Friday, January 22, 2010

Orange Bowl Experience

During the 28 years of announcing for the Hawks, I have announced numerous bowl games and enjoyed them all, but there was something special about this Orange Bowl experience. Just being part of this great season of accomplishments by this group of players and coaches is a reward in itself, but to then travel with them to South Florida put it over the top. To add to the enjoyment, all of my family was able to join me.

I got into Ft Lauderdale on Jan. 1st and boarded my friend Ed Hawes' yacht parked at a marina in old town. It's a beautiful Broward with four state-rooms, so there was plenty of space for Vicki, Emily and Laura to join me. The media hotel was only 10 minutes away and Land Shark Stadium only 15 minutes. South Beach was a ways off, but that's okay as my late night party days are in the rear view mirror.

My buddy Jimmy Buffett picked me up Sunday morning and we took off for the Dolphins-Steelers game at Land Shark Stadium. Jimmy and I have been friends for over 30 years and our busy schedules don't allow us to see much of each other. Jimmy was meeting with the owner of the Dolphins to try to extend the naming rights to the stadium. (Landshark is the name of Jimmy's lager beer and his naming rights were expiring). Jimmy in his flip flops and me in my Iowa Hawkeyes golf shirt, surely stood out in the owner’s suite but we made the business pitch and then escaped to Jimmy’s suite to enjoy the rest of the game.

After the game, Jimmy dropped me back at the boat and I tried to get him to come back down to Landshark Stadium on Tuesday to cheer on the Hawkeyes. He told me he was on his way to Tahiti to write songs. When I pushed him to stay he said, "Podi, I've got to go, you don't want me to be late for work do you". I like a guy who is dedicated. We taped a pre-game show and waved goodbye. He was wearing his Hawkeye Orange Bowl hat as he drove off.

The Hawkeye Huddle on game day eve was the place to be. Thousands of Hawkeye fans crowded into the Miami Beach Convention Center for a strong dose of Hawkeye mania. The Hawkeye Band and Spirit Squad pumped everyone up, but the highlight for me was the introduction of the players parents. To see the tears in the eyes of Adrian Clayborn's Mother, when she heard the roar from the crowd when she was introduced says it all. There is nothing like being a Hawkeye.

Dolph and I then headed to South Beach and a Hawkeye Radio Network radio show. There were Hawk fans everywhere; I don't remember seeing many Georgia Tech fans. It was chilly, but the Hawk fans were on a mission to let the Orange Bowl Committee know that they made the right decision in choosing the Hawkeyes. There were lines everywhere and Dolph and I had to go through the back door to get to our broadcast point. The Iowa fight song rang thru the streets and Hawkeye mania engulfed South Beach.

Game day is always tough on players when it becomes game night. If is difficult to control your excitement until 5:30 when the buses leave for the stadium. It is then that a player "gets his game face on". That time seems like it will never come as you sit around the hotel trying to control your emotions. Coaches worry about players burning up energy worrying about their assignments all day, so this is always the toughest part of preparation for an 8:00 kick off. All of the wonderful bowl experiences are behind you and now it is time to play.

When Dolph and I settled in to our broadcast booth I felt confident that the Hawks were ready. The question in my mind was how long would it take for the defense to adjust to the speed of the Georgia Tech option offense. Well, I had it all wrong. The story was that Georgia Tech never adjusted to the speed of the Iowa defense. The defense smothered them and defensive coordinator Norm Parker deserves the game ball. The offense was efficient and the special teams solid and the defense spectacular. Sounds like a Kirk Ferentz designed and coached team. That formula worked for 11 victories for the 2009 season and the biggest bowl victory in 50 years.

What a wonderful ending to a season with some of the most exciting moments of my 28 years of broadcasting. It's time to head to Costa Rica for a little R and R. Go Hawks!

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