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February 14, 2005Boooooooooomer! Uh, Looooooooooooooser?
We're back - live and in neon lights from Miami, it's the 2005 FedEx Orange Bowl pitting the defending national champion USC Trojans against the second-ranked (not second-rate, according to ESPN) Oklahoma Sooners. This one's for all the marbles (no Sooner fans, not those marbles) - the BCS national championship and bragging rights as the team of the young 21st century. And, for your reading pleasure, this reporter dipped himself deep into the breezy south Florida air to bring you this report of the Orange Bowl experience.
With no further ado, let's get to it:
Saturday, Jan. 1
Ah, the Delta Air Lines terminal at LAX, the launching point of such past great trips as "the Dodgers at Fenway" and "Party in New York on the Company Dime"
Normally, I'd be freezing my a** off on Orange Grove Boulevard right now, waiting for flower-covered robots and dinosaurs. Instead, I'm overheating in an air terminal that apparently has the thermostat set to 85 degrees
Thanks to this seven-year old kid on the floor next to me, I now know that you can play Magic the Gathering solo. Not that I will be doing anything with this information, other than using it for a lame joke or two
Score - exit row seats
Not a score - the movie on the flight to Atlanta is "Mr. 3000." Thank goodness for the new portable DVD player AND the 2004 Rose Bowl game DVD
I don't think Jason White's quite as slow to react to the rush as John Navarre was, but I also don't know if his decision-making skills are as good. I've seen him throw more than a few passes off his back foot during his 13-year Oklahoma career. Throwing off the back foot might be good enough against Baylor, but it can be trouble against USC
I remember now why, last Jan. 2, I woke up thinking Will Poole was the MVP of the Rose Bowl. Wow
Can you believe people actually PAY for airplane food?
Now I get why people say Atlanta's airport is so big. I think I could have gotten from Yankee Stadium to the West 4th Street courts in the same amount of train time
Fielding "Happy New Year" voicemails from friends and family isn't the worst way to spend an airport layover
Text message from my sister: "Is the Starbucks float carrying a few keys of coke inside?" I'm still not sure what it means
Hope the game goes this swimmingly - another exit row seat
What's with the guy across from me in the Vince Young jersey and all Texas regalia? Shouldn't he be in Pasadena, not on a plane to Fort Lauderdale where he'll be surrounded by OU folks?
The Fort Lauderdale airport seems much more relaxed and accessible than Miami ever has
Budget's out of the car level I requested, so I get a Lincoln Grand Marquis. Woo hoo! I'm set to cruise the senior citizen set in North Miami Beach
Hey, at least the car is cardinal, with a beige leather interior. Not a bad CD system either, as displayed by the Trojan Marching Band
What are all these people doing on I-95 at 6 p.m. on New Year's Day? Oh that's right, it's Saturday night and they're heading for South Beach
Never had to valet my car at a hotel stop a block away from the hotel. But Ocean Drive is closed to traffic through tomorrow morning. Oh, it's gonna be a party out there tonight
Boulevard Hotel - if you just need a place to sleep and shower, it's all good. When I come back in a couple months for work, now I'll really feel like I am in the lap of luxury at the Shelbourne
Michigan and Texas are 21-up in the third quarter when I get to the Clevelander - which is packed (this will become a recurring theme)
I get a barstool between a Trojan and a Sooner and kick it off with, what else, a Maker's Mark on the rocks
(The Red Bull and vodka is next, because, with the early flight, I am working on just a couple hours' sleep from the night before)
"Cal-uh-for-nyahhh don't belong on the same feeee-uld with either of these teams." Looks like my new Okie friend's been here a while already
So this is why the SC guy swapped over into the chair next to the drunk girls to let me in. "Y'all only beat Cal by six. That was the fourth best team in our division, whupped them good."
If I ever squeal like a pig in delight for a UCLA touchdown, somebody slap me. As it is, I don't want to take this guy out of his revelry on behalf of Texas. It's too damned entertaining. "Vince Young is an ath-A-lete, I tell ya! We have to deal with these guys every year!"
