Five Favorites for a Pigskin Party

Vikings-Bills 12.5.2010 19
All photos by Randy Stern

If this was any other year, I'd be happy to celebrate my birthday on Super Bowl Sunday.

Not this year, I'm afraid. It is not because the Minnesota Vikings went into complete retrograde. Just my interest in the National Football League waned severely this year, thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the constant frustration with the state of cultural relations with most major professional sports leagues.

Frankly, I could care less who is playing in this year's Super Bowl (that would be the New England Patriots and the New York Giants – correct?). If it is your team that will be on the field inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis – good luck!

Still, football was one of my favorite sports to follow and go deep with for the longest time. I recalled some memories from the game – in attendance, of course. In some cases, they involved automobiles.

On this special edition of Five Favorites, let me log back into time to see what crazy automobile-related events transpired around the pigskin and the 100-yard field.

THE RACE TO THE COLISEUM: The highlight of going to anything back in Reseda was being with a group of friends – or, so-called friends. We all got the idea of attending a Los Angeles Raiders game against the visiting San Francisco 49ers during the 1985 season. We gathered at a friend's work in Northridge waiting for some stragglers to convoy to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It got so close that we would end up late for kickoff. Where the fun begins was a race between two white Fords – a friend's co-worker's Mustang notchback and my rented Tempo. The "race" got interesting as we put foot to metal in our underpowered white Fords down the Hollywood Freeway onto Vermont Avenue. We kept on getting yellow lights at practically every intersection – to give you an idea of how insane our run was. All I knew that the people in my car were ready to kill me. Luckily, we were glad to get our cars down near the Coliseum just after kickoff. At least the 'Niners won…

CHARGER-MANIA: Winters in Southern California aren't like winters elsewhere. The air used to just cool down, but sunny skies always prevailed. It was an action-packed Sunday starting with a football game in San Diego – ending with a holiday party for my job back in the San Fernando Valley. Originally, I was going to take a co-worker – until he backed out. Fine…I went solo. On a lovely December Sunday in 1986, I headed south on Interstate 5 in a rented 1987 Ford Taurus GL from Reseda to what is now called Qualcomm Stadium for a Chargers-Seattle Seahawks tilt. It was a leisurely drive down to San Diego –arriving before the gates open. Coming back towards the Valley was a different story. I left before the end of the game, so I was able to leave the stadium swiftly. Then, Interstate 5 became a parking lot around Camp Pendleton. That was when I re-discovered the checkpoint patrolled by the California Highway Patrol. After that, I had my foot down on the Taurus for the run to Woodland Hills. I made it just in time for the holiday party to start. What about the game? The only memory of it was Steve Largent set a career mark that game…

AN EARLY POST-THANKSGIVING EXIT: What would be the most significant Thanksgiving weekend in my life ended at Anaheim Stadium on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The Los Angeles Rams played the Washington Redskins during the 1991 season. With my brother and sister-in-law in tow, we sat on the lower deck stands on the north side of the stadium – those seats no longer exist, by the way. By the third quarter, I had to leave to catch my flight home to the Bay Area out of LAX. I had a rented 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera with me, while my brother had his car alongside as we went our separate ways. I would have loved to stick around for the end of the Redskins victory over the Rams, but there was a Delta flight to catch for SFO.

WE'RE PARKING WHERE? In another one of my visits to Southern California from the Bay Area in 1989, a group of my old friends from Reseda decided to take in a UCLA-Arizona State game at the Rose Bowl. We were a mixed crowd: One of my friends was on the football team at Arizona State, while his wife is a UCLA graduate. The rest of us were made up of USC fans, Cal State Northridge alums…and me. I had a rented Pontiac Grand Prix coupe that weekend and figured we all get there – somehow. After meeting up at a friend's home in nearby Altadena, they suggested we park at the nearby golf course. No one told us that we would be parking on the golf course itself. It was OK prior to the game since there was some sunlight left before kickoff. It was not a huge turnout and it appeared we had the section all to ourselves. Rightfully so – we tend to talk a lot of smack amongst each other. As we left the stadium, we headed back to the golf course to find our cars. One small problem persisted – there were no lights on the course. It would be easy to find a silver Grand Prix in the dark. It wasn't.

2010 Buick LaCrosse 8

LOST IN ANOTHER STATE: How did the 2010 Buick LaCrosse win the 2009 VOTY? It went to South Dakota. Part of the adventure with the LaCrosse CX was a little trip up Interstate 29 out of Sioux Falls to see where I could cut back into Minnesota. I ended up in Brookings – home of South Dakota State University. As I meandered into town, I got lost. Little did I know there was a Jackrabbits football game happening and ended up following the crowd to the stadium. Actually, I sort of knew the game was happening, but forgot when kickoff was. As I approached the stadium, I tried to find a place to turn around. Some parking lot guy was yelling at me. I yelled back saying that I need to turn around. He was no help, but I got out of there in haste. Luckily, I did find my way out of Brookings, but ended up on a zigzag pattern somewhere in Eastern South Dakota to find the Minnesota border. Remind me to never go to Brookings again…during football season.

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