Glendale,  Arizona
January 8,  2007


      The trip begins 6:00 A.M.  (all times in this story are EST)  Monday,  January 8,  2007 at the Gainesville Regional Airport.   My travel companion,  Cyndee Park,  a family friend,  is a retired school teacher,  Gail's best friend,  and would be celebrating her birthday Tuesday,  January 9.   We are flying to Atlanta to catch a 9:15 A.M.  flight to Phoenix.   In an inauspicious beginning,  the regional flight is delayed due to weather conditions away from Gainesville.   The flight leaves at 7:30 A.M.  -  arriving in Atlanta 55 minutes later  -  affording us the opportunity to sprint to the next concourse and catch the Phoenix flight.
      We arrive in Phoenix around noon and after considerable investigation learn we can get to Glendale  (approximately 25 miles away)  using "Super Shuttle",  a regional computer dispatched van service that shuttles folks around the large metropolitan area.   Super Shuttle gets us to the stadium around 2 P.M.  for an 8:30 P.M.  kickoff.   We walk around the mostly "under construction" stadium complex finding only two open restaurants,  but do see hordes of people walking around with one or two fingers in the air desperately seeking much coveted admission tickets to the game.   We stand in line for an hour and a half at Moe's Southwest Grille and finally get to order a Moo Moo Mister Cow meal  -  which was only slightly better than it's name.  
      Even in the face of incredible odds  (OSU fans out numbered UF fans easily 3 to 1)  I took extra time carefully searching for FRED COX.   Fred is a remarkable man who was my best friend back in 1959 when we were stationed together in Washington,  D.C.   I can't explain how we lost contact or why I can't remember what town in Ohio he lived.   Fred was a serious guy and great friend,  I'd never have seen or heard LBJ or JFK had Fred not insisted I visit Capital Hill with him.   Any one here seen my old friend Fred?
      It was interesting and fun meeting some of the Ohio State fans;  gracious souls,  perhaps a tad arrogant,  but never really obnoxious.   Most were in awe we had traveled so far for a contest the outcome of which was,  in their mind,  divinely pre-ordained.   I got the distinct impression they were there,  not so much for the game,  as for the trophy presentation.   Forrest Gump's Mother always said,  "Stupid is,  as stupid does".
      Inside University of Phoenix Stadium is amazing,  there absolutely is no bad seat in this cavernous structure!  The free flight of the Great Bald Eagle would have thrilled anyone,  the place is so large it was difficult even finding the eagle when it took a 360 degree flight around the inside and returned to the handlers arm.  Cyndee and I had fantastic aisle seats in the west corner of the north end zone,  24 rows up.    We were surrounded,  as the pictures show,  on all sides by Ohio State Fans.   It was a real pleasure exchanging harmless banter with the guys sitting directly in front of us.   Akron, Ohio can be proud of it's native sons Chad,  Boomer and Dean.   Class guys who made the event a pleasant experience in spite of their own disappointment.   I've posted a picture below of Dean wearing,  arguably,  the most awfulest beanie on the face of this planet!   A total treat meeting you guys!   Boomer,  best of luck on your trip to Miami for the Super Bowl,  I sincerely hope you make it.   
      Half time was marked by extravagant performances from both University Bands.   Most remarkable was the insight displayed by The Ohio State University Band .   Again, relying on impressions,  I got yet another feeling they were,  perhaps,  beginning to see hand-writing on the wall.   For some inexplicable reason they  (the OSU Band)  choose to perform the musical theme from the movie "Titanic".   You can clink on The Ohio State University Band link and agree or disagree with me,  but a 34-14 half time score had instilled little joy or optimism in Buckeyeville.   After returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown the Buckeyes managed only 7 points for the entire first half,  which would turn out to be their total production for the ball game.