By the way, maybe Michigan would like to start playing Young to run and force him to throw another one of those horrible passes
Dude, the guy's drinking pre-made frozen drinks, getting wasted, and each time he orders another, he rails on the (hot) bartender about the drink having "no al-key-hol." This game can't end soon enough
Texas wins, and Bertus over here thinks that clinched OU's win this coming Tuesday. I gotta get outside
What's with the Oklahoma fans tucking in every type of shirt, usually without a belt? You don't have to tuck in a Hawaiian shirt or a baseball jersey. As a matter of fact, you should never tuck in either unless you're wearing a jersey in an actual baseball game
A great south Florida night out here by the pool. Good DJ, quite a few SC fans, some OU fans and a ton of locals. And, man, Utah's offense is sick. This design with Florida's talent? We may not hear from LSU or Auburn fan for quite some time
Sunday, Jan. 2
I wonder if the crowd still here at 2:30 a.m. is a sign of things to come this week at the Clevelander. I hope so, cause it's definitely time to crash tonight
1 p.m. - Breakfast at News Caf?nd the realization that the RV traffic must have been ridiculous on I-95 this morning, because suddenly, there are Oklahoma fans everywhere
Time to check out the location of the pep rally tomorrow night and scope out the Westin Diplomat, which the Trojan players seem to think is the greatest hotel ever
Parking near the Fontainebleau Hilton is horrific. Definitely time for a taxi tomorrow night
Awww, how quaint! It's the Oklahoma band in buses passing me as I pump the meter and they've ID'ed me as a Trojan. Apparently, OU has adopted the alternative No. 1 hand as its own gesture. Lots of screaming at me. Uh, Jethrine, that bus glass is pretty thick and I can't hear you
The Fontainebleau is hosting a big group of Oklahoma fans. Should be interesting to see how they react to the invasion of 5,000 Trojans tomorrow night
Man, do I just feel right at home in this Grand Marquis rolling through North Miami Beach. I swear those two 70-year old women were just giving me their best come-hither glances
15 more miles of Florida Hwy. A1A later, I'm arrive at the Diplomat in Hollywood. Very stylish and modern. This is definitely not too close to Hollywood Beach, which I described two years ago thusly: "It's also clear that no matter how seedy the worst parts of Hollywood, Calif., are, they've got nothing on the beachfront sections of Hollywood Beach, Fla. I only feel safe here because the Iowa fans look like bigger (uh, much bigger) and more obvious targets"
Apparently practice is pretty much through, because all you see poolside are Trojan players, like the Ting brothers, Keith Rivers, Tom Malone, Brandon Hancock and more. The only person "working," it appears, is Petros, who's doing his show from a cabana. Not exactly work
I'm starting to wonder how laid back the Trojans are feeling, because after 10 minutes walking around this pool, I'm feeling lulled into a mellow stupor. I know I want the team loose come Tuesday night, but let's hope this lap of luxury living doesn't lull them, too
Is it me or have the official Orange Bowl souvenirs been significantly upgraded from two years ago?
