-bowl-trip022 Just as we were pulling into the stadium (about noon) my cell phone rang and it was my sister Kim (and bro-in-law Chris) who had come down on a same-day charter for the game. Perfect timing. We were on opposite sides of the stadium, so we started walking towards each other to meet up. It was very cool to see Bronco Nation descend on the parking lot. Our section was looking like Bronco Stadium on game day!

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Since we were still some 7 hours to game time, we had a little time to kill. We decided to walk over to this shopping and entertainment area adjacent to the stadium. As we got closer, we heard loud music and wondered what was going on. Aparently, there was some sort of pre-game party happening, and we could get in for only $20. Since, what we could see was mainly just shops and about 15 people in there, we decided we’d just pass and moved on. We did find a store selling Fiesta Bowl and Boise State gear nearby and ventured in. After John spent his requisite amount of cash, we were able to leave.

fiesta-bowl-trip027It was time to mosey over to the “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Brings You College Football’s Biggest Party” which we had purchased the $20 tickets for when we got game tickets.

Once inside the gates, all we saw was a sea of orange and blue. It was an unbelievable sight. You don’t see this many orange and blue people in one place in BOISE on game days, let alone somewhere 1,100 miles from home. It was absolutely breathtaking to see all of your fellow Broncos in one place.

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As you can see from the last picture above, we were there early enough to secure us a table and a place to park for the day. It wasn’t long before this whole area was completely packed and there was nary a seat to be had.

After finding a table, we set out to obtain our comlimentary meal. On each ticket was 3 coupons. One for a free “meal”, one for a Tostitos “Chip and Dip Plate” and one for a drink. We fought through the crowd and got our coveted $20 meal.

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I had never had a $20 hot dog before. I thought that perhaps it was like those fancy restaurants in Manhattan who serve the $40 gourmet hamburgers or something. Alas, it was not to be. It was just a regular old dog(quite wrinkly, actually) with no condiments, I might add. Humorous to me was that the booth giving these things out was huge and every line was 10 people deep. Who knew the demand for shitty hot dogs was so great? Oh… I almost forgot the potato salad. As I HATE potato salad, I didn’t partake (but some did get on my bun… Eeeeewww). To top it off, there was also the ounce and a half of salsa and 15 chips! So, we had that going for us… I have to figure, that whole meal cost them maybe $0.35 per person to produce, and everyone paid $20 to get in the door. I wonder where that money goes…

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There was lots of stuff going on in this party area. There were other food vendors (but with such a gourmet meal like they gave us, who had room?). There were these gigantic truck sized big screen TV’s all tuned to the Rose Bowl. That was a nice touch. Rock climbing walls. An astrojump for the kids. There was a even boxing exhibition (with actual fighters, not people from the crowd, which would have been more fun).

Then there was the corporate swag giveaways. There were many many corporations (all sponsors, I’m assuming) there to hand out all kinds of crap. And since we were in a crap receiving mood, we obliged them. Orange headbands from Geico. Free Sucrets throat lozenges (which were a life saver later). Free blue and orange beads, beer can coozies, orange pom poms… And, of course, the infamous ‘Taco Hats’. You name it, they were giving it away. Normally, I wouldn’t give two shits about free crap, but hey… when in Rome.

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We mainly spent the day sitting around the table, talking about the game. Constantly amazed by the sheer number of Bronco fans that kept showing up. Even in the Oklahoma end of the party, Broncos outnumbered visible Sooners 10 to one. At ‘our’ end, it was 25 or 35 to one. Remarkable. The other thing I noticed is that there were many more ‘crazed’ Bronco fans. You know… the guys who really dress up for the game. The cape wearers. The wig guys. The face painters. When it is your team, it is really fun to see. I wish I could be one of those guys, but I just don’t have it in me. We were beginning to wonder just where the OU fans were. They weren’t at the block party the night before. They weren’t at this party. Maybe they didn’t show up?

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You can see from the pictures that it was a beautiful day. The sun was out and it was nice and warm. There were airplanes towing large advertising banners circling the grounds endlessly. Occasionally, one would pass between us and the sun, casting a shadow on us for a few seconds. Kim and I took to grunting and pointing like cavemen whenever it would happen. I would just be reading my newspaper, then the shadow would cross us… “grunt! grunt! *bang the table* Ugh!” It was very “Quest for Fire” and very funny. Maybe you had to be there…

fiesta-bowl-trip041 Of course, the bands came through and the cheerleaders did their things. We were approaching game time. You could sense a change in the crowd. The “Boise! State!” chants were dying off. People seemed to go a bit into a quiet focus. Or maybe that was just me.