      The conclusion of the game brought chants of "it's great to be a Florida Gator" ... We stayed long,  watching the fans and our team celebrate and listening to the comments from various coaches and players,  then it was time to make our 2 A.M.  appointment with Super Shuttle for the ride back to Phoenix Airport.   Because of traffic issues the shuttle van was prohibited from coming directly to us,  it was restricted to an area about a quarter mile from the stadium.   Even while we were trying to find it my cell phone rings,  my son Ken calling from his home in Minhang,  Shanghai,  China (no BCS coverage there)  to share his excitement after hearing the final score.   Ken,  thanks for understanding I had to find that shuttle or be stuck in the desert of Arizona,  literally in the middle of the night,  25 miles from the airport!
      Our flight was scheduled to leave at 12:20 P.M.   Yes,  your math is correct,  we had approximately 10 hours until departure.   Already the airport was beginning to get crowded and by the time we cleared security it had become a mad house.   The Airport Security Guard,  an Officer with the Phoenix Police Department  -  I truly wish I could remember his name  -  was extremely helpful advising us how best to avoid the anticipated flood of travelers scheduled to arrive for departing early morning flights.   Again,  an astonishing degree of class was shown by most of the Ohio State Fans we encountered,  they freely offered congratulations in spite of their obvious dismay at the outcome of the contest.  
       HAPPY BIRTHDAY Cyndee  -  41-14 sure made a birthday with a zero easier,  Huh?
      Departure was slightly delayed,  I counted a minimum of 20 aircraft ahead of us waiting to take off when we began our taxi to the main runway.   The Captain of the Boeing 757 routed us north of Phoenix so we got to see the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains covered in snow.   Wow!   He took the aircraft up to 37,000 feet,  got us into the jet stream with a tail wind and followed that east southeast till we passed just north of New Orleans and then followed the coast back to Florida.   When he made the announcement that we were descending through 18,000 feet and beginning our approach to the Gainesville airport I was looking out the window at Stienhatchee.   20 minutes later,  we were on the ground after only 3 hours and 16 minutes of flight time and being met by Gail.   A very very very happy Gail ... ecstatic,  holding the front page of the Gainesville Sun which proclaimed "BELIEVE IT".   They did,  she did,  we did,  you should!
      Long and short term parking at the airport was filled to over-flow,  Gail was double parked so we quickly loaded up and left for Casa del Cyndee to drop her off,  she had tickets for the Gator Basketball game that evening.   We arrive to discover Gail has already been there and hung birthday greetings on the car and side entry door.   Cyndee and I are impressed with the thoughtfulness of our mutual best friend!   Did I mention we flew back first class?   Cyndee took advantage of the larger reclining seats and the complimentary Bloody Mary to power nap.   I,  on the other hand was far to 'wired' to do anything but enjoy the passing scenery;  mountains,  plains,  the Mississippi River,  replete with tugs and barges and the most beautiful Gulf Coast.
      On Saturday,  January 13,  a fan celebration was scheduled at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the University Of Florida Campus.   The crowd was estimated at 70,000 people.   Pretty remarkable when you consider only about 75,000 people actually saw the game in person!   This,  of course,  was the second such celebration of a National Championship in football  -  the first being for the 1996 team.   History does repeat itself,  this was also the second time UF had more fans appear to show appreciation than our cross-state rival,  FSU,  can muster for one of their home games.

       2006  -  the year The University Of Florida held the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS for both Basketball and Football  -  an amazing, 
and as of now,  unduplicated feat in the history of NCAA Athletics!  


Stadium Entrance Inside The Stadium Boomer - Cyndee - Chad Find the Eagle
The Stadium Begins To Fill Deans Bad Hat Day Getting Ready On The Field
Mid-Field Meeting Pride of the Sunshine 1 Picture - 1000 Words THE END
Home Coming THE Celebration

      Pictured below are Marcy and Doctor Tom Fletcher,  their Son Brandon Fletcher and Niece Trina Fletcher Stengel ...
Perry,  Florida,  Taylor County folks who enjoyed being in Phoenix too!
Trina,  thanks for the 'use' of your photos.

Brandon and Trina Brandon-Trina-Tom-Marcy Marcy and Dr. Tom Trina and Brandon

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          Jim Cook                                         Updated January 29, 2007