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Stanford Report, January 5, 2000

On the road: A Rose Bowl diary


Forget about Y2K worries or the debates over whether the weekend marked the dawning of a new millennium. Jan. 1, 2000, had more significance for the Stanford community than any given New Year's Day. The Cardinal had made it to the Rose Bowl, and for a few hours, faculty, staff and students took a break from their usual intellectual pursuits for some raw action on the football field. Although the Cardinal ultimately lost the match against Wisconsin, by all accounts the team played remarkably well. For many, simply getting there -- and being there -- represented a gridiron dream come true. Below, Benjamin Allen, a senior communication major, takes us along for the ride.

Dec. 30, 1 p.m.
White Plaza, Stanford Campus

My friend David and I must be the only signs of student life on campus. As the epicenter of a football season that rattled the Pac-10 and heaved the Cardinal into the Rose Bowl -- our first in 28 seasons -- the silence is just a bit unexpected.

The five-hour trip down to Los Angeles should be candy compared to the 17 hours we logged from Spokane yesterday. We'll leave as soon as the third member of our crew, Kayvon, finishes wrestling practice.

That is about the extent of our game plan. In my back pocket, I have a scrap of paper with the name "Bismarck" and a telephone number scrawled on it. We're counting on Bismarck, a friend of a friend and an L.A. local, to point us in the direction of any Stanford gatherings tomorrow. From there, we should be able to better feel out our New Year's Eve and pre-game tailgating options.

Right now, we're not worried about plans. The glossy red-and-white tickets in our hands are all that really matter.

Head Coach Tyrone Willingham, followed by Willie Howard (77), Dorean Kass (71), Andrew Currie (99), Frank Primus (47) and Troy Walters (5), leads the team out to the field at the start of the 86th Rose Bowl.

Photo by David Gonzales

Dec. 31, 1:25 a.m.
Towne House Motel, Hollywood

Our original idea was to find out what hotel was housing most of the Stanford students and then shack up there, but after an hour of searching, even the seediest of motels on Sunset Strip looks promising. I don't expect to see too many Stanford types here, unless they were as enticed as we are by the "COLOR TV" and $32.95 single occupancy rate advertised out front.

The drive down was pleasant, save the part where my techie companions tried to determine statistically whether or not the 28-year Rose Bowl drought could be due to chance alone. The probability of Stanford winning without Troy Walters was a subject politely left untouched. After yesterday's announcement that Walters would not play due to a wrist injury, we've decided not to try to imagine Cardinal football without him.

"It just gives the team more incentive to win," David said. "You know, 'Win it for Troy!'" Kayvon and I just gritted our teeth and nodded.

Dec. 31, 2:30 p.m.
Pacific Palisades

Bismarck comes through in the clutch and directs us to a gathering just off the beach where food and drink are free and touch football games emerge out of chaos. Our kind of party.

On our way here, though, we must have passed five or six Wisconsin parties. You can't miss them -- their bright red apparel has become our most despised Los Angeles eyesore. Wisconsin fans are everywhere, and Stanford fans are tough to spot. It seems like we are in their territory, playing on their turf. I don't like that feeling.

It is starting to rain, and a rainbow is forming overhead. David, Kayvon and I make sure not to label it an omen of any kind.

Jan. 1, 12:01 a.m.
Aaron's place, Laguna Niguel

We've somehow ended up at a celebration hosted by an American studies RA named Aaron.

Now, with champagne bottles popping and a few cases of the common cold being shared throughout the room, the only reminder that we're at a gathering of Cardinal fans is the couple playing chess in the corner, oblivious to the changing of the year. Only at a Stanford party . . .

Jan. 1, Halftime
Section 8, Row 59, Seat 120, Rose Bowl

A student to my left points his camera at the scoreboard that reads "Stanford 9, Wisconsin 3" and snaps a photo. "I want to capture a moment when we were actually ahead at the Rose Bowl," he says.

His faith seems exceptionally low, considering the optimism that overtook the crowd when both Walters and Willie Howard, who also had been injured, took the field.

The roar that erupted when we won the coin toss might have led some to believe that the outcome of the game had just been decided. Since then, enthusiasm has waned slightly.

Though Stanford fans outnumber our Wisconsin counterparts, the Badger supporters are more organized and distinguishable. They can't be missed in that eyesore red, while our student section looks remarkably blue.

Nevertheless, we are not only in this game, we're winning it! That's more than most people expected, I suppose.

Jan. 1, 5:45 p.m.
Parking Lot, Rose Bowl

The souvenir vendors outside the stadium must have known before we did that Wisconsin had captured the Rose Bowl championship. Their tables are loaded down with Badger gear as the procession of fans files out, and their shouts advertise spoils for the victors.

What the vendors don't realize is that anyone leaving the stadium this early is a fan of the Cardinal. If you are a Badger, you're still inside celebrating.

The game was certainly hard fought, and falling 17-9 to Wisconsin is no shame. On the way to the car, talk of "what if" or "if we could've only" between the three of us quickly dissipates.

In reality, the Cardinal footballers gave us just what we and all the other Cardinal faithful were looking for -- a reason to celebrate the New Year in Pasadena for the first time in 28 years. Thanks, guys. SR

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