It was almost here. Once you go into the stadium, it is a different feeling and we were about to head in. It was happening. The wait was over.

Game time.

To Be Continued…

To the Valley of the Stun – pt. 3

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Finale

Insight.com Fiesta Block Party – Dec 31st, 2007

Still not feeling 100%, we arrived a little late to the pep rally. We could hear Coach Pete speaking as we were walking to the main stage from where we parked (Sun Devil Stadium Lot). But, we were unable to make out what he was saying. We could tell there were a lot of people there from the sheer volume of the cheers.

We finally got to the stage area and found our way into the beer garden. I figured, hell… it’s New Years Eve, I’m in Phoenix with 6000 fellow Broncos, I might as well muscle through a beer. Remarkably enough, with each beer I had, the better and better I felt. I do love beer…

The pep rally was kinda cool. Mark Johnson was the MC and they had a parade of Bronco people and famous Idahoans up there. Not exactly Rah Rah, but it was still cool. Speakers included (while we were there) AD Gene Bleymaier, president Dr. Bob Kustra (who is an amazing speaker) they also had former Boise Junior College player and NFL Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox (who is also father of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox) and MLB Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew of Payette. There were the requisite cheers and chants from the crowd. We got our first taste of the madness that was to come in the next 36 hours.

My personal highlight of the pep rally was when the cheerleaders started throwing out foam “Idaho potato” hats to the crowd. Directly in front of us, they threw one, and a drunk guy lunged for it with the same hand he was holding his full beer. The beer exploded all over the place in the ensuing melee, including all over the people around him. HIGH-larious!

The marching band played (video) and the cheerleaders did their things. Here are a few pictures to get what it was like for us there. I’m definitely no professional photographer but it was ‘magic hour’ and I like the self portrait…

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This block party was very cool. It was a lot like the old Boise River Festival used to be, only bigger and there was simply a sea of blue and orange. There was nary an Oklahoma fan anywhere to be seen. We were confused by this, but figured maybe there was something that all of those OK people were doing instead of being down there. I have said it before, but there is nothing as thrilling to be somewhere on the road with thousands of people all there for the same event. I just love seeing all the Bronco fans showing out for the team. I would say 80% of ALL people at this whole block party had some sort of Boise State gear on. Most, had more than one piece (like we did). As Coach Pete said, Bronco Nation did, indeed, show up in force.

They were selling more Fiesta Bowl and Boise State merch, so we had to fork over a little more cash. We got ticket lanyards, seat cushions, etc. I also got the greatest shirt… It has the Bronco helmet on it and in big letters just says “LATER SOONERS” Who knew this shirt would be so prophetic, huh?

After filling our shopping bags, and being 3 or 4 beers in, we decided to make our way up the street and see what they had to offer. There were the usual carnival games where carneys bark at you to fork over your cash to try to win a gigantic teddy bear. John and I used to LOVE those things at the fair when we were kids. So, just for old time sake he had to try the baseball-throw-at-the-beer-bottles one. No, he didn’t even come close. But, that’s what John does… Spend money like water.

fiesta-bowl-trip133 Speaking of spending money like water, there was a booth that was selling crazy hats. Since they had bronco orange and blue, he and Ilinda could hardly pass up the opportunity. John spent the rest of the evening referring to his “pimp hat”. Aren’t they cute?

After the hat purchases we moseyed on down the way. There were tons of food vendors, booths with stuff for sale, street artists, etc etc. It was quite the party atmosphere.

Since we had been without alcohol for maybe 20 minutes, John was getting antsy. We went into one of the bars along Mill Ave. called “Big Fat Greek Restaurant”. I ordered one of the cheep beers they were offering. Ilinda got a sea breeze. John, on the other hand ordered, and I quote, “Give me the biggest glass you have, fill it with ice, then fill it with Jack Daniels.” Sure enough, the bartender comes back with a pint glass, ice, and Jack. Apparently, John was done screwing around. He was getting it ON.

