Call me slow in the uptake but it only took 15 years of living in Los Angeles to realize that I could go to the Rose Bowl anytime. Among the Rose Bowl committee’s labyrinth of rules, there is no stipulation that says one must be a fan of either team playing.
Plus, it helped that my lovely wife let it slip a little too early in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve that our plans for the next day were going to include painting our guest bathroom. I needed an excuse to get out of the house quick and Iowa playing in the Rose Bowl fit the bill quite nicely.
There was just one problem.
Paying actual money to see Iowa play football was not my idea of a good time, even if the alternative was painting a bathroom.
Lucky for me, I had yet to make my annual pilgrimage to Coinstar. If I only spent a year’s worth of loose change on a ticket, I wouldn’t technically be spending real money per se.
In short order, I established some ground rules for this potential field trip.
1. No antagonizing Iowa fans. As a representative of Husker Nation, I shall conduct myself in a classy manner (unless heckled first). Consider this my version of Top Gun’s big rule of engagement: Do not fire unless fired upon.
2. The maximum amount I could spend on a ticket is whatever loot I get from the Coinstar gods + a $16 buffer. ($16 was the amount I declined to spend to see Mötley Crüe’s penultimate show on Wednesday night. Even at less than $20, it just wasn’t worth it to put on pants to see a pudgy Vince Neil.)
Off to Coinstar I went…
C’mon, big bucks. No whammies.
Boom! $93.66 + 16 = $109.66 with which to score a ticket.
Cut to the next morning and my wife kicked me out of the car at a nearby subway station and I was off to Pasadena.
Did you know that Los Angeles has had a subway system since 1993?
And it is always packed.
Within approximately two minutes of stepping foot into Old Town Pasadena, I crossed paths with a scalper holding a handful of tickets high above his head. Contrary to what Dirk and “professional scalper” Joey from Kansas City might think, it is always possible to get into any event on the cheap.
My chat with the scalper went like this…
Me: Got any singles?
Scalpler: A few. What are you looking for?
Me: Don’t care at all. Whatever gets me in for $60.
Scalper: Sorry. Can’t help you.
And then right on cue…
Iowa Fan: Excuse me? Are you just looking for just one ticket? We have an extra right on the 40-yard-line.
Me: That sounds great but I’m only spending $80 today. You could probably get more for it.
(Iowa fan confers with her friends)
Iowa Fan: That’s OK. We just want to get rid of it. It’s all yours. Oh my God, you’re a Husker fan!?!
Me: Yep. And while I won’t be cheering for y’all, I won’t be rooting against y’all either. Just want to put that out there.
Iowa Fan: Oh, it’s OK. Us Big Ten teams gotta stick together.
For the record this wackadoo wasn’t an Iowa fan. This group’s signs are always black and yellow.
Upon entering the Rose Bowl grounds, one thing immediately struck me. You could never tell that the Rose Bowl was Iowa’s consolation game. Everyone in black and/or yellow was thrilled to be there and it was an amazing display of spirit for their team. With the way Hawkeye fans were running around and soaking up the January sunshine, they made a great case for the entire state of Iowa to be the Whoville of college football. Nobody seemed to care about missing the playoffs.
Obligatory I’m-at-the-Rose Bowl photo. I like to think the camo hat gave me Milhouse levels of invisibility while walking among Iowa fans.
As the world saw, things didn’t exactly go Iowa’s way starting with the very first play of the game. Christian McCaffrey (aka football’s Frankenstein’s monster built from a blend of Ameer and Rex) took a short pass 75 yards for a touchdown. It was all downhill for the Hawkeyes but this guy never gave up hope.
He simply got a fresh tall boy of Coors.
At halftime Hawkeye Nation was treated to a special Farmer’s Only themed serenade from the Leland Standford Junior University Marching Band. As a not-easily-offended and (mostly) impartial observer, it was a hilarious shit show that made me feel like I was whisked back to that magical time when Andy Kaufman was wrestling women. I’ve never heard such glorious booing in my life.
Of all the ways the LSJUMB insulted Iowa, having a “Wisconsin dairy cow” (as one Iowa fan kept shouting) traipsing across the Rose Bowl turf may have been their biggest offense. Perhaps it was a mistake but knowing those scamps, it was probably intentional that the wrong breed of cow was used.
Either way, it was genius and a nice flashback to 1996 when I got to enjoy a game at Stanford sitting with the band. A dear friend was one of its directors back then and was the devious mastermind behind their infamous potato famine themed show that still sends Notre Dame fans into a fighting mood.
— Big Red Fury (@BigRed_Fury) January 2, 2016
Be sure to enable sound so you can hear the LSJUMB getting booed off the field.
Until Iowa got on the board with field goal to make it 38-3 in the third quarter, proud Iowan Tom Arnold held the distinction of receiving the Hawkeye faithful’s biggest cheers of the day. Apparently all 14 members of Slipknot were busy.
Stanford mercifully took their foot off the gas in the second half and Iowa was able to mount a small rally much to the delight of their fans who refused to leave early. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was kinda, sorta hoping for a Hawkeye beat down but seeing it happen in the most brutal way possible gave me that feeling of remorse you get when the yokel part of your brain momentarily gets excited about seeing a car crash until you remember there are people trapped inside the twisted wreckage.
I spent most of the fourth quarter trying to console the Iowa fans around me but they all seemed to be in mostly good spirits. By the final whistle, I came away with a new and healthy respect for the Huskers’ rival to the east. Hawkeye fans really aren’t that bad and dare I say pretty good people. There really might be more to Iowa than the Shelbyville vibe of Council Bluffs.
The guy in the Lane Kiffin visor gets the award for being the biggest kook of the night. He’s a ticket collector and was hounding anyone and everyone for their stubs. Even after getting blown out, Iowa fans weren’t too keen on giving him their tickets.
In fact, you might even say Iowa fans were ready to keep the party going. After all, bumping RATT in the frosty air of the Rose Bowl parking lot is way better than having to go back home to Iowa.
— Big Red Fury (@BigRed_Fury) January 2, 2016
Stay gold, Hawkeye Nation. We’ll see you again in November.