PASADENA, Calif. -- Yet again, all is right in the world (or at least in Pasadena) on the first day of this New Year. The sun is shining above the glistening Rose Bowl Stadium. There's not a cloud in the sky. And the adjoining golf course is filled with happy USC and Penn State tailgaters.
I tried in this week's Mailbag to describe just what a wondrous setting this is for a football game, but words can't possibly do it justice. Hopefully the accompanying (albeit amateurish) photos will help set the scene for those of you in other parts of the country.
As for the game itself, the biggest storyline in the hours leading off to kickoff involves ... my fellow writers. Some sort of stomach virus apparently swept through like a tidal wave last night, claiming at least two dozen victims, including seemingly the entire Penn State press corps. Mercifully, I've been spared (so far), but a whole bunch of people in this press box spent most of the night in their bathrooms, not exactly ideal timing when you have to cover a BCS bowl game the next day.
There was a media party last night at the ESPN Zone, which, if you've ever been to one, is not exactly a bastion of culinary delight, thus eliciting initial assumption about food poisoning, but several of the victims weren't in attendance. The only place where all of these people could have come into contact with each other was the media hotel, the Downtown Marriott.
Now, why should you care about any of this? (I know the media isn't typically the subject of much sympathy). Because the Downtown Marriott happens to be the same hotel where USC stays the night before home games and, in an effort to keep things as familiar as possible, the Trojans moved from their Century City hotel to the Marriott last night.
I talked to a school spokesperson a little while ago who said that as of about 10 a.m. PST, the trainers had not reported any problems -- but these airborne viruses can kick in anytime. I myself am drinking water like crazy, regularly doling out the hand sanitizer and doing my best to steer clear of the Penn State writers in an effort to avoid the same fate - but eventually, come kickoff, we'll all be cramped together in this press box.
But enough with the disgusting stuff. As I write this, I'm looking out at the freshly painted field, the San Gabriel Mountains to my left, the decadent houses of Pasadena visible from the adjoining hills. Excitement is in the air. Hopefully USC and Penn State will deliver a game as enjoyable as the weather.