(Written immediately after returning from the BCS Championship Football game — January 2014. Why not? The 2015 season kicks off exactly 31 days from today! Here’s a little nostalgia to get us fired up.)
When our beloved Auburn football team accomplished the unbelievable feat of going from a 3-9 season in 2012 to beating Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and being chosen to play for the National BCS Championship in 2013, we decided to go with them to Pasadena and cheer them on in person. I’m so glad we did. Florida State IS the #1 team for this year, but Auburn was a very close #2. Our boys played hard and “did us proud.” The Auburn fans clad in orange and blue outnumbered the garnet and gold crowd by at least 60% to 40%. Our band looked great. Aubie was fun. Our game stats were admirable. We ALMOST won. And, so far, no embarrassing YouTube videos have surfaced portraying our fans in a bad light. Whew. Big relief.
Since I continue to think like a teacher, I think in terms of lessons — the ones learned, the ones to be taught, and the ones to be reviewed and confirmed. Here are my lessons/take-aways from the trip to Pasadena:
1) Weather conditions anywhere in the US can and will impact a LOT of airports. You are unlikely to make it through an entire travel itinerary without at least one glitch, delay or hassle of some kind. SAFETY, however, is something you don’t ever want to be compromised in any way. Amen? Leaving Huntsville last Saturday, we had to have something akin to a jumper cable to jump-start one of our engines. What in the world??? Then, we arrived in Denver amid a LOT of snow and had to walk several yards through said snow, slipping and sliding in shoes that had not planned to be in such conditions. There was a long delay at our next departure gate, so we were transferred to another gate where we waited another hour. We arrived in Los Angeles a couple of hours after our scheduled time. Oh well. Nothing urgent was missed, besides dinner. 🙁
Our return flights on Wednesday were on-time. However, the first leg required a wake-up call at 3:30 a.m. in order to make the 6 a.m. flight. And, when we got to Denver, we knew we had a tight connection. Where were our seats? On the back row of the plane. Do you know how long it takes to get from the 40th row to the cockpit? When we finally made it to Gate 22, our connecting flight to Huntsville was already boarding at Gate 79. Silver Fox and his fluffy bride were bookin’ it down Terminal B! We were the last ones to board before the door was closed. Whew! So, no breakfast. No lunch. Not even any pretzels. Cracker Barrel tasted mighty good when we finally got home.
2) Amazingly, planes can now have DirecTV, but still don’t have food or leg-room. Go figure. One of these days, I’m going to have enough air miles built up to fly First Class, and boy, am I going to enjoy it!
3) Airport hotels are convenient to . . . . the AIRPORT — but not much else. It WAS nice to arrive late at night and have a free shuttle to the Marriott LAX in just a few minutes. And, it was VERY convenient to have shuttles running 24 hours a day so that someone friendly and helpful was available at 4:15 a.m. I’m sure that shuttle alone saved us a bundle of cash. The next morning, AFTER paying 50 bucks for the breakfast buffet at the hotel, we discovered that a Denny’s and a Burger King were only a couple of blocks away. Guess what we did the other mornings?
We had already booked a city bus tour (downtown LA, Hollywood, Olveda Dr., etc.) and a bus to and from the Rose Bowl, but otherwise, we were looking at expensive taxis or car rentals to go anywhere or do anything.
4) Don’t be afraid to use public transportation. Large cities generally have good, logical, workable, reasonably-priced systems in place and fully-functioning. On the morning after the big game, we were considering 1) renting a car, which would have been at least $100, or 2) taking taxis,which might have run as much as $200. With the help of the Guest Services desk and a handy-dandy map, we opted for the city buses and spent a whopping $3. Yes. We did shell out some dollars for our tickets to the BCS Championship Game, and we did blow our 2014 travel budget on the airline tickets to California, but, hey, we’re not known for wasting money needlessly. Am I hearing rousing “Amens!” from those who know my husband well??
Just as a side note, if anyone should ask me whether I prefer Los Angeles or New York City, hands down I’d say NYC!! Even though “the weather outside is frightful” there this time of year, NYC has an energy and a vibe that I absolutely love. The sunny skies and warm temperatures in LA, and most definitely as we approached game time, were blissful for January, though, I’ll have to admit. There’s no perfect place to live, however. Alabama has to contend with extreme temperatures and tornadoes, but Southern California is experiencing a drought right now (3 inches of rain in the past YEAR), they have lots of forest fires, and earthquakes are a constant possibility. I’ll take Alabama.
5) Attending a major sporting event is NOT for the weak, the frugal, or the faint-hearted. Mercy! We enjoyed the Rose Bowl setting a lot and had great seats, BUT there was a LOT of walking, the concession stand prices were HIGH, and we STOOD for every play, only sitting during time-outs and for half-time. This stadium was built a LONG time ago, thus there were few restrooms. We’d been warned in advance to be sure to “use it before you go in.” It was good advice. 🙂
6) Great fans and proud traditions are a part of other football programs BESIDES Auburn. Those Florida State folks had a fantastic- looking horse (where WAS our eagle, anyway?), a fun (intimidating) ritual with their spear, their chant drove us slightly crazy (MUCH worse than Mississippi State’s cowbells), and they have the world’s largest marching band. But, don’t ever doubt it. Auburn fans were loud and proud. We were all just so glad to be there. We made quick friends with perfect strangers wearing the right colors. And, by George, we are LOYAL!!! We left the stadium yelling “It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger” and meant it to the depths of our hearts.
7) The tiniest increment of time can make a HUGE difference. It was a case of ONE SECOND in the Iron Bowl (sorry, Bama friends). Then, last Monday night Steve looked at me after Auburn’s last score and said, “79 seconds. We’ve got to hold them for 79 seconds.” Before the game, my prediction had been that whoever had the ball last would win, and I was almost right. Think about how short 1 minute and 19 seconds is when you’re going about your daily routine. It seems so insignificant. But, also think about how much damage or good can be done with that much time. Words. A person’s reputation or a relationship can be destroyed in less than 79 seconds. On the other hand, a person’s future can be changed forever and for good in a short period, too. How about “I love you. Will you marry me?” or “I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.” A few seconds. All the difference. A lesson from the 2013 Auburn football season? Every play, every second matters, and never give up! I suspect our grandchildren will hear those words from us for years to come.