In 2010 I watched the BCS Championship Game against Oregon practically by myself. I was deployed and didn't have the opportunity to go to Glendale. I've been to Georgia Southern national championship games, as well. So when Michigan State scored late to put away the B1G Championship Game and seal Auburn's trip to Pasadena, I immediately jumped online and bought a travel package for myself and my girlfriend to go out to the game. I was not going to miss the opportunity to see Auburn play in the historic Rose Bowl Stadium.
We flew out Sunday afternoon after I was able to leave my unit since it was, of course, a drill weekend. Our return flight was in the early morning hours on Tuesday, so we really only spent Monday in Los Angeles and didn't get to do much other than a quick trip to the beach so that Karie could see the Pacific Ocean.
I'll say this about the Rose Bowl: it was neat getting to experience a game played in that stadium. However, I would never want to go back. Getting in and out of there was so painful, with the bus we were on coming in on a two lane road through a residential neighborhood. It took almost two hours to go two miles after we got off the highway. The tailgating experience was nice, and it was great to be there for Tiger Walk as the players came in. We didn't have a great view for it, but we were close enough to see players' heads and at least in the crowd to be able to cheer the team on.
We went into the stadium shortly after Tiger Walk because we really didn't know of much else to do. The seating chart was a bit confusing in terms of what was on the ticket and what you could find online, but I knew from what little I could figure out that we were probably going to have a fantastic view from our seats. And boy did we.
That picture really doesn't do it justice. It was an amazing view of the mountains. What was not so amazing were the 100 seat rows, tiny tunnels, etc. You know how I mentioned I would never go back to the Rose Bowl? Well these are more reasons. When you have rows that are 100 seats long, someone is constantly needing to go to the bathroom or wants to go grab a drink. It seemed like we were moving out of someone's way every few minutes because we were down near the end of our row. And since this stadium is so old it wasn't designed for stadium seats and left little in the way of legroom even when sitting down.
Unfortunately our seats were surrounded by Florida State fans with a few Auburn fans close by. They weren't TOO obnoxious, but I would much rather have been in the middle of Auburn people. The game was an emotional thrill ride to say the least. So many games in 2013 came down to Auburn scoring and me looking at the clock while saying "we left them too much time." Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama, and then Florida State all fit into this description. Three out of the four we pulled it out. In this final game we just left them 13 seconds too much.
Exiting the stadium took a lot longer than I cared for. There is only one tunnel per section and almost 100,000 people trying to get through them. What was the real kicker for me were the cops blocking the bathrooms on the way out. I've never been to a stadium where cops were lined up and forbidding people from doing anything but exiting the stadium. I can only guess the city of Pasadena was really afraid we would grab toilet paper and roll things if we won. Either way it was very off-putting and adds to the list of reasons why I never care to see a game in the Rose Bowl Stadium again.
So why is this game on my list of top 10 games? And even more why is it this high? Because it was Auburn playing in the national championship game. Not only that, but in the Rose Bowl Stadium. It was the cap to a magical season. It was an experience I'll never forget. I wish we could have pulled out the victory in the end, but the trip was still fun. It was amazing to see all of the Auburn people who made the trip and see the true representation of what a family our fan base really is. I missed it in 2010 so there was no way I would have missed it this time. It was especially fun to be there with my girlfriend who had been with me for every Auburn game last year but one (and we'll get to that one, soon). It's fun to do something spontaneous and crazy like up and buy tickets and flights to a game across the country a month in advance. That was a very expensive two weeks for me in the end, since I spent the week between Christmas and New Years in New Mexico on an elk hunt with my uncle. But what an amazing two weeks. What an amazing season. But I still have more to say about it, so I'm going to avoid any big thoughts on the season as a whole just yet.
This year one of the semifinal games is going to be played in the Rose Bowl Stadium. Predicting the future is pointless, but I really think the playoff committee is going to regret using bowl sites for the semifinals. It is just too much to ask for schools to travel to these types of locations and for fans to show up at them. Coming from my Georgia Southern background I absolutely love the home-field playoff games. I have a feeling we may see FBS go to this before long. It may not be for the semi-finals, but when (not if, but WHEN) they expand the field of teams, I suspect the early rounds will be on-campus.
I went to very few games in 2012, even though I live in Auburn and could have easily gotten tickets. 2012 was painful. It's hard to explain how I'm not too heartbroken over losing this game. It hurt. A lot. But we really were playing with house money. Auburn was expected to at best make a bowl game in 2013. No one outside of the players expected they had the chance to do what they did. I was there with them for every home game in 2013. After the amazing thrill ride we all went on I can't begin to properly explain how special it was to be there at the end of it. Even if it was a bitter end. But as one of my uncles is fond of saying, the sun will rise tomorrow and there is life after the Iron Bowl. Win or lose, it's always great to be an Auburn Tiger. And War Eagle, anyways.