On Tuesday afternoon, Kent Thompson was looking out over the sea of passenger baggage that crowded the terminal at Dallas’ Love Field Airport.
Thompson and his wife Juliana were in the vortex of the airport nightmare sweeping the nation, debating whether to get a rental car to get back to San Diego. Thank You Balloons
They were fortunate, though, that their Southwest Airlines flight Tuesday evening was not canceled and, in fact, delayed only 90 minutes from getting them home.
The view Wednesday afternoon was decidedly different, with Thompson at Petco Park looking down at the football field where football players from Oregon and North Carolina were warming up for the SDCCU Holiday Bowl.
“I’m amazed,” Thompson said. “It looks good. Wow.”
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Tom Huffman of La Mesa, who was sitting in a tower suite with the Thompsons, noted the proximity of the front-row seats beyond the north end zone.
“When you’re in the front row on the other side,” he said, “you can literally touch the goalpost. It’s unheard of.”
Not that it was encouraged.
“It’s a great venue,” said Thompson, who was hosting a client appreciation event for Wisdom Wealth Management.
As fans began to fill the ballpark, the dominant color was Oregon green. By a large margin. There was one section of the Tar Heels’ Carolina Blue, just beyond the right-field foul pole.
It was the North Carolina band.
Paul Butler of Carmel Valley got caught up in the energy downtown on Wednesday morning and decided to make a day of it.
“I was down here checking out the parade, and I wasn’t planning on going,” Butler said. “Just kind of got in the flow of things. Went to the Midway and took that tour.
“Just came by to see if there were any tickets and how much they might be.”
A scalper tried to entice Butler with a ticket in Section 321 that the seller was asking $300 for (face value was $110).
Butler turned instead to one of several ticket windows that were open — there were still 3,000 to 4,000 seats left before kickoff — and purchased a ticket for $90.
Just north of $2 million was spent last year to retrofit Petco Park so that a football field could be accommodated.
If there was any concern about the venue, it was the tight space beyond the end zones.
The left-field bleacher wall abuts the north end zone and the Padres dugout and a section of seats crowd things on the south side.
There are three other bowl games being played this year at MLB ballparks — the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl at New York’s Yankee Stadium, Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Phoenix’s Chase Field and the Wasabi Fenway Bowl at Boston’s Fenway Park — and each venue is a little more roomy.
Interestingly, when Illinois and Northwestern played a regular season game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in 2010, Big Ten officials had concerns about player safety in the east end zone because of the padded brick wall in right field.
The solution: Both teams only ran their offenses toward the west end zone.
There was concern Wednesday morning that it would literally rain on the Holiday Bowl’s parade, but “America’s Largest Balloon Parade” made its way down Harbor Boulevard under a canopy of clouds that had exhausted their water supply during an overnight drenching of the county.
This year’s parade included 24 giant balloons — eight more than the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held annually in Manhattan.
The Holiday Bowl assigns its parade director each year to watch the Macy’s parade, count the number of balloons and report back to make sure the Holiday parade has more inflatables.
This year there was an added responsibility to double check the helium tanks that filled the balloons.
The reason: Last year, argon was mistakenly provided to fill the balloons.
While Argon is a “noble” gas — along with helium, krypton, neon, radon and xenon — as any good chemistry student knows, it’s not the go-to for floating balloons since it is 10 times more dense than helium.
Don’t know whose responsibility it was to test the helium, although they reportedly confirmed its presence in a high-pitched voice.
What a difference a year made for the Holiday Bowl’s football balloon, which was punctured by a sign pole during last year’s event and dragged along the street the second half of the parade route.
Shouts of “Tom Brady” came from the crowd. Holiday Bowl Redcoat Brian Mooney said: “Half a football is better than no football.”
Except two hours later there was no football, with the game canceled (five hours before kickoff) because of COVID issues within the UCLA football program.
While the deflated football served as a metaphor for last year’s game, the high-flying football this year boded well for an anticipated aerial circus.
Parade officials were estimating a crowd of 100,000 for the event. Spectators had to be impressed.
Still, we can’t imagine any parade approaching the high bar set by the 1962 Faber College Homecoming Parade.
The bands from Oregon and North Carolina squared off Tuesday night downtown, where Fifth Avenue and Market Street were roped off.
The bands traded off song after song for more than an hour as a few thousand spectators cheered them on.
The battle ended peacefully — unofficially declared a draw — though it seemed like fighting words at one point when Oregon had the audacity to play “Sweet Carolina.” Or was it “Sweet Caroline?”
The game’s venue change guaranteed that this would be the smallest crowd in Holiday Bowl history since seating for Petco Park was 41,000 for the bowl game.
The game’s smallest crowd previous was the 44,457 who watched Hawaii defeat Illinois 27-17 in the 1992 Holiday Bowl at then-San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
The largest crowd in the game’s history was in 2005, when 65,416 attended for Oklahoma’s 17-14 win over No. 6 Oregon.
That barely surpassed the 65,354 who saw No. 5 Arizona edge No. 14 Nebraska in the 1998 game, which coincided with then-Qualcomm Stadium’s last expansion.
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