We downed our drinks in about 15 minutes, which we spent watching the MPC Computers Bowl back home in Boise on their TV’s. Nevada was hanging with Miami. Go Nevada! Yes, John did finish that drink in 15 minutes. Well, you gotta have a hobby, I suppose…

fiesta-bowl-trip137 More walking. Then the bands both marched up the main drag of the party. Anyone who knows me knows I love marching band music, so this was very cool. First the Blue Thunder Marching Band came by. (video. By the way, I love the lady right in front of me ‘conducting’ the band as they come by. No, she wasn’t affiliated with the band at all). Then came the Oklahoma band (video), which was really the first time we really saw any Oklahoma representation the whole night. I will admit, OU has a great fight song. Classic. And their band is friggin HUGE. Having the bands playing really added to the atmosphere that evening.

fiesta-bowl-trip134 fiesta-bowl-trip135fiesta-bowl-trip144 Down the street a bit was a girl doing face painting. Well, we couldn’t let an opportunity like that pass by and Ilinda really wanted a Bronco. So, she got a Bronco! Yes, that is Paul J. in the picture looking on…

And, the finished product.

fiesta-bowl-trip166 fiesta-bowl-trip165 After the face painting, we wandered down to the big screen to watch the end of the MPC Bowl. Nevada was getting SERIOUS love from the Bronco crowd down there to beat Miami. Well, that is until Jeff Rowe threw that game ending interception and everyone left. Way to go Nevada. Way to end your career, Rowe. Terrific performance against BSU in your house on Senior day, then give the bowl game away against Miami. Bravo.

fiesta-bowl-trip148 So it was, we went back to the beer garden. The particular beer garden we found had some crappy local band playing in front of nobody. John was really feeling his booze at this point. He was quite silly. For some reason, he was walking around most of the night with both arms in the air like he was already at the game. Also letting loose with the random, “Wooooooooo!” See the picture for an example. I love that shot…

We also fooled around with the camera a bit, and I make another apperance in the pictures. I love the one of me and John. I call that one “Me & the Gay Cowboy”.

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As you might be able to tell from the pictures that John is fully 3 sheets to the wind at this point. In full roar, if you will. When he gets like this, he talks non-stop to anyone and everyone. We were stopping strangers and taking photos. He was the life of the party.

fiesta-bowl-trip164 We ran into a guy whom John called “The Blue Pimp”, who reportedly told him to “have some coffee”. Now, when a guy dressed as a pimp at a Bronco New Years Eve party tells you you have probably had too much to drink, you should probably pay attention.

Sensing that John was on the verge, we ambled down the street to a joint selling pizza slices to get a little food in us. I had stopped drinking earlier since I had the feeling I might be employed to get us home. Which was probably a wise move as John deteriorated.

John had gotten quiet now. You know the end is near when he STOPS talking. He had that full ‘drunk walk’ in effect. I like to call it the ‘foot-slap’ walk where he’s not really stepping, but more slapping his feet down. Bobbing and weaving. Since he was obviously done and I was getting tired we decided we might as well call it a night, and headed off to find the car.

Yes, for those of you out there astute enough to notice that we haven’t reached midnight yet. In fact, we made it back to the hotel at just after 11. John passed out with his clothes on, and Ilinda and I watched the celebrations on TV and chatted a bit. She got quiet not long after that, and it was just me. I tried to stay up until I saw the ball drop, but I think I fell asleep something like 11:45.

You know you are old when you fall asleep before midnight on New Years Eve. You know you’re even older when that fact doesn’t seem to bother you all that much.

Besides… tomorrow was THE day. I had bigger fish to fry.
To be continued…

To the Valley of the Stun – pt. 2

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Finale

Sunday, December 31st

We woke up after a night of drinking to see just how lovely the hotel and area we were in actually was. Kind of that run-down big city depressed neighborhood near a freeway sort of feel. Needless to say, our plans were not to hang around the hotel much.

So, John made a run to the nearby McDonald’s for a tasty breakfast. I had my usual, sausage biscuit and 2 hash browns. I was more interested, however, in the large Dr. Pepper. I had that “hungover mouth” going pretty bad, especially after 5 hours in a poorly ventilated casino the night before .

