Friday, January 1, 2010

Notes From my Tampa Experience or How I Learned to Stop Fretting and Love the Outback Bowl

This New Years holiday was a little stressful for me. I had a great gameplan and I knew all the things that I was going to do and see during the week in Tampa. Unfortunately, my weekend did not go off without a hitch. Over the trip, I compiled a few mental notes, and I now present them as a memoir of my journey; of what I saw, observed, and learned. And I'm bored and have nothing better to do. You're welcome, internet.

1. St. Petersburg is NOT the Opelika to Tampa's Auburn.
For me, football has always been a family affair. That's why I grew up loving Auburn, because my parents did what any good parent would do, and brainwashed me through years of family (extended family) trips to Auburn football games. So of course this year was no different when it came time to make the bowl trip. I would stay with my family (because they so generously payed for my ticket, lodging, food, and travel) but I would be able to go out with my friends on New Years Eve. After all, I'll be able to walk to the hotel, because we'll probably be staying nearby the parade and main tourism area. So, me and my family packed up and headed down to... St. Petersburg? Well that shouldn't be too bad. "It's just across the bridge" said my Granddad, who booked the hotel at St. Petersburg Beach. I'll be able to take a cab back to the hotel... 45 minutes later, and I figure my cab fare to be about 50 bucks. Goodbye New Years Eve out in Tampa, hello New Years Eve in a smelly beach motel.

2. White socks+White shoes= Awesome.
It took until midway through the first quarter of play for me to realize what it was that made Auburn's uniforms look so freaking awesome on Friday. It was definitely the sock/shoe combo. Of course, we all know that Auburn usually plays with black shoes and socks, but at the Outback bowl, they used the throwback white on white. Everyone in the stands loved it, and we all vote for more of the same next year.

3. Florida St. play-by-play>Florida play-by-play.
One of the drawbacks of being able to go to the game and still be able to make it back for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra show in Birmingham on Saturday (which incidentally rocked my face off--completely off) was that I had to listen to all of the New Years Day bowl games on the radio. Lucky for me, both Florida and Florida St. were playing on Friday, so we could pick up the local radio stations on the way home. As we traveled up I-75, I noticed one thing from the afternoon to the night; the 'Noles' play-by-play announcer was significantly better than the Gators'. Florida State's Gene Deckerhoff presented the game in a way that was classy, informative, accurate, and colorful. On the other hand, "Oh my!" has to be the most contrived, obnoxious catch phrases I've ever heard in my life, and I know of some really awful catch-phrases. It's as if he heard Jim Fyffe yell "TOUCHDOWN AUBURN!"* and then sat down for several hours trying to come up with something as catchy, couldn't, finally gave up, and settled for "oh my". Whoopee. The Florida broadcast seemed amateurish (almost as much as this blog). I think I speak for a lot of people when I say, "That's enough Mick Hubert."

4. Ben Tate may lead a secret life as an Auburn basketball player.
The Auburn internets have been abuzz about the Ben Tate slam dunk after the touchdown, which theoretically cost Auburn 6 points at the other end. Most of the talk has been poo-pooing of Ben Tate for the "boneheaded" decision. I say, who cares? Sure, I don't want that to become an Auburn thing. Save that for "the U". But I refuse, as many people seem to want to do, to think of Ben Tate's last game at Auburn as "the one where that moron nearly cost us the game". I'm going to think of it as yet another 100 yard, 2 TD game to add to a career that stands out, even here at Running Back U. Sure I'd probably be singing a different tune if it had ended up costing us the game, but it didn't. I'm not concerned that it will become an issue, Chizik doesn't put up with that stuff. It was a one time thing, and ultimately didn't matter, except maybe to provide an exciting ending. Frankly, I'm more upset about him not covering up the ball a couple of drives later. And don't forget that he put us in position with 20 yards in overtime to make the field goal an easy pitching wedge for Wes. Honestly, I was more concerned about the form on the dunk. Weak sauce if you ask me. He probably does play for our roundball team. (sorry guys, had to make a little jab)

5. Caution: Floor may be slippery when wet.
For all the talk about the dunk, the best touchdown celebration of the day has been overlooked. After Todd's pass to Carr, Todd goes up for the flying air body bump (that's football jargon), but Carr busts his butt on the wet turf and slid under him. I, for one, think this is awesome, and should become the official Chizik era touchdown celebration, in lieu of the "lineman lifting running back" favorite of Tubby's tenure.

6. "Is it also pronounced 'Frodrick'?"
The best hangout in Tampa was Ybor City, site of the parade and pep rally and general festivities and such. However, I still have no idea how to pronounce the word. Was it Ibor or Ebor? Or maybe Wybor? Anyone?

7. The Florida Aquarium is a No Bone Zone.
You heard right. There are signs in the Florida Aquarium denoting the "No Bone Zone". I'll find pictures. So keep it PG when you go to Tampa, kids.

8. "They're real Cubans? They're human beings from Cuba?!"

I may have been the only person in the world that didn't realize how much Tampa was known for its cigars. There must have been 5 cigar shops for every non-cigar shop in Ybor (Ibor?) City. And they all rolled their own. It really is like a cigar aficionado's Mecca. Also, I'm fairly certain that there were, in fact, real Cubans making them. There were a few telltale signs. One roller was wearing a Cuban soccer jacket. One was talking excitedly about the prospect of Castro's totalitarian state falling to pieces after his death. And one was singing "Babalu" and was married to a loud redhead.**

9. It's not over 'till the fat lady sings. Twice. And then leaves the stage to go find a cheeseburger.
Just when you think it's OK to celebrate, a Big XII officiating crew comes in and bursts your bubble.*** That game was the craziest emotional roller coaster I've ever been on. Twice we blew 14 point leads, and twice the defense grabbed that last ledge before they fell completely off the cliff. By the end I was so ready for the game to be over, and it just wouldn't end. The air got completely let out of the Auburn section several times during the course of that wild game. The bad news is that I don't think I will be able for a long time to celebrate immediately after a game-ending play like that until I see the refs leaving the field.

10. A win is a win is a win. And a bowl win is damn sure a win.
It's been pretty well documented that with all the things coming before the final whistle, the celebration had a weird feeling, to say the least. I, for one, was just happy the game was over. Looking back, however, I see much more cause to celebrate. Because the bottom line is, they don't draw pictures on the scoreboard, and all the ugly things from that game have already gone away. My trip, although odd and often frustrating, couldn't have gone any better than leaving Tampa with the W and all the momentum we take into the off season. So bring on September!

*Still gives me chills just typing it. Miss ya, Jim.

**Oh come on. You know you love a good Lucy joke. It's such a hot show these days.

***I've had a lot to say about the officiating, but I want to make it clear that I do not blame the officials for the crazy nature of the game. They made the right calls for the most part, or as much as any other game. The penalty margin was only one of the bad breaks Auburn's defense caught, along with injuries, silly turnovers, our offenses inability during certain stretches of the game to stay on the field, Northwestern's receivers making every circus catch on every ball thrown their way and other such craziness. So I definitely don't blame the refs, but it just so happened that during the first two false start celebrations, they were the ones who had the duty of informing us it was wrong. It just stands out more in my memory. TIFWIW.


  1. My wife grew up in a suburb of Tampa and says it's pronounced "E-bor". I had one of the best sandwhiches of my life there once... a Cuban, made by a real Cuban person I assume.

  2. Thanks a lot, Marcus. That was bugging my whole family. And I must concur on those Cuban-made Cubans. Excellent eats.