Ok, $60 in souvenirs lighter in the wallet, it's back to SoBe
Must have the Orange Bowl-issued USC National Championships "Got 11?" t-shirt immediately
Now own the Orange Bowl-issued USC National Championships "Got 11?" t-shirt. SC better win
I'm ready for the game to start right now
Sooner fans feeling their oats. Lots of them like screaming "Boooooooomer" at the top of their lungs every time they spot another. Hey, it's an improvement over Iowa fan, no doubt
Time for a nap. Picking up my buddy Jason at Miami Intl. Airport at 10 tonight, and it's his birthday at midnight. Gonna be a long night
Chances for a nap just got better as I return to my room to find the NFL on television
The short-term parking lot at Miami Airport makes the Dodger Stadium lot look straightforward and uncomplicated
Time for a quick bite at an overcrowded Mango's. Fortunately, they have a sidewalk table away from the mess near the front door. This is where undersexed, middle-aged businessmen in their 50s come during a work trip to Miami - what a tourist trap. Of course, I am sitting here myself. Check that last comment - I'm only 33
Boooooooooooooooooooomer untuck that damned hockey jersey. Enough with the tucking already
Back to the Clevelander and it's more rockin' than last night. It's all Orange Bowl attendees, it seems. This has got to be the most Trojan-friendly place on Ocean Drive right now. The rest of SoBe is slowly turning crimson-and-cream
Monday, Jan. 3
1 a.m. and the crowd has risen about 50 percent since midnight
2 a.m. and the crowd has jumped up another 50 percent. The birthday boy is getting dragged to the dance floor by a couple of "friendly" women from Maine. Sorry, friendly is the kindest description I could come up with. Just the luck of the draw on where you're sitting. Hot girls everywhere, and he's got the ones with "nice personalities" dragging him around
I missed the boat not being born in Oklahoma, I tell you. All these gorgeous, well-toned blonde girls from the farm and they don't even realize that their husbands and boyfriends look like Phil Hartman in the old "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer" skit on SNL
Mmmm, Makers Mark
Thank goodness for the time change - 4 a.m. feels like 1 a.m. and we're still going strong
A spirited group of Trojan fans drunkenly mangle their 13th SoCal spellout of the night, much to the chagrin of the dwindling number of Sooners, who've been left behind by their early-to-bed brethren
Crash time comes at about 5 a.m. On the 30-year old TV in the room, "Bad Santa" shows why it's the perfect entertainment for laying in bed and having to keep the eyes open for fear of spinning out of control. Billy Bob Thornton is epic
Waking up around noon, I realize I haven't known what day of the week it is since before Christmas Eve. That's what time off will do to you. All I know is it's one day until the game
Time for a little Cuban for lunch. No, not that kind of Cuban, unfortunately - just good food from a new place on Ocean (I don't remember it being here last February on my annual work trip)
I hear it's raining like crazy back home. Too bad. It's 75 degrees and sunny here and the breeze is incredible
The Clevelander's hosting the Spirit of Troy at 3 p.m. Don't I have an open tab there at this point?
Drinks with a few uniformed Trojan song girls at 2 in the afternoon on a Monday? Not a bad thing at all
The Clevelander's own "song girls" (a.k.a., little Cubans) dancing on a stage over the pool in swimwear 20 minutes later? REALLY not a bad thing. Time to roll a little video on the digital camera for my boy Danny who couldn't make it
"Damn, Dale, them girls can shake it." "Y'all ain't lyin', Dirk!" I am not making this up (and, to be fair, Dirk wasn't lying)
Right now, the Clevelander looks like Hahn Plaza about 3 hours before a Saturday kickoff. Trojans everywhere
Taking a stroll 2 blocks down to look at the old Gianni Versace house wasn't such a bad idea - not when you run into three Wayans brothers hanging out front with about 10 ridiculous looking women
Back to the Clevelander and here comes the TMB marching right up Ocean Drive. This isn't too freaking cool, is it?