All three of us were in the same room, simply to save cash. We’re all friends so it was no big deal. The highlight of that morning would be when Ilinda was in the shower and John went into the bathroom to do his morning “business”. Having spent a lot of time around John, if he had pulled such a stunt on me, I would have had to kill him. That is the toxicity we’re talking about here. Ahh… married life…

fiesta-bowl-trip015Also, John was quite proud of his latest addition. See left. I do know one thing… John, my man, you gotta get your ass to the gym. I know ’round’ is a shape, but that is ridiculous! Thus, the running joke for the weekend was John’s weight and lack of wind. I laughed pretty hard when he got winded rolling over in bed. I think when you break a sweat when you brush your teeth, that might be the sign for a lifestyle change…

Since we certainly weren’t going to hang around our hotel for the day, we decided to venture out and explore the area a bit. We wanted to head out to find the stadium just so we would know where we were going. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me for the day, which was a real bummer. Sorry for the lack of images.
fiesta-bowl-trip017University of Phoenix Stadium is literally built out in the middle of nowhere. As you can see from the pictures. I understand wanting to build where land is cheap and all, but man… there is NOTHING out there. They are building a big retail/entertainment complex next door to the stadium, but there is certainly no nightlife or vibe around that place. Which is too bad. As amazing as that stadium is, after talking to some people down there who have been to the Fiesta Bowl in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, that is just much more fun. I can believe that.fiesta-bowl-trip018

The area of the stadium really reminded me of the area that the Idaho Center was built here at home. That was in the middle of farm land when they built it 10 years ago too. They have put a bunch of stuff around it now, but it is still out in the middle of nowhere. For my money, I would MUCH rather attend events on BSU campus or in Qwest Arena downtown before driving all the way out to Nampa. But that’s just me.

After a quick tour of the Stadium area we set out to find Tempe and the Mill Ave District where the New Years Block Party was going to happen that night. So we got back on the freeway and navigated the maze.

We found it easily, and since we were on the right side of town, John wanted to go back to the casino. Imagine that… John wanted to gamble some more! So, we headed over there at about 10 in the morning. I can tell you this, it was not as much fun in there in the morning. There were probably 70% fewer people, but some how there was 200% more cigarette smoke. That was the WORST ventilated casino I have ever been in. I dropped another hundred in no time and had to head outside to get some fresh air. By the time we left, maybe a little more than an hour after we got there, I felt like I had smoked about 20 packs of cigs. Ugh. I could hardly breathe. Absolutely disgusting.

One other thing about the casino I found strange. Both that morning and the night before, we had many many dealers as they migrated around. Of course, we were wearing Boise State gear as we were playing. Not one of the dealers had any clue about what was going on that weekend. They thought we were Denver Broncos. They asked why we were in town. They asked who we were playing. They asked where we were playing and what game it was. They had absolutely NO clue about the whole deal. And these weren’t female Filipino immigrants either. We are talking regular old white guys. I know, Phoenix is a big city and there are always lots of events going on, but shouldn’t your dealers know when and why people might be visiting your casino? How can NONE of them be college football fans? Amazing.

Another funny dealer story. You know how they will ask you where you’re from, what you do, etc. One dealer was asking John what he did, and John told him he ran a lumber mill. Dealer says, “well, you’ve got all your fingers so you must know what you’re doing.” To which John held up his left hand and said, “actually… I don’t…” See, John had his left index finger removed due to a bone tumor years ago. We found it hilarious, but the dealer was falling all over himself trying to apologize.

Ilinda wanted to do a little shopping for their boys at home, so we found a large outlet mall just off the freeway. Arizona Mills Mall was pretty impressive for an outlet mall. The strangest thing was the Neiman Marcus outlet store. I have never been in a legit Neiman Marcus. I don’t know what sorts of things they have. But, if this outlet store was any guide, I’ll never need to visit one. They had some of the most hideous 80’s style hip-hop brightly colors paisley shirts for sale… regular price $500, now on clearance for $230. What!?! I couldn’t believe the prices on what I was seeing. There was a sport coat that would have been right at home in the wardrobe of Sonny Crockett on Miami Vice for $3,500 dollars. The thing was, the store totally felt like an outlet store. Cheap fixtures and racks. Kinda grungy. “BLOW OUT CLEARANCE” signs. Combined with the prices, it was seriously like shopping on another planet.

We had plans to have lunch with some local people that Ilinda knew from the internet, so after shopping for a bit in the other stores, we were off to find this Mexican restaurant called Garcia’s. By this time I was pretty hungry, so that was just fine with me. We found the place and pulled into the parking lot. The strange thing was there were 2 buildings, both with “Garcia’s” signs on either end of the parking lot. We were quite confused how that was supposed to work. Apparently, one was just a take out sort of place, while the other was the sit down joint. Odd.

