In January 2013, Tales from the Tailgate received an Honorable Mention from the New England Book Festival at the Omni Parker Hotel. Today, one hundred-twenty NCAA schools compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Over the past 30 years, one fan made the effort to attend a game played by every team at least once. He did it, and he has two kids and has been married to the same woman for 22 years! Here is his fun story every college football fan will enjoy reading!
Penn State vs. (46) Oregon
The Rose Bowl
January 2, 1995
Pasadena, California –In 1993, my friend Jim Lewis, who I’d known since second-grade, moved from New York City to beautiful, downtown Burbank, California. Jim wrote for Henson Productions, creators of the Muppets. Of course, I had mixed emotions about my friend’s relocation. I was sorry he was moving so far away, but I also realized that we now had real Rose Bowl possibilities. My prophetic words to Jim Lewis to go to California to attend the Rose Bowl with him became reality in 1994 after Penn State defeated Michigan and Ohio State to win the Big Ten to get invited to play in the Rose Bowl on the second day of 1995. The Rose Bowl is never played on a Sunday.
When my wish came true, I called him. He said, “If you’re still serious, let me know. I may have a connection.” Would I be any more serious? The next long distance conversation went like this:
“I’ll make a call, but how many tickets do we need?” Jim asked.
“Well, there are you and I, and I know John Massimilla will definitely go. Laurie says she’s not interested in the game, of course, but says that she’s always wanted to go to the Rose Bowl Parade.”
“I’ll ask if we can get tickets for that, too. How many?”
“Well, you and Judy, me and Laurie, Alex, John, maybe Kelle…” Jim decided to ask for eight.
“I can’t promise you anything. I’ll probably call you back next week.” We had our second conversation the very next day.
“I called this guy and I told him that some Penn State friends of mine were interested to come out for the game, and I’d like to see if we can possibly get any tickets?”
“Sure! How many would you like?” responded Jimmy’s contact.
“How’s the fifty-yard line halfway up?”
“Great! How much do you want for them?”
“Don’t worry about that. You and your friends will come as my guests. Would you like seats for the parade as well?”
Wow! This was bigger than the time a few of us as14-year olds went to Madison Square Garden and were told by an usher to give him a buck and go to gate 105 and ask for “Ike”. Jimmy couldn’t have come up with a better contact. W.H. “Bud” Griest happened to be the Vice Chairman of the Tournament of Roses Committee that year. The following year, Bud would be Chairman. The Chairman gets to select the Grand Marshal for his parade. The only consideration that we needed to make for the tickets was not to divulge who Bud’s Grand Marshal would be in 1996 Tournament of Roses. The secret was safe with me and I never let the cat, or I can now say frog, out of the bag. Kermit the Frog was Bud’s choice as Grand Marshal. My old Boonton pal Jimmy was artistically responsible for “Kermie” at that time. So thanks to the green frog, I saw the green and gold Ducks play for the first time - and in the Rose Bowl!
The fabulous Rose Parade came first. We enjoyed reserved parking spaces and reserved bleacher seats below the television cameras. The PSU and Oregon bands came along to cheers from their respective fans. Horse units, US Marines, Morris Brown University, and other marching bands were great, but I have to admit that I found myself very amazed seeing the floats in person for the first time. I know it struck a chord with my little daughter, as for a very long time Alex would remember the event as “bears and flowers.”
After the parade and a short drive to the stadium, we enjoyed a great, buffet lunch under a huge bubble in the parking lot with as guests of Big Ten and PAC 10 officials and Grand Marshal Chi-Chi Rodriguez, the golfing legend. Saint Laurie, Jim’s wife Judy, and Alex left after lunch, not that they had any interest in watching a football game to begin with, but Laurie and Judy were both awaiting arrivals of baby boys in the spring. Jimmy, John, and I headed to the Rose Bowl to meet Bud at our seats. There we presented him with a Penn State sweatshirt as a token of our appreciation. He graciously accepted, but for obvious reasons did not put it on to maintain his neutrality. We couldn’t put him on the spot, but we hoped that he’d wear it eventually.
The 81st edition of the oldest bowl game in history started off with an explosion. Penn State RB Ki-Jana Carter broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and raced 83 yards for a touchdown. Things couldn’t get started any better than that for the disrespected Lions who led the nation offensively with 47.8 points and 526.2 yards per game. When Carter scored again in the second half, John, Jimmy, and I celebrated among the Rose Bowlattendees sitting in our “neutral” section. Locals, mostly USC fans, turned to look at us to wonder why anybody in their section was cheering. We roared for the Lions!
Ki-Jana Carter tied a Rose Bowl record with three rushing TDs for the Lions among his 156 yards on 21 carries. Oregon QB Danny O’Neill riddled Penn State’s defense completing 41 of 61 passes for 456 yards and two TD passes. He shattered 13 Rose Bowl records. Tied at 14 early in the third, Ambrose Fletcher returned a kickoff 72 yards for Penn State. Carter ran it in from 17 yards. Later in the third, S Chuck Penzenik intercepted an O’Neil pass, his second of the day, and returned it to the Ducks’ 13. Carter took it in from the three for a 28-14 lead. With a Brett Conway FG and Jon Witman’s TD run of nine yards, Penn State went on to defeat the “Quack Attack”, 38-20, to finish the season 12-0, the fifth undefeated season ever in Coach Paterno’s illustrious career.
From a personal perspective, this Rose Bowl experience was the opportunity of a lifetime—first-class all the way! We couldn’t thank Bud enough for his great hospitality, and before we parted at the end of the post-game celebration, he told us, “The next time Penn State plays in the Rose Bowl, you guys are invited back any time.”
I left Bud with this thought, “Bud, no matter who’s playing, I’ll be glad to come back any time!”
A year later, Kermit the Frog presided over Northwestern’s first trip to Pasadena since 1949 to face the nearby Trojans of USC. Regretfully, the Lions did not return until 2008, and even more so, we couldn’t track down Bud. If I ever do get back to the “Granddaddy of ‘em all”, I’m sure it will never top the experience enjoyed on January 2, 1995. I got to see Team No. 46, the Ducks from the University of Oregon, thanks to my acquaintance with Kermit the Frog.
From 1979 through 2010, Steve Koreivo attended 402 NCAA college football games seeing teams from all four divisions play. In 2000, he put togehter a history of all the games he's seen and realized that he'd seem more that half of all the Division 1A (now Football Bowl Subdivison) teams play at least once. He wondered if anyone else had already seen all 117 teams at the time play in person. Whether or not someone had, and despite having a wife, two kids, and a career to support them, he set out to do it. He kept track of "The Goal" which he monitored throughout the year on his website www.collegefootballfan.com. On Halloween weekend 2007 in Reno, Nevada, he completed his quest watching the Idaho Vandals visit the Wolfpack of Nevada. In 2009, he kept pace to "see 'em all" watching the newest FBS team, Western Kentucky, visit the Tennessee Vols at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
He continues to add more new FBS teams as they join the division while he continues to basically attend a college game somewhere every weekend. He'll be a little more challenged to do this during the next few years as his son will play high school football in his junior and senior years.
Koreivo is married to his wife Laurie for 22 years. Though she is not a great college football, dhe has admiringly tolerated his endeavor which is prominently brought on in several chapters of his book, "Tales from the Tailgate: from the fan who's seen 'em all." His daughter Alex will be entering the University of South Carolina in the fall of 2011 as a freshman, and his son Eric will be entering his junior year at Lenape Valley High School. The family resides in Byram Township, NJ.
Excellent reading.Very well written & captures the college football spirit from a fans' perspective.
BRIAN B DONNELLY