Thanks to the success of the University of Michigan football team, I had the opportunity to make a second consecutive winter break trip to Pasadena. My girlfriend, my brother and I left in the morning of the 30th and arrived in California at noon.
The highlight of New Year’s Eve was the Michigan pep rally in Hollywood. It was held outside next to the Kodak Theater in a multi-level outdoor complex with the Hollywood sign in the background of the stage. The cheerleaders and marching band gave performances prior to speeches by Jim Brandstatter, Bill Martin, Mary Sue Coleman, Lloyd Carr and the football team captains. Every inch of the area was covered with Michigan fans, so we ended up standing on the fourth story, but still had a great view.
We rang in the Michigan New Year at 9 o’clock Pacific time so we could wake up at 5:30 the next morning to head to Pasadena. We left the hotel by 6 a.m. so we could get a good parking spot at the stadium. The parking lot was pretty well full of tailgating Texas fans when we arrived, and though they may have been more visible with their burnt orange colors, I never felt like Michigan was outnumbered.
We walked over to the start of the Rose Parade, learning from last year when we stood toward the end of the route. Not only was our view clearer this year, but the parade finished quicker, and we were able to get to tailgating earlier. Both Michigan and Texas had their cheerleaders and marching bands in the parades as well as their own floats. It was when the Texas float was passing that we had our first encounter with a Longhorns fan, which was, surprisingly, a polite conversation.
There was confusion that arose every time we encountered a Texas fan. Neither side really seemed sure what to say to the other as our two teams had no history with each other.
For the most part, interactions were just trying to learn about the other school’s traditions rather than trash talking. Not only were Texas fans polite, they were also knowledgeable about football. It was definitely a refreshing change from Ohio State fans.
Our seats were in the Michigan student section, which was great, except that the band was down in front and we often had trouble hearing them play. While the outcome of the game was very disappointing, it was definitely one of the best games I’ve ever been to.
It was great to see Braylon Edwards give one last great performance and to see Chad Henne and Mike Hart continue to grow into their roles. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach for the rest of the night, but I was still proud of how the team played.
There’s simply no other game like the Rose Bowl, and I’m fortunate to have gone two years in a row. I give a lot of credit to Texas fans for making it a great event this year — they are far classier than USC fans. Hopefully, as Bill Martin said, we’ll see them again next year, same time, same place, but with a different result.
Drum Major, University of Michigan Marching Band
This year’s Rose Bowl Trip started out with us (the band) reporting back to campus on Dec. 28. For the next 48 hours, we took part in several long rehearsals to prepare for our halftime and pregame shows. We then boarded an Northwest Airlines flight and made the four-hour flight out to LAX.
This is when we really got to work. From here on out, we had a hectic schedule filled up with performances, rehearsals, appearances and some free time to spend roaming the streets of CityWalk or marveling at the wonders of Universal Studios.
Some of our rehearsal venues in California were really great, as we had awesome practice fields nestled in the mountains, with a blue sunny sky serving as our natural backdrop –— truly breathtaking.
We had performances in Universal Studios and Hollywood. The audiences there were totally pumped about seeing us and it was very cool to perform in those venues.
New Year’s Day for the band started at 4:30 a.m. At 5:15 a.m. we were bussed to the Rose Parade launch site where we prepared for the parade. Finally, at around 8 a.m., we stepped off and took part in all of the grandeur and spectacle that is the seven-mile, three-hour Rose Parade. Ask any band member how they liked the Rose Parade and they’ll say how exciting and how much of an honor it was to be a part of it. They will also in that same breath, mention how extremely physically taxing it is for them. Much of this is due to the fact that we high step a significant portion of the parade.
The parade ends. For most of the other groups taking part in the Rose Parade, their day is officially over. For the Michigan Marching Band, however, our day has just begun. We load up the busses once more and speed through the streets of Pasadena with a motorcycle police escort and make our way to the Rose Bowl itself.
Upon arrival at the Rose Bowl, we perform our exciting pregame to the roar of the crowd (and many who have never seen a Michigan pregame before). We then take our seats and proceed to cheer on our beloved Wolverines. You will not find a more dedicated group of Michigan football fans than the band.