We were a bit early, so we sat in the bar to watch some playoff football and wait. We got a couple drinks (I had a coke as I was not feeling great from the smoke and the drinking last night) and some chips and salsa. I was starving so I dug in. After 20 minutes or so, Ilinda’s friend shows up with her husband and we got a table.

We sat down and had probably one of the worst waiters I’ve ever had. It took him 10 minutes to take our 5 orders. Let’s just say, English was not his first language. Now, there are 2 things in common to every Mexican restaurant on the planet. One, they serve food on scalding hot plates. Two, food always comes very quickly. Well, at this particular joint, only one of those axioms held. It was a full 45 minutes from the time we ordered until our food arrived. Unbelievable. You can sit down, order, eat, and be out the door in 45 minutes at any other Mexican place I’ve ever eaten at.
What was even worse than that was how I felt. I guess, the horrific smoke intake somehow rebelled against the salsa I ate and I had what was probably the worst heartburn I have ever had. My god, it was absolutely brutal. I ordered a water to try to douse the flames, but it was hopeless. By the time the food came, I was in such agony, I basically just pushed my enchiladas around the plate. Brutal.

Not to mention that I seriously felt like the 5th wheel on this car. Ilinda and her friend. The husband and John (had the vested interests in each other) but I really didn’t feel like talking much. Combined with the magma in my chest, those 2 and a half hours of lunch were practically unbearable. All I could think about was getting some antacid and lying down before the block party that night.

By the time we got out of there, the lying down part was out of the question. There was a Boise State pep rally to kick off the block party and I wanted to be there. We stopped at a local grocery store near our hotel to get me some meds. Lets just say that this place was where the ‘Hispanic food aisle’ was the whole store. All of the signs were in Spanish and English. I was the whitest person in that entire building. I kept expecting to run into an aisle of ‘honky’ food where they kept the hamburgers, french fries and Jell-o.

But, I got my Maalox and we finally got back to the hotel a little before 4. The pep rally was scheduled for 4:30 and was all the way over in Tempe. So, I had about 10 minutes to relax and try to douse the flames.

After a quick refresh, it was time to get back on the road and keep the party going. So, we did.

The story shall continue…

To the Valley of the Stun – pt. 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Finale

Here we go… a blow by blow description of my unbelievable weekend in the Phoenix watching my beloved Boise State Broncos play in the Fiesta Bowl.

Friday, Dec 29th

My plan was to fly round trip to Phoenix from Salt Lake City rather than Boise. After the Broncos clinched their undefeated regular season vs. Nevada (another game I was at) the airfares from Boise to Phoenix jumped to over $400. Being the genius I am, I checked for flights from SLC and found one for $260. I jumped on it.

I didn’t think when I purchased the ticket that it was winter and the weather for the drive might screw me up. Thus, I planned to stay the night in SLC the night before my flight was to leave, just to give me plenty of leeway. Of course, it would turn out I wouldn’t need it at all, but more on that in a minute.

fiesta-bowl-trip178 I got on the road at about 1pm. The day was crystal clear and there was not a single icy spot anywhere on the 300 mile trip to Salt Lake. fiesta-bowl-trip174

All was well and good during the drive until about 4:30, when I ran into freeway construction and a Friday rush hour all rolled into one. About 30 miles from Salt Lake, I was fortunate enough to be able to slow down and really soak in the scenery… In other words, I got to come to a complete stop on the freeway, which is always one of my favorite things in the world.

The traffic finally lighented up and I approached my exit. Well, at least it was the exit that Microsoft told me to take. I used MapPoint to plan my trip, and Microsoft screwed me. I got off at exit 316 like they told me, only to find NOTHING THERE. So, after a quick pee break, I get back on the freeway. A couple miles down the road, I saw a sign pointing to what I thought was the exit I was supposed to take… well, it was an exit too early. To top that off, it was an exit with no corresponding on ramp. Thus, I’m driving in the dark through this industrial area looking for a way to get back onto the freeway. When I finally find an on ramp, I realize that this ramp is AFTER the exit I should have taken. Well shit. So, I stay on the freeway knowing my hotel is by the airport. I should be able to find that.

