The best game of the year

Published 8:39 am Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Like most football fans, I have been somewhat skeptical about the increasing number of college football bowl games. If I am honest, I really didn’t watch but just a handful of games over the holidays. Part of it was probably disappointment over Auburn’s awful season, but more so it was just a push back that many of these teams didn’t deserve to be in a post-season bowl.

This past weekend, after attending the wedding of the son of some longtime friends in Mobile, Mary Lou and I got caught in the traffic leading up to the parade before the Bowl. Participants in the bowl this year were the Arkansas State Red Wolves and the Kent State Golden Flashes.

As the police cut off the roads just before the parade, we found ourselves stuck in the middle of Dauphin Street, which is the entertainment strip in downtown Mobile. The police officer gave us no help in knowing when the parade would be over, but informed us that if we weren’t at our car when the parade was over, it would be towed.

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Determined not to let this unanticipated event ruin our great weekend, we left our car and walked five blocks to our hotel. I suspect we got the most looks of anyone walking through the crowds. Everyone had on their college gear, but I had on a suit and tie. Mary Lou had to be the only one along the parade route in high heels.

We quickly changed into more suitable (and comfortable) clothing and headed back to our car. Unable to make it all the way back, we settled in to watch the parade and try not to worry about our stranded vehicle.

Soon the parade began and all my expectations began to be blown away. It was somewhat of a Mardi Gras parade with a wonderful collection of antique cars thrown in. The floats were fantastic and the crowds rivaled any parade I have ever been to.

The colorful beads that are so popular in Mardi Gras parades began to fly from the floats. It wasn’t long before my irritation melted and I was just as enthusiastic as a child in trying to get just one more strand of beads. I finished the night with 21 strands, looking something like a pirate with the loot hung around my neck.

I also had multiple Moon Pies stuffed in my jacket and a plush rabbit piggy bank in my hand. I never really understood the piggy bank rabbit’s connection to the event.

Along the way we met some total strangers. It was amazing the number of people we knew in common. Not just acquaintances, but people who had been a significant part of both of our lives. It is always just such a small world.

To sum it up, I believe that there is no real need to cut the number of bowl games after my experience in Mobile. It isn’t just about the viewers on ESPN. The tens of thousands of people supporting Arkansas State and Kent State were as enthused and happy as any of the fans at any Auburn-Alabama game I have ever attended.

There are lots of champions on the field. They don’t all have to be No. 1.