Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Journey to Jersey

This was exactly what we signed up for. It was a grueling trip, one that started with a 2 a.m. drive from Fresno to the San Jose airport for about seven hours of fly time to get to the east coast. We left during Saturday's wee hours, half of us packing nothing but the clothes that say "Fresno State" or "Bulldogs" on them. We knew it was a good sign when a less-than-2-year-old baby gave us a high-five while boarding a connecting in Houston. Her dad followed by telling her to say, "Beat Rutgers," but I think that was just to make up for a few David Carr jabs he delivered moments prior.

We spent the beginnings of Labor Day weekend multi-tasking -- touring some of the nation's most storied sites while doubling as life-sized advertisements for our beloved Fresno State (you get quite a bit of attention driving through Baltimore, Arlington, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Piscataway towering over the rest of traffic in a large white van flying Bulldog Red car flags). By the way, the average Fresno State car flags these days aren't what they used to be -- they're better. These two flags survived what seemed like a tropical storm in Baltimore and about 500 miles of driving with only a few stray threads (as opposed to last year's flag who has since retired after a receiving a battering on the drive to Eugene). In addition, these flags survived one fall (errant rolling down of the window by driver) in pretty much the worst possible block of Baltimore after dark, and another fall about 100 yards from a toll booth in the middle of the Jersey turnpike. I am, however, happy to report that both were recovered (no man left behind!).

The east coast is weird. Not just because parts of it feel like a completely different country to what we're used to in California, but because it's sunny, hot and humid one minute, and pouring rain the next. Pouring hard. As in harder than I've ever seen in my life. As in if we were in Fresno messages from the Emergency Broadcast System would have scrolled across our TVs. Oh, and the restaurant we went to just prior to this downpour didn't have food (somebody else please tell them not to post an attractive dinner menu on the door if they only serve appetizers). So we had to run across the street -- many of us opting to go barefoot to keep our shoes dry for the D.C. trip the next day.

Speaking of which, if anyone tells you Georgetown's campus looks unreal and Fresno State's doesn't compare...don't argue. But then ask them how they're football team did this past weekend.

On gameday, there was a quick pit stop to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. By pit stop, I mean, open the van doors and jump out as we're screeching to a halt, speed walk two blocks to take one photo each with the bell and hall in the background, politely nod as USC fans pretend to be complimentary while really just looking for more ways to bring up how good their team is, and then sprint back to the van and drive to Piscataway to arrive two hours before kickoff.

That's where it was kicked into high gear. Give Rutgers fans some credit -- hardly any were rude, save for one student who embarrassed himself at halftime -- but it's still a mystery whether the fans are just kind-hearted people in Piscataway or whether they couldn't tell who the Red Wavers were with everyone in the stadium wearing red? (Note to Red Wavers: lots of Rutgers fans wear red even though their official is scarlet; let's make it a goal to wear more red than any other fan base in the nation this year please).

We yelled loud, long and hard. So hard some of our voices still haven't recovered and some of us flew home today with sore, irritated vocal chords and a voice sounding more like Dennis DeLiddo's than our own (save wrestling!). After all that yelling it was still 0-0 at half, a bit of a downer to us fans, but we took it as a challenge, drank 3 bottles of water and came back recovered for the second half. As did the 'Dogs, jumping to a 10-0 lead en route to the eventual 24-7 win (the first 24-7 win for the program since its 1992 Freedom Bowl victory over USC -- a fun but meaningless fact).

We drove another three-plus hours back to Baltimore after the game, exhausted but proud of the way our university battled 3,000 miles away from home. We were proud to see another 200-300 Red Wavers in attendance, collectively gathering every bit of vocal prowess within to try and lift the team to victory. Will we be at more road games? You betcha. But more importantly, we should ALL be at EVERY home game, starting Sept. 13 when our now No. 21 Fresno State Bulldogs take on Wisconsin.

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