I drove until I found an airport exit. Great! Back in business. Well, that was until I found myself cruising around these deserted loops around the airport. I’m on these freeways that drive past the damn FedEx terminal. Its pitch dark out here and I have no idea where the hell I am. On top of this, my gas tank is hovering very close to ‘e’.

Somehow, I find the street my hotel is on and make it to a gas station in time.

I would just like to take a second to get on the record how much I HATE the street names in SLC. Or should I say the lack of street names. Everything is a number. And not good numbers like “40th street”… no no… they are all “W 2000 N.” When you are reading a freeway sign that is entirely composed of numbers and random letters, you really start to get frustrated. “wait, was that 200 N or 2000 W?!? Son of a bitch!!” My hotel was on a ‘named’ street, but even that was messed up. North Temple West. *sigh*

I digress. I made it to the hotel (which had the swimming pool and hot tub actually in the lobby, which I found a little odd) and saw my first fellow Broncos in the lobby. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to have the same ingenious plan.

I got a pizza and a beer from the grocery store since there was no way was I going to try to find a “sports bar” in Salt Lake. For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of attempting to drink in Utah, let’s just say it’s an adventure. So, I stayed in the room and flipped between bowl games and Saddam’s execution. It was a strange evening in a strange place, to be sure.

Saturday, Dec 30th

I woke up early. I was geeked up and couldn’t help it. I was packed up and ready for the shuttle to the airport atfiesta-bowl-trip170 9am. The hotel gave me a complementary paper with an interesting little sticky note on it. “If you do not wish to receive the newspaper please contact the front desk for a $.15 refund.” Seriously? How big of a skinflint are you that you are indignant that they stole fifteen cents from you?

I got checked in and through security and to my gate at 9:30. Only problem? My flight was scheduled to leave until 11:55. Oops. I settled in for my wait.

As I read my $.15 paper, I did see that the Salt Lake Tribune predicted Boise State 27 Oklahoma 21. That’s a good sign, right?

At 11, they announced my flight would be delayed 30 minutes.

At 11:40, they announced a 2 hour delay. It appears that our plane had an engine that wouldn’t start. So, they had to fly in a new plane and we should hopefully be off at 3:00. Great. To rub salt into the wound, they boarded and departed another flight to Phoenix. Those of us who were stuck grumbled amongst ourselves about how we got jobbed.

To rub even MORE salt into the wound the airport in Salt Lake is horrible. They had multiple TV’s on all over the place. Every last one of them was tuned to CNN with no audio. There were multiple college bowl games on, but could we see any of them? Absolutely not.

Eventually we got out and got safely to Phoenix. Only about 3 hours late. That made for a long day at the airport.

fiesta-bowl-trip114 I met up with John and Ilinda (who flew into Phoenix from Georgia a couple hours earlier) and John drove us directly to the local Indian casino. Gotta love vacation. Weather was beautiful and it is always nice to see palm trees.

Gila River Casino is on the south side of town and John and I headed directly to the blackjack tables. We found seats at a $10 table and started playing and the drinks started flowing. At this particular casino however, if you’re playing the table minimum as I was, you gotta pay for your drinks. John was playing $25 a hand and got his drinks for free. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I gotta think that getting EVERYONE sauced should be your number one priority in a casino. But what do I know.

We played for about 3 hours and I broke even (even after paying for drinks). John, being the stud that he is, ended up $800! So, dinner was on him. Seeing as I had eaten exactly nothing for the whole day, I was more than ready for a little grub.

We hit the road and found the local Claim Jumper. The food was tremendous, but then again, 3 hours of drinking on an empty stomach and I would have been hard pressed to find a meal that wasn’t any good. It was a beautiful piece of prime rib and a huge baked potato. My meal also came with a muffin and whipped honey butter but they cleared that off before I had a chance to partake. In the state I was in, I didn’t even notice until we were leaving. That bummed me out because I love whipped honey butter!

John was not finished gambling… aka. he still had money in his pocket. Thus, we went back to the casino. I proceeded to give them that $100 I had been playing with post haste. John fared a little better, but also ended up giving them some of their money back. We decided to call it a night and head to the hotel.

fiesta-bowl-trip013 The good news was that our hotel was right off the freeway. The bad news? Everything else. We drove upfiesta-bowl-trip014 and the neighborhood was a bit dodgy, but when I saw the hotel (which was more of a motel actually) had an armed guard in the parking lot, that sealed it. You gotta love those blind internet booked hotels, right? Its almost like the lottery. This place was very much like the Super 8 in Reno. Mostly clean, but certainly not The Ritz. (Picture to left is a lovely stain next to the bed and to the right is a wad of gum on my headboard. That should give you a hint)
However, at that point, I didn’t care. I came in and crashed in no time.

