A 7th-Grader's Take on the OB Experience

The Bootleg is excited to mark the jarring journalistic debut of junior sportswriter Justin Muchnick, a pigskin-passionate Stanford sports fan who made a memorable boys' trip to Miami with his Cardinal-crazed family and has agreed to share his exciting experience with us all. We hope to see "much" more from our main man "J-Much"!

A Seventh Grader's Perspective on the Orange Bowl Experience

Since my arrival at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach on January 1, 2011, the Stanford football team had seemed exceedingly calm and relaxed. Matt Masifilo could be found in the lobby sitting on a couch and "people-watching," Andrew Luck was spotted buying a cupcake from a pastry shop in the hotel, and Shayne Skov raised some eyebrows of hotel staff due to his striking Mohawk hairstyle. My brothers and I meticulously tracked down every wide receiver, tight end, running back, special team member, and tunnel worker that we possibly could, making friends with people such as Drew Terrell's mom and Sione Fua's dad (who is, unbelievably, bigger than Sione himself!). It wasn't as easy as it sounded, either. The sheer size of the hotel made even Fua (and his dad, too) seem small.

Conversing with the players wasn't the only thing that we did, either. After hearing rave reviews about Brazilian steak house Fogo de Chao from Jim Harbaugh on The Cardinal Channel, our family figured that we had to go. If it was good enough for Coach Harbaugh, it would be good enough for us - whether coaching or picking restaurants, Jim Harbaugh seldom makes a wrong decision. In addition, we went to the Everglades to see alligators and alligator wrestlers, walked through the stores along South Beach, relaxed at the Fontainebleau pool and beach, and, last but least, went to an evening event hosted by "comedian" Adam Corolla. The Stanford Band was good, but when a comedian is trying desperately to be funny and simply isn't, you know something's wrong. But as the days progressed, we knew that there was only one thing that we were in Miami for: The 2011 Discover Orange Bowl.

As the Cardinal stepped on the team buses bound for Sun Life Stadium, there was a different aura in the air. Gone were the friendly smiles and waves (with the exception of a few who couldn't possibly get away from my six-year-old brother Ross, who spent this time hounding the team for high-fives); this Cardinal team was all business. After we arrived at the stadium, we witnessed a rousing performance by the LSJUMB and its leader - dressed in full Pilgrim regalia, complete with a dead "turkey" (or should I say "Hokie") on his staff - and a not-so-rousing performance by the barely audible Virginia Tech band, the game was underway.

The first half left me crazily nervous. After six minutes of a purely defensive struggle, I was about ready to call Greg Roman and tell him to change something. Offensive tackle Derek Hall catching a tipped ball and giving up a safety was also unprecedented. Tech star Tyrod Taylor was as elusive as I thought he would be. Add the missed PAT and everything seemed to be going wrong for the Cardinal. Still, I was glad that we escaped the first half with the 13-12 lead, and I knew that Coach Harbaugh would talk some sense (and instill some EUTM) into the Stanford team.           

No, I have to admit I did not see the halftime show with the Goo Goo Dolls (but listening to their music a couple of days after the game, I really didn't understand what the big deal about them was. They're not an Orange Bowl-quality band. GoDaddy.com Bowl maybe…) Instead, I was pacing around the club level refreshment area with a macabre expression on my face. Not even the Harlem Globetrotters game that Sun Life Stadium happened to be playing on their flat-screen TVs could cheer me up. I walked back to our seats with the same somber face, ready for the second half of the game to begin, for I knew that in two quarters the game would be over, regardless of whether or not Stanford won.

Wow! What a half! Luck regained his poise, Derek Hall and the Tunnel Workers Union seemed like a whole different line, paving the way for Stepfan Taylor's 56-yard rush from our goal line, and "Lord" Fangio took "contain Tyrod Taylor" to a whole new level. The Cardinal had transformed. In the first half, Stanford was nearly equaled by Virginia Tech, 13-12. In the second, we scored 27 unanswered points (four touchdowns and Nate Whitaker's missed kick – Nate had a few struggles with PATs this year, but at least he made good on his last-second field goal against USC, otherwise we wouldn't have been in Miami.)  Andrew Luck was named Player of the Game, but as he said in the subsequent press conference, "There were so many Players of the Game." Skov. Marecic. Fleener. Howell. Stanford showed that they were up to the challenge of playing one of the hottest teams in the country, a team that came in riding an eleven-game winning streak. They proved that they could pick up the intensity just one more notch and give it that little bit of extra effort to win. They proved that they are worthy of the title "2011 Orange Bowl Champions".

After the game, the Fontainebleau was a hub of activity. Players were greeted with cheers and shouts of joy. The hotel pulsated with an aura of exuberance. I was surprised that the Stanford Band didn't walk in and jump into a rousing rendition of "All Right Now" (or did they just play it enough at the game that they felt they made their point? Or was it just no fun without any Hokies to taunt?) My dad, my two brothers, and I held up in triumph a banner we made from a hotel bed sheet -- courtesy of the Fontainebleu -- with the words "Andrew Luck for Heisman 2011" written on it. Now that he's coming back, that sheet, signed by the whole team, is going to be worth a lot. When we made it, we were hopeful, but we didn't know that we were fortune-tellers! This victory goes down as the most important night in Cardinal Football history.... until the 2012 BCS National Championship!

About the Author: Justin Muchnick is a seventh-grade student-athlete at Harbor Day School in Corona Del Mar, California (and thus not currently classified as a "recruited athlete" from a compliance standpoint!). In addition to being an avid Stanford fan, he is extremely passionate about soccer, wrestling, reading, history, and The Simpsons.  He can be contacted at 123yahoodotcom@gmail.com

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