Gotta hold the cell up for dad to hear "Tribute to Troy" and "Fight On" live
Traffic stopped in SoBe as the TMB puts on a half-hour show wrapped around the corner of Ocean and 10th facing the Clevelander. Even the Sooner fans are in awe
"U C L A Sucks!" echoing through South Beach. Nice
I don't think many Oklahoma folks have ever seen (or maybe even heard of) top-optional beaches
75 degree water on Jan. 3? Ok, so Florida does have California beat on something, after all
Off to the official rally
Wow, this is a much bigger room than two years ago and a bigger crowd too. Thank you, Pete Carroll, for bringing back USC football
Nice! A "Tommy Does Miami" t-shirt. That's all me
Nice video boards showing highlights of the 2004 season. People forget that Frostee Rucker might have made the biggest play of the season when he read the shovel pass on Cal's second-and-goal play in the closing minutes, allowing Manny Wright's sack. If SC wins tomorrow night, I certainly won't ever forget it
Paul McDonald and Roy Foster are great Trojans. But, they should probably limit their mic time at this rally
What was better - the crazy 1977 yell fish leading a spirited SoCal spellout, or the three student hotties leading a slow and stilted one? I'll go with the girls
Thank goodness for Dr. Bartner
Getting a cab out of here is more ridiculous than getting a cab in
Good god, the Clevelander will probably be able to close down for a month after the game tomorrow with all the jack it's raking in leading up to the game
Tonight, you can't even get a waitress to remember your order - or that you may have even talked to her
Lots of Oklahoma fans in here tonight, making it about a 50-50 mix. This is exactly why I didn't want Cal to eke into this game. If it were a USC-Cal match-up, this place would be closed down with drunken fistfights before midnight
The Okies are definitely feeling it tonight. Overheard: "AD's going to run all over them." "West coast wussies won't know what's run over 'em." "Getting' to bed early. Gotta be ready for a celebration tomorrow night."
It's starting to look like these people are in for the shock of their lives. Not that I think SC is going to destroy them, but if this is what they're thinking, it's not going to be a fun night tomorrow
Some OU fans are dumber than others: Loser, stop trying so hard to be Beck (red plaid sport coat, tousled hair, upside down granny-sized sunglasses). You're from Norman, Okla.
Tuesday, Jan. 4
This place tonight makes the last two nights look dead
The DJ rolls out "Tribute to Troy/Fight On" after "Drop It Like It's Hot." The dance floor is awash in V-signs
More shouting matches, but no fights. Everyone's getting antsy and ready for this game to tee up
In bed by 2:30; up by 11 to check out
Breakfast at News Caf?s much slower to appear today, but there's plenty of "talent" to look at on the sidewalk
Is that the OU Emergency Response Trailer Mechanic Team? How else to explain 10 guys in matching Nike Dri-fit OU shirts (tucked snugly into their khaki shorts, of course) trolling around?
These three SC fans at the table behind me might want to slow it down a little. They're ready for the game to kick off now with the tension and smack levels. You don't ever want to peak to soon on game day
By 2 p.m., we're on the road to Pro Player
The deli counter lady at the Winn Dixie supermarket on Ives Dairy Road (3 miles from Pro Player) is working on her own time frame. But she is sweet. When she asks me what kind of cheese I want on the sandwich, I tell her, "Whatever it comes with is fine." She tells me, "Honey, tell me what you want. It's your sandwich." She has a point
Good call on the $1.99 Styrofoam "cooler." Will definitely need to keep the Rolling Rock and Sam Adams chilled for a few hours
Why I am buying this 24-ounce mini-keg can of Heineken, I have no idea. Are the OU folks rubbing off on me?
Into the stadium lot, and we locate near a core of six or seven Trojan cars. Slowly, we'll be surrounded by Sooners
Man, these Oklahoma people really have it over those Iowans a couple years ago. I guess when you've been to the top before, you get what it's about
We're tailgating in Miami before the national championship game. Thank you, again, Pete Carroll
Two body-painted Trojan fans from Whittier park next to us. Over the next four hours, they will have more pictures taken of them by random people than Lindsay Lohan arriving at a movie premiere
"Boomer Sooner" echoes from the speakers of a nearby car. Only one response: "Conquest" rattles the Grand Marquis' speakers
As time passes, the tailgates cross party lines and OU and USC fans are commingling like it's one big college football royalty reunion (which, come to think of it, it is)
I'm feeling so good, I'm giving beers to Oklahoma fans
I am now entering the stadium for the Orange Bowl and national championship game. Thank you, Norm Chow
Our seats are upstairs on the 15-yard line at the tunnel end of the field. Not bad at all. Amazing what happens when you see a game in a modern stadium built expressly for football
We're in a mixed section - 3-4 rows of USC fans followed by 3-4 rows of OU fans. The three rows in front of us are OU, the three behind, USC. Could get interesting here
The vibe in the stadium is nice. People are ready to get this thing on after all the hype and talk
As I try to call my dad, I'm reminded that much of Pro Player Stadium is akin to Death Valley National Monument when it comes to cell reception
The OU band performs first. Four notes, 32 seconds. And that's pretty much it
Of course, when a few cracks are made about this, OU fan gets a little edgy
The TMB appears and sticks to the basics: "Tribute/Fight On," "Tusk" and "Conquest"
The horse is here! The horse is here! Awesome
JoJo is still 13, right? We mustn't think anything untoward we mustn't think anything untoward
Finally, kickoff and it goes out of bounds. Are the big, bad Sooners afraid of Reggie Bush?
