I had survived a week of Hell: Five final exams in five days. People started calling me “Mr. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday.”
I needed to seek refuge in order to nurse the wounds of exam week, and who knew going to a two-bit college bowl game in Orlando, Florida would do the trick?
On Monday morning, Dec. 23, my dad knocked on my bedroom door.
I looked at the clock; it was 11:30. What was he thinking?
Hello, I was on vacation. I was not expected to wake up and walk downstairs with bed hair until at least noon.
Big Papa Hanson told me to get ready, because we were going to the Tangerine Bowl. I guess this was my first-day-back-in-Florida surprise.
The Tangerine Bowl is one of those pre-New Year’s Day bowl games but worse.
It is actually a pre-Christmas Day bowl game along with the likes of the Depends Creamed Corn Classic in Pewaukee, Wis., and the Enron Oil Showdown in Houston, Texas (wait, that bowl went bankrupt).
It’s the type of bowl game where the two football teams barely have winning records and want to use the game as a “springboard into the next season.”
Yeah right. Same time, same place next year, both teams will still be barely .500.
The Tangerine Bowl is held in the same stadium as the Citrus Bowl, but the Tangerine Bowl is nine days earlier and basically less important. Come on, would you rather go to a bowl game that encompasses all citrus fruit, or one that only showcases the tangerine?
Dad told me that my sister would meet us in downtown Orlando, and her friends were going to throw a “big tailgate party with food.” I was excited; it was my first day back from school, and I already had football and free food!
But, I should have known better.
My sister always makes empty promises. For my ninth birthday, she told me she was going to get the “Macho Man” Randy Savage WWF wrestling buddy.
What did I get? A coloring book from the dollar store! In middle school.
She told everyone she was going to have courtside tickets to a New York Knicks basketball game. The closest she got to Patrick Ewing was a cutout trading card from Sports Illustrated for Kids. She is all talk.
So, it didn’t surprise me when we arrived at the alleged “tailgate” that it basically consisted of a 12-pack of Natty Light and one Checkers’ hamburger in a crumpled, greasy brown paper bag.
Where were the Wisconsin bratwursts, the hot dogs, the Lay’s potato chips, and French onion dip? Where was the “big tailgate party with food”?
I didn’t slave over a two-and-a-half hour Latin exam Friday morning for this!
By this time, it actually occurred to me to ask the question, “So, who is playing in the Tangerine Bowl?”
I couldn’t even say Tangerine Bowl with a straight face.
But the answer should have been apparent. Surrounding me in every direction were Clemson fans clad in purple and orange, and Texas Tech fans sporting black and red. Now the question was, “Who do I cheer for?”
I am a fan. I have to cheer for a team. I can’t quietly sit on the sidelines, like my sister, and cheer for the refs.
Once the game started, I decided I would cheer for the team that had the most fans. However, that was difficult, since there were fewer fans at the Tangerine Bowl than at a Howie Mandel concert.
Texas Tech dominated early, like they would for the entire game. Thus, I was a black-and-red Texas Tech fan, or as my dad called me, a bandwagon Texas bumpkin (My apologies to the Texas Club of Yale).
The quality of play was at a level you would expect to find at the pre-Christmas Tangerine Bowl — pathetic.
Texas Tech outscored Clemson 55-15; Clemson went down faster than Kelly Clarkson’s music career after “American Idol.”
The halftime show featuring Florida middle school flag cadets commanded more attention than the football game.
I was seriously hoping for those Frisbee-catching show dogs to finish out the game in the second half.
But not everything was a serious disappointment.
During the third quarter, two drunk fans got in a brutal brawl. Forget about the game — we had live WWE coverage on the sidelines. Magically, in this post-Sept. 11 world, 25 police officers arrived within seconds to separate the fight. Women were screaming, kids were screaming, even the Clemson head coach was screaming (but for entirely different reasons).
One of the two fighters was wearing a Florida Gator shirt. My sister had already downed a few Natty Lights when she shouted, “Gator fans suck!” I took this as my cue to leave the stadium.
As my dad and I left the Tangerine Bowl, I came to the same two conclusions so many others have postulated. First, there are way too many bowl games.
But as long as there are hundreds of crazed college fans that are willing to travel to the exotic locales of Orlando, Miami and San Diego during the arctic winter, there will always be bowl games. Second, never wake up before noon during winter vacation.