Holiday Trip report – Finally!

It was my original intent to write a blog entry every day for the trip and I started off well with my 12/26 report.  But since I was combining a Holiday Bowl trip with spending some time with my uncle Rick, I found myself with less time to write than I had hoped.  So, I guess it’ll have to be a single wrap-up at this point.

On the 27th I went to the press conference for both head coaches.  Since most know my opinion of Tedford (a class act) I’ll keep my comments to A&M head coach Dennis Franchione and the press who was there.

Franchione was a class act himself.  He seemed more comfortable with the media than Tedford who has always been a little media shy.  But he was humble about the opportunity to play in the Holiday Bowl and very respectful of his competition.  You could tell he loved the game and had respect for all those who felt the same way independent of their success.  He had particular respect for Tedford (the feeling appears to be mutual).

The A&M press was not so humble.  There were three type of press people there.  Press who cover the Bears (like me), press who cover A&M and local San Diego press.  I knew most of the Cal press from having covered the Bears this season but this was my first exposure to the others.  The local press was mostly fairly naive and was easy to distinguish from the A&M press.  The A&M press was suprisingly arrogant.  They threw lots of questions at Tedford about how they were going to be able to slow down the A&M offense and in particular Jevorskie Lane.  It was interesting because the Cal press, which tends to run fairly critical, combined with the A&M press, which ran arrogant, gave the impression that it was Cal who was the underdog and was going to killed.

Obviously we know what the result was.

After that I went to the Kickoff Luncheon.  I was given the impression up front that the press would be getting to sit down at the luncheon and even get lunch.  At the press conference we were told that it wouldn’t be the case, that there instead be chairs at the back of the room and that they would see about box lunches.

When we got over there, there were no “chairs at the back of the room” to be found.  A few of us press hung around for about a half hour but it was pretty awkward and so one by one we all left.  I think I was the last one to go about 15 minutes into the speaches.  In retrospect I wish I had stayed to hear everything.  It would have been worth it just to experience the event.  See my pictures of the event here.

What I can tell you is that if you’re heading to a Cal bowl game and they have a similar event it is probably worth going to.  It was only $50 a head, you got a nice lunch and each table had two players at it.  Of course I’m sure the table with Marshawn Lynch or DeSean Jackson or Desmond Bishop was reserved for those people who are candidates to have new buildings that they paid for named after them.  Nevertheless it seemed like a good opportunity to meet some players, be with a lot of committed fans and get a taste for the other team’s players/fans.

That was the end of the festivities for the day and of all the days leading up to the bowl game.

On game day my only plan was to go to the game and tailgate with a few family members.  Well that was going swimmingly when I realized that I had left my press-pass in San Marcos, where I was staying, about 45 minutes away.  It was impractical to go back for it at that point and since I didn’t have a seat in the press box (I had the pass for post-game access to the field and press conferences) and had a ticket for the game, I decided just to leave the issue alone and go to the game as a regular fan.

Unfortunately I didn’t have any Cal gear on.  When you’re press, you’re supposed to be impartial.  So no Cal hat, no gameday shirt, no Cal bottle openner that plays the fight song every time you open a bottle of beer.  I can deal with that if I get the on-the-field access but if I don’t get that, it’s a bummer to be dressed in Khakis and a dress shirt when I could be showing my school spirit.

The pre-game and halftime shows left lots to be desired.  I guess the fireworks at halftime were fine, but the combination of the fireworks with the band with the on-the-field fireworks with PA system music with occasional announcements… well let’s just leave it at “poorly choreographed”.  I must admit that the American flag that covered the whole field and the Navy parachuters from the pre-game were pretty cool.

Speaking of military things, the Texas A&M band was… interesting.  I’ll give them this, they were very good at what they do.  I’ve never seen such precision in a band.  In many ways, they’re just like their football team: they only do one thing and they do it pretty well.  But all they did was march up and down the field with the occasional crossing patterns.  So if the song was longer than one trip back and forth, they’d just loop back and do it again.  So for their first song during the pregame, I was impressed with the precision and how different it was from your average marching band.  However by the time they were done with their halftime show, the band had lost a lot of its appeal.  I mean, other than some minor formation changes they did the exact same thing, including the song, at half time as during the pre-game.

On the other hand, the Cal band seemed to be a little out of sync.  They just didn’t have the intensity that they usually do.  Additionally I thought they really dropped the ball with their halftime music selection.  While I understand why they choose to do various modern music during regular halftime shows, so they’re not always doing the same thing, why they did that for the Holiday Bowl?  There are all kinds of Cal songs that aren’t included in the usual pre-game show.  Sure, it would be repetitive to do those every week, but this is the bowl game.  Where’s the Stanford Jonah?  Hail to California?  Or any of the other Cal songs.  That would have been a much wiser choice for a bowl game particularly in front of a mixed crowd.  It’s an opportunity to showcase everything Cal.  Playing some Chicago songs doesn’t exactly do that and was a letdown.

After the game I went back to my uncle’s place in San Marcos (the press-pass was EXACTLY where I thought it was) to sleep for the night.  I drove home the next morning.  The trip took me about 8 hours both ways and I hit very little traffic either way.  Speaking of which, since we seem doomed to go to the Holiday bowl for the forseeable future (OK, maybe not but I’m better with low expectations and exceeding them), I’ve got some sothern California freeway advice for Cal fans (yes that means you Jason).  Don’t take I-5 all the way through LA.  That’s just asking for trouble.  Instead you want to circle around LA to the east.  In addition to bypassing all LA traffic, it also naturally gets you on I-15 in San Diego (which is where Qualcomm is located next to) and it goes right by the Rose Bowl (and I figure the more we drive by it the better luck we’ll have in eventually getting to stop there because… well… we’ll know the way).  So here’s the route everyone should be taking in the future:

  • I-5 to I-210 east (north of LA)
  • I-210 to CA-57/CA-71 south (in San Demas)
  • CA-71 to CA-91 east (in Corona)
  • CA-91 to I-15 south (still in Corona)

It really is the best route and I doubt it is a sigificant number of miles longer than taking I-5.  Plus you won’t have any traffic problems like you would in LA.

So overall it was a good trip, 1140 miles at 32.5 MPG (I love my Jetta!) with about 16 hours of driving.  Plus because I stayed with my uncle Rick, the trip costs were low (about $100) for gas and a couple meals on the road.  When coupled with a wonderful butt-kicking of any team from Texas, who can complain about that? 

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