When I arrived with my buddy Scott at the parking lot just east of the stadium, we both couldn't believe the large number of ASU fans already gathered on a frigid Friday morning at 5:30 AM. Everyone was excited but cold, but some were just plain cold and miserable. One of those folks had to be the Sparky team shop manager who stood alone and shivering at an ASU souvenir stand some 50 yards from the buses, with no customers in sight. Kudos to him for doing a job that probably no one else would want to do…
The Superstition Freeway may have rubberized asphalt to make the ride quieter, but when riding a bus – forgetabbouit! Any hope I have to catch some shuteye is now dashed away. So, I proceed to read Friday's sports page. You know the one that makes you feel like an idiot for even making the six and half hour trip to San Diego to watch the Sun Devils supposedly get trounced. But I'm too tired to ask off the bus, plus I know I have to write this story – so I ride along.
The road to San Diego is quite boring. It's just desert, and more desert, and…what do we have here? A Harrah's casino in between all these dirt fields? That building blends in as much as U of A's Miles Simon does in an Honors College function. Speaking of casinos, many of my ASU friends told me that they were able to pay off their Christmas shopping bills because of the bogus 18-point line on the Holiday Bowl. I guess that deservers a warm thank you to all you odds makers!
The only stop we made was in Yuma. How would I describe Yuma? It makes Tucson look like a bubbling, modern, and clean metropolis. We descended on a puzzled McDonald's crew. Geez, I guess they were surprised that anyone traveling from Arizona to San Diego would dare stop at their establishment. But it's all about supporting the state's economy, so I buy my value meal and hop back on the bus.
We switched bus drivers, and our new driver must have been a NASCAR fan, because she just zoomed through the California desert. We spent the last couple of hours of our ride watching a movie dear to all Sun Devils - Jerry Maguire. However, between Kelly Preston enjoying herself in her birthday suit, and the plethora of four letters words, you realize that this is hardly a movie that appeals to the all the diverse generations and tastes on this bus. But it's a Football movie that mentions ASU, so it has to be apropos on the day of our bowl game.
We arrive at the Town and Country hotel. It was probably a lot more country than town, but it's owned by a fellow alumnus who agreed to block most of his rooms for his ASU brethren. The hotel is extremely spread out, and I found myself spending a lot of time wondering around this place just looking for my room or a place to eat.
When we arrived at Qualcomm, it certainly looked like Sun Devil Stadium west. More than 10,000 fans (out of the 58,717) clad in gold, throwing tortillas at the appropriate moments made you feel like you were in Tempe. Our fans by far exceeded the Kansas State ones. Too bad they weren't giving odds on who would have more supporters in the stands, because ASU fans would probably cash in on those bets as well. The opening ceremony was very touching with an American flag that covered the whole field during our national anthem. Appropriately enough, the anthem ended with a fly by of fighter jets. I personally think that a Stealth bomber would be more appropriate because just like ASU it would come in flying under the radar, but looking real slick in the process.
Not only do the ESPN announcers dish out disrespect, but so does the ref who announces loudly: "Arizona has won the toss"! Good thing that the tailgate food has been well digested at this point...When Kansas State gains a mere six yards of offense in the first quarter, suffice to say that at that point we had everybody's attention and admiration! Speaking of that, the Wildcats' Terrance Newman left everyone in awe. He played on both sides of the ball, as well as on special teams. The guy was everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if he was also taking tickets before the game, and selling those Baja Fresh burritos at halftime.
After the game, our players naturally looked totally dejected. "Leaving it all the field." was hardly an overstatement when it came to Coach Koetter's squad in this game. Some of them did acknowledge the crowd, and in return were showered with a loud ovations and words of encouragement. This wasn't a moral victory, but it certainly wasn't an embarrassing performance like those back-to-back Aloha Bowls.
Back at the hotel many somber fans in gold attire wander aimlessly to find a restaurant in the hotel that isn't busy. I bumped into my buddy (who goes by the HHSHawk97 handle here) and his girlfriend. We were able to find a restaurant
that didn't look busy, but we ended up waiting 45 minutes for our food. On the other hand the $3 coupon did help ease the pain. We reminisced about the game, and on the evolution of the State Press from a respectable student newspaper to a clone of the National Inquirer. He was smarter than I was because he chose to stay an extra night in San Diego. As for myself, I was faced with less than five hours of sleep before Scott and I had to board the bus back home.
We wanted to wake up at 6:30, but the person in the room above us made sure that it wasn't going to happen. Maybe he was a Sun Devil fan that forgot to set his clock one hour back or was just eager to head out the hotel's restaurant and wait for an hour for some bacon and eggs. So we got an earlier than wanted start, but by the time we got to the busses, they were close to capacity. I guess we all had enough of San Diego after the heartbreaking loss.
The drive back was equally as uninteresting. We made another stop in a fast food joint in Yuma, and this time we got to see the "The Waterboy" as our in-drive entertainment – stupid picture, yet we all were killing ourselves with laughter. I guess that's what the doctor ordered to pass the time on a long bus ride following an ASU loss.
Major kudos must go out to the Alumni Association for a well-organized trip. It was wonderful sharing this experience with so many ASU fans. The Alumni representative on our bus said he hoped to see all of us on the trip for Pasadena in January of 2004. Talk about a great New Year's resolution!
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