Penn State

The Waiting Game for Bowls Is Full of Suspense

We are all waiting for the decision on which bowl Penn State will go to.  The two most discussed are the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, and the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Florida.  There is also a chance that we could wind up in the Fiesta Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, or even the Outback Bowl, depending on what happens in games this weekend and next, and how the BCS deals with the at-large berths.

Of course, the Orange Bowl is the preferred choice for Penn State, and Orange Bowl representatives were present at Michigan State observing the game and, from what I understand, singing Penn State’s praises.  It’s a BCS bowl, and Penn State’s basic argument is that we finished strong with the same 10-2 record as Iowa, we have a legendary coach who will not be around forever, the last game played at the Orange Bowl was one of the best in bowl history (and also the longest!), and Penn Staters will show up in abundance and spend lots of money to bolster the economy.  Especially in this economy, the Orange Bowl may go for a sure bet with Penn State, rather than take chances on Iowa, which is further away, even though the Iowa fans also have a great history of traveling well and spending lots of money.

In fact, Iowa has asked that people order tickets for the bowl game BEFORE the bowl announcements are made – by December 4.  My guess is that Iowa wants to prove that their fans will be there  - for whatever BCS bowl that they are selected for.  I don’t blame them for wanting to make their case. 

Personally I believe that Iowa deserves a BCS bowl more than Penn State does.  We have the same 10-2 record, but they beat us head-to-head and are ranked ahead of us in the Big Ten and in the BCS.  Also, when you consider each of our games against Ohio State, Iowa gave OSU all they could handle even though they were playing under the leadership of a backup quarterback – moving the game into overtime before losing. Penn State lost every aspect of the game against Ohio State.  We were solidly beaten. 

On the other hand, Penn State could argue that we’re a better team now than when we played Iowa at the end of September.  Plus, we won every game on the road.   At the end of the season, Penn State’s win against Michigan State was more impressive than Iowa’s win against Minnesota, at least in terms of the score.  I haven’t watched the Iowa-Minnesota game, so I don’t know how the game was played.  Plus, there’s nothing about the BCS that’s inherently fair.  It’s about TV ratings and the best chance to have an economically winning event.

So I’ll much prefer the Orange Bowl if it’s offered to us, even though I believe it’s unfair to Iowa, or possibly other at-large candidates.  Or the Fiesta Bowl, which is really our first choice for a bowl game.  The Sugar Bowl will be fun, I love New Orleans and have never been to a Sugar Bowl (Terry has), but we will have to miss a wedding.  The Capitol One Bowl will be decent – we love Disney and haven’t been there for a while.  The one bowl I personally wish to avoid is the Outback Bowl.  It’s actually a very decent bowl, one of our favorites, but I would prefer not to have to go to Tampa, Florida. 

For most of our marriage, our holiday plans have evolved around bowl games.  There were three locations that were particularly important for us.  The first preferred location was California for the Rose Bowl (because that meant the Big Ten championship) or Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl.  Terry’s son Bob and his family live in Arizona, and we also have very good friends near Phoenix. 

So if we headed out west, we looked forward to holidays with family, especially our grandchildren Miranda and Mike, and our friends Janet and Herb.  Last year also, my sister and her husband from Boston joined us for the Rose Bowl, and we also had a reunion with our nephew and his family who live in Los Angeles.  It was a great deal of fun to convert my family to Penn State fans! 

So for this year, being with family in Arizona is a reason for rooting for the Fiesta Bowl.  It’s always fun to open presents with grandchildren!   Even if it’s after the New Year!

My mother lived in Florida, near Clearwater, outside of Tampa, for over two decades.  So any time Penn State was in the running for a Florida bowl it was always exciting for her.  She always wanted Penn State to win their games (but not too many games) so we could spend the holidays with her.  During the football season she would send me any articles from the St. Petersburg Times that discussed the Joe Paterno-Bobby Bowden rivalry.  And she would watch every game she could get on TV and call us after every game and congratulate or console us. 

Whenever Penn State was chosen for any Florida bowl, she was so delighted when I would call her and tell her we were coming.  But if we were destined elsewhere, she nevertheless said she was very happy for us, even though we knew she was disappointed.  She was a wonderful mom, and always wanted the best for us.

We spent many a Christmas, or New Year’s, or both, with her when Penn State was playing anywhere in Florida - in Tampa, or Orlando, or even Miami.  A stop in Tampa was always part of those trips.  But beginning in November of 2007, she started having serious health problems, and she died, ironically enough, on Mother’s Day in 2008.  I guess she wanted to make sure we never forgot her!   She was 89 years old, and for all but the last seven months of her life, she had a very good life.  We miss her tremendously.

After spending some time in Florida managing her affairs after her death, we have not yet returned to Florida.  And I’m truly not sure how I would handle it if we wound up in Tampa this year. Miami or Orlando will be difficult enough because there are associations with visiting her – but they’re different environments and far enough away. 

But Tampa is so strongly associated with my mother. All the places we’ve stayed in that area, the things we’ve come to know and love about the Tampa Bay area, are associated with her presence.

So we will have a decision to make.  Do we confront those memories of my mother head on by staying at our favorite places in the Clearwater area, near where she used to live, or do we try to make the trip very different from the past – away from our favorite hotels, restaurants, and beaches where we shared so many precious moments with my mom?  I guess you can tell from my writing that I haven’t finished grieving her loss.  And frankly I just hope that we avoid the Outback Bowl for now.  I’m not sure I’m ready to go back quite yet.

Our third favorite destination is the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio Texas.  That’s not even a consideration for Penn State this year.   But my best friend Jeanne from high school lives there.  So for the two Alamo Bowl appearances, we’ve enjoyed Christmas with her, treating her and her boys to the bowl game, and a wonderful time overall on the Riverwalk.  It’s a great bowl game, and I’m sorry to see that the Big Ten connection will not be as strong as in the past. 

Another complication with this year’s bowl choice is a wedding we’ve been invited to that will occur on New Year’s Eve this year in State College. It’s a black tie affair at the Nittany Lion Inn.  We have a lot of affection for the bride, because as a teenager she took good care of our cats for many years while we traveled to Penn State games and elsewhere.  Her father, our good friend and next-door neighbor, has told us that it will be the event of the year in State College.  We do believe that is true!  We hate to miss the celebration. 

So, having said all that, our preferences are as follows:

1. Fiesta bowl January 4– we will see family and friends near the holidays AND we can go to the New Year’s Eve wedding in State College

2. Orange bowl January 5– Miami is warm and nice AND we can go to the New Year’s Eve wedding in State College.  PLUS a regular respondent to this blog has promised us that he will treat us to the best Mojitos in Miami! 

3. Sugar bowl January 1– it’s a BCS bowl and I have never been to a Sugar Bowl, and we love New Orleans, but we will have to miss the wedding

4. Capitol One Bowl January 1– Disney is always fun, but we will have to miss the wedding.  But we still hope to share cocktails with the blog respondent mentioned above!

5. Outback Bowl January 1– Tampa/Clearwater area is always nice as well, but we will have to miss the wedding.  And am not sure how I will handle such strong memories of my mother, whose presence was so important for so many years. 

Wow!  Is this complicated or what?  Such is the life of Penn State fans that go to EVERY game and have to wait to know their fate for the holidays!  Wherever Penn State goes, however, we will be there. 

We will know on December 6 and then we can make some plans.  We just hope that it’s not too late to rent a tuxedo in State College.  And if anyone has two seats on a private plane from State College heading toward a bowl early on January 1, please let us know!