While cruising along Interstate 10 en route to the Louisiana Superdome to witness the spectacle that was Tim Tebow's final collegiate game, I made two observations:
— $25 for Superdome parking is the near-equivalent of completely legal extortion, and
— With two high-powered offenses taking the field, the scoreboard was going to get a thorough workout.
The one thing I foolishly didn't take into account was something that could have easily slipped the mind of even the most studious sports fan:
Florida's lack of balls.
Please don't misunderstand me. The Gators' offensive gameplan was chock full of enough New Year's fireworks to complement a defense that was incredibly stingy for most of the night.
I'm talking about their actual Gator-stamped footballs.
Florida's sophomore kicker, Caleb Sturgis , had an especially productive game with said pigskins. His line for the night looked a little something like this:
1 of 2 field goals made, 6 of 7 extra points made, and a University of Cincinnati fan briefly detained in his seat.
Didn't see that last one on the stat sheet? Neither did I—but my vantage point in the stands took care of the rest for me.
Apparently, it's a vital matter of both stadium security and New Orleans Police for someone to try and retain a ball after it has cleared the Allstate "Good Hands" net and make it a souvenir. The poor guy in the section below me never saw the following sequence of events unfolding:
The frantic orange-clad ball boy stomping around after the ball didn't make it back down to the playing field.
Then his mad dash to stadium security so the 'offender' could be pointed out amongst the sea of red in that portion of the stands.
Followed by the equally frantic rush to the New Orleans Police officer stationed along the sidelines.
Then the radio call to other officers stationed in the stands and the finger pointing from field level.
Next, said officers laboring to climb up and down several mazes of stairs to reach the section where the still-oblivious fan was seated.
Finally, our poor, unsuspecting Cincy fan realized what was happening to him. Think of an overweight and CHiPs uniformed Eric Estrada after a marathon and you're close to visualizing this calamity.
Out of breath and reaching their destination, the officers then were met with resistance from fans in the same row who refused to get out of their seats and willingly hand over their soon-to-be martyr.
In the end, words were exchanged, ignorance was feigned, purses and handbags were searched, and finally the precious ball was retrieved by a member of New Orleans' finest.
The officer was no doubt instructed to return the ball to field level by hand, though I have trouble believing that holding the ball above his head like the Sugar Bowl trophy was included in that directive.
The Gators went without a turnover the entire night, lending nicely to my theory that Florida's ball boy was simply caught up in obvious theme of stinginess.
By some cruel twist of fate, Sturgis kicked another extra point over the Allstate netting and into the same section of fans.
As the Cincy fans had started to dwindle in numbers while the rout was officially on, it was fairly simple to see who caught the ball this time.
The same fan.
Obviously, he had learned his lesson and was all too willing to throw the ball back down to field level...but not before making sure to make Medusa-like eye contact with the same orange-clad, tattletale ball boy and chucking the ball as far away from him as possible.
See Bearcat fans, you didn't get COMPLETELY over-matched in New Orleans.
My sincere hope is that when the new budget comes out for the 2010 Gator football team, a few more dollars are allotted for the tools of your trade.
Sadly, if Congresswoman Corrine Brown is still in office, you might want to hold a fundraiser before asking her for a few extra dollars.