I guess those fears are valid - Leinart to Bush for 27 yards on the game's first play
The Trojans stall and the Okies in front of us rip Leinart's Heisman - apparently because we cracked a couple jokes about their band
The Oklahoma fans are standing up, which is fine by me. You go to a huge game like this, you expect to stand a lot of the time, and I am prone to leap out of my seat at anytime. However, a couple women a few rows up start asking folks to sit down. This is where our OU pals make what turns out to be their big mistake. "We stand the whole game in Norman, so get used to it," a few of them inform the rest of us
Peterson's going nowhere, but Jason White makes a couple of nice third-down plays to move Oklahoma down for a TD. Not like we've never seen 7-0 or started a little slow before
"That's 92 yards right up yoooouuuuuur a**!" From behind me, someone shouts, "Were you a math major at OU?"
"That's a Heisman wiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnerrrrr! It ain't gonna be a pretty ride home for y'alllllllll!!!" Wow, I've never seen such a reaction to a touchdown seven minutes into a game. My only words in response at this point: "Y'all better do it again - and before we score."
Three minutes later, it's 7-7, and a number of USC fans are letting our OU friend know how many yards we just went up his a**
Great catch by Dom Byrd, but the single coverage on the play was provided by an OU defense that looks absolutely mortified every time Reggie Bush moves. Think that first play of the game might have been a set-up?
The PA announcer is an upgrade from the 2003 game guy with his, "There's a flaaaaaaaaaag on the plaaaaaay" line. What a loser
Now playing the "Moron," Mark Bradley. LenDale White cashes it in, and it's 14-7 at the end of one. Oklahoma fan is much calmer now, but still standing
Remember what I wrote about throwing off the back foot? Jason White apparently decided to play all-time passer in "Three Flies Up" there, and Jason Leach picks it off
Two straight passes to Dwayne Jarrett net 72 yards and another Trojan score. 21-7, and Leinart looks ok to me, Larry Birdine (by the way, this game is as close to over as it can be without actually being so - and we're less than five minutes into the second quarter)
Oklahoma fans take a seat, causing a chorus of Okie-accented "We stand the whooooole gaaaaaame!" catcalls from above. Jethro's, uh, well-fed son retorts, "It's a TV timeout!"
Eric Wright steps in to pick another Jason White misfire. Leinart to Steve Smith, 28-7, game over
"I told you when you scored, y'all better do it again,"
Now, OU fans are whining about the razzing they're getting from myself and a number of others. "Y'all started it! Y'all started it. I wouldn't-a-said nuthin', but y'all started it"
OU has to settle for a field goal, 28-10. "If we can just get to 28-17 by halftime, we gotta chance"
At halftime, it's 38-10, and the OU fans have been sitting during game action for most of the last 3 minutes of the half. "The game must be over, because y'all ain't standin' anymore"
On the concourse, I hear from my dad on the phone that the most points Oklahoma had ever allowed in a bowl game WAS 36. Oh my goodness, this is like the 2002 UCLA game squared
Let me say this about the Orange Bowl Halftime Show - I think the chorus of boos at the end was a general review of the entire show, rather than a specific review of Ashlee Simpson's (lack of) talent. Though, I'm sure Ashlee's performance held a special place in the hearts of many
As Kelly Clarkson "sings," I say to a couple people behind me, "This sucks!"