We had big days ahead.

To be continued…

Why you’re a fan

Fiesta BowlYou grow up watching a team. You fall in love with that team and you’re hooked for life. Up and down, thick and thin. It is the life of a sports fan. In sports, there are no guarantees. You can be a fan for your entire life and never see the “magic moment” you’re waiting for. Just ask Chicago Cub fans. You can never be sure where or when that moment might make its appearance… You will never know “why”.

That is why you watch. Why you invest all that time and effort. Why you’re a fan. You hope, someday, that it will all be paid back to you. You try to stay realistic. Try to stay grounded. But you hope.

Then comes your shot. Those hopes have come true. You know that you would pay any price to be there to see it. You make your plans and daydream about what might happen. You know you’re a long shot. You know you should just plan to enjoy the experience, but you still dream.

Eventually, the time is upon you. The world stops and your entire existence shrinks into one small sliver of brightly lit grass. You imagined what it would be like, but could never have expected it to be like this. You’re there. It’s happening.

It has finally arrived, and you can scarcely believe it. Every sense you possess is pushed to 11. You can taste the electricity and you have to confirm to yourself that those really are your boys down there.

Maybe your team starts well. Maybe they look so good, you start to abandon your cautions and start to really think it could happen. You’ve been sucked in. You have lost that last bastion of protection to your psyche, let your guard down.

As the game progresses and time ticks away, the collapse you feared seems less and less likely. Your screaming gets louder and louder. It’s going to happen! The dream you’ve had is about to come true.

Until…

Your opponent comes roaring back. Roaring ALL the way back. Takes the lead. You’ve lead the entire game, and now, it’s going to be stolen from you in the final seconds. You feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach. You’ve gone from as high as you’ve ever been to as low as you imagine you could possibly feel. There is a minute left, and you know it’s all gone.

4th and 18 with 18 seconds to play. One more down and you can slink out of the arena and try to disappear.

But that’s when the real magic happens.

Completion… lateral… now you’re screaming! My God, he is going to make it! As soon as the pitch is made, the building starts moving. When he crosses the goal line, your world explodes into a super nova.

Your brain is on such overload that you genuinely fear that the team you live and die by may, in fact, kill you.

When the unbelievable happens you stand there dumbfounded. Unable to form coherent thoughts. Unable to speak. Unable to weep. You simply cannot believe what you are seeing. You are forced to ask the people around you that it is indeed happening. They are just as flabbergasted as you. So, you all stand there somewhere between ecstasy and agony.

Overtime. They score easily. All of a sudden they look stronger than you. You wonder just how much magic can be left. You haven’t taken a breath in 10 minutes.

Your turn. 4th down again. This is the ball game. You can’t watch but can’t look away. Quarterback in motion… what are they doing?! Sweep… toss… MY GOD, HE CAUGHT IT. You’re going bonkers, but you know you’re still behind.

Go for two. Love the call. You gotta do it. Team is tired. Go out and take one last shot. As they line up for this one final play, either way you somehow know your life will never be the same.

It’s happening right in front of you. You know this image will be burned into your brain for the rest of your life. You don’t often recognize history as you’re seeing it, but this one time, you do.

You see the fake… you see the handoff… you see him 2 yards from the goal line with nobody close…

Detonation… Bedlam… Insanity…

You’re feeling everything and nothing all at once. All you see are screaming people and waving arms. Your brain simply cannot compute it all. Hugs. Tears. Time slows down. You don’t believe it happened. Couldn’t have happened. Surreal. The team is celebrating on the field, but you don’t remember seeing them run out there. Blocks of time are missing from your memory. But it really happened. It did.

And that, my friends, is why you’re a fan.

I’m back…

Fiesta BowlI made it home safe and in one piece.

My psyche is shattered.  My brain, throat and body feel like I was run through a meat grinder.

I can’t compose a coherent thought, and haven’t been able to for 24 hours.

You’ll just have to wait a little longer for my full description of my trip.  It was seriously a once in a lifetime experience.  As cliched as that is, it is absolutely accurate.
Frankly, I’m still in shock.  More to come.