At halftime, we take the field and perform our “Compilation Show” which featured many crowd favorites from the shows we performed this season, such as “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Hey Jude.” The crowd loved the show, and you could hear the entire audience singing along. The band did an awesome job performing, one of the best we’ve done all season.
In the final seconds of the game, as that ball just barely sailed through the uprights to the give a Longhorn victory, the band stood firm. If you looked into each band member’s eyes, you could see sadness, disappointment, pain — but they all still stood tall. Just like the football team and just like any other Michigan fan.
They don’t call the Rose Bowl the “Grandaddy of ’em all” for no reason, and for the band, it truly is just that. Physically, mentally and emotionally, the Rose Bowl is an unbelievable experience — one that every band member will remember forever.
After skipping the trip to Pasadena last year, I knew I had to go to the Rose Bowl my senior year. My group of friends divided into two RVs and a mini-van and set out to drive across the country.
I rode in the van with three other guys, John Cusmano, Kevin Russo and Tony Spica. We departed from Ann Arbor on the Dec. 28 and made incredible time, driving 38 hours straight, stopping only for gas and food, to arrive on the 29th. We arrived in Pasadena ready to stretch our legs, meet the locals and enjoy some great Michigan football.
The guys from the van and I stayed in a hotel in Pasadena on the 29th and 30th, but we met up with the RV friends both days. On Thursday, we all drove to Santa Monica, where we ate dinner on the pier.
Our effort to steal a pair of massive 32 ounce. beer mugs from the bar was thwarted when the waitress chased us down and got one back (while ironically providing an opening for us to take the other one, which later even more ironically fell out of the van and broke).
For New Year’s, we checked out of the hotel, went down to the parade route and met some University alumni. We traded stories about life in Ann Arbor and what we could do in Pasadena before joining up with three alumni on our way to a sports bar to watch the bowl games on that day.
We met more alumni and Michigan students at Q’s Billiards before leaving to meet back up with our friends at the RV park. New Year’s Eve festivities were already in full swing by the time we got there, as a huge crowd of people had gathered by the RVs. I can’t blame them, the setup was amazing — two satellite TVs broadcasting bowl games, two barbeques and enough beer to keep the party going. Between 40 and 50 people eventually came to the New Year’s tailgate party.
Some Texans walked over, but as we’d all expect, Michigan kept it classy by positively cheering “Go Blue” and singing the fight song several times that evening. Thanks to the TVs, we were able to watch the ball drop in the Eastern time zone and answer a question that has always plagued me — yes, people in California actually cheer when it’s 9 p.m.
The next day, everyone woke up excited for the game. We quickly resumed tailgating and drew another crowd of about 55 Wolverine fans. By far the best part of this was meeting some alumni who had been at the 1997 Rose Bowl and listening to them reflect on everything Michigan football has meant to them over the years.
Once again, Michigan kept it positive with the Texans. I have to say, I’ve never been more impressed with the caliber and enthusiasm of our fans who were focused solely on doing their part to ensure victory.
As we moved to the stadium, the energy and excitement we all felt translated into several more rounds of the fight song and cheers for the team.
We also cheered the band, especially veteran tuba player Michael Koester, as we walked by them unloading their instruments from the bus.
The game itself was an incredible experience. Although I felt the disappointment and pain over the eventual outcome as poignantly as anyone, that won’t stopping me from saying I loved watching Steve Breaston slice through the defense (tell me again whose defense is slow) or Braylon Edwards catch whatever Chad Henne threw at him.
As one of the shortest of my friends, I got lifted after Michigan’s first touchdown (there was a shortage of girls on the trip, I’ll admit it).
Late in the fourth quarter, my roommate Ryan Leventhal flagged down an ABC camera crew, but they ditched us to get a shot of Michael Phelps, who was sitting a few rows behind us.
To our surprise, ABC came back, and we eventually got on the air. No one was much in the mood for partying afterward, but everyone had to admit the team played its heart out and has some great potential for next year.
I know I’m not alone in hoping for a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl for the national championship. Regardless of whether that dream comes true, this trip was phenomenal and definitely proved that in Ann Arbor or out, it’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.