When eight-foot tall country singer Trace Adkins launches into his tune, someone upstairs shouts, "This sucks worse!"
I agree with the girlfriend of the SC fan behind me that no one who won "American Idol," no one who is a modern country-music artist, and no one who has their own show on MTV could possibly qualify as an anarchist. So why is there a giant anarchy symbol on the stage?
The discussion among Trojan fans of when the OU fan exodus will occur causes Jethro's son to retort, "It's not over yet!"
45-10, and I tell him, "You're right. It's not over yet unfortunately for you"
"Y'alll started it y'all started it!" Maybe so, but in direct opposition to what all those OU fans' t-shirts said all week around Miami, it definitely looks like we'll be the ones FINISHing it, too
With three minutes to go in the third, one of the OU fans gets up in front of us, challenges pretty much any SC fan to "meet me in the bathroom" and calls us the "rudest fans I've ever sat next to." Based on their act when it was 7-0, I definitely could imagine them challenging us for the top spot had things gone their way - just like I could almost imagine the Sooners challenging the Trojans on the field
My fourth-quarter seats? 45-yard line, 20 rows off the field. Thanks for firing up the trailers, OU fans
LenDale White, again. 55-10. Wow just, wow
Oklahoma's junk scores make the final 55-19. Ed Orgeron takes the first Gatorade shower. Thank you and good luck at Ole Miss, Coach O
It's party time in the stands as the 20,000-strong group of USC fans are again nearly alone in a stadium. It's been nearly three seasons like this - ask Iowa, UCLA, Notre Dame and anybody else. You might be at the game, but it's rarely a 3-hour commitment if you're going against the Trojans
Desmond Reed dances on the stages as they're being moved on to the field. This is so sweet
Shaun Cody holds the crystal football. There's no player more deserving. Thank you for believing in SC, Shaun, when very few did
Mike Patterson, Jason Leach and other seniors join Carroll, Leinart and Cody on the stage. What a send-off for a group who entered Troy at its lowest ebb ever
I am in a stadium where the giant scoreboard is flashing, "USC Trojans National Champs!!!" Thank you, Mike Garrett
USC just put separate streaks of 28 and 27 unanswered points (in the same game) on a team that was 60-6 the past few seasons
"Conquest" rings out again
An empty parking lot at 1 a.m. Eerily reminiscent of two years ago
A group of older Sooner fans are still hanging out when we get back to our car. Shock and awe is pretty much an apt description. Nothing you can really do in their shoes but congratulate the winners and try to laugh it all off. Again, the bulk of the OU fans could teach those Iowans something
Back in SoBe and time for a 2 a.m. meal at Finnegan's Way before heading off to the airport
That celebration the OU fans were crashing early to prep for last night? Well, it's going off all over South Beach, but - curiously - I don't see many Sooners around
A change of shirt and a blast of Axe, and we're off to drop Jason at Miami Airport and head to my 5:20 a.m. flight at Fort Lauderdale
Who sits down next to me on the flight to Atlanta? A shaken and very tired looking Steve Hartman. "Wow, how about that game?" he says to me. "Yeah, I never expected something like that," I respond. "Neither did I," he says, in what I will generously call a resigned tone
The lesson: even on a plane out of Miami, carrying a national title home, you can always count on a Bruin for a good laugh.
Tom Haire is the editor of a monthly trade magazine in the television industry. He grew up watching USC dominate the Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl and ended up a Trojan journalism school alum ('94). He's traveled from Honolulu to Palo Alto to South Bend to New York to Miami to watch college football, and also covers the Pac-10 year-round as a special columnist for CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at
Click here for Ryan's Orange Bowl Photo Feature