Tuesday, October 7, 2008

OB Has Specific Charm Toward All

On any given Saturday afternoon, one may pass by Little Havana and see up to 25 cars parked at one person’s home. As you walk towards the giant orange and teal structure that is so loved my many, you will see shish-ka-bob vendors, hot dog sellers and even Cuban sandwiches. But what everyone wants is just to see their Miami Hurricanes play, to see them run through the smoke, to see them win.

Upon entering the Miami Orange Bowl, you take a look around and sometimes get lost in the sea of orange and green. You would take a seat and without a doubt get chills by sitting in this storied palace of football royalty. The same place where Joe Namath put his money where his mouth was and toppled the heavily favored Colts. The same place where Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers won their second title in as many years. The same place where artificial turf made an appearance during Super Bowl V. The same place that shook during every ‘Canes home game. The same place where the Hurricanes won three of their five national crowns.

But most importantly to me, it is the same place where I played one, singular soccer game. I was 13 years old and playing soccer for a travel soccer team. I walked onto the field, looked up to see the likes of Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Ted Hendricks and George Mira looking down on me. Across from the ring of honor, a sign that read “The City of Miami Welcomes you to the Orange Bowl" glared down on me. I bent down to feel the grass, so short, so smooth, so unreal. In front me was the set of uprights that no Florida State kicker ever wants to see again. Wide Right II, Wide Right III, Wide Left I, and Wide Right IV all happened on the hallowed field I was now standing on. The open end of the stadium was as menacing as ever, with the giant scoreboard and huge orange letters “Orange Bowl.”

After warm-ups, we went back into the locker room, where just a few years earlier Frank Gore, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, and Willis McGahee once got dressed up. Although a place of mystique, the room was only about as big as a living room. When Kellen Winslow proclaimed “I’m a f****** soldier!,” I’m sure everyone heard it (even in the showers).

Before taking the field, I had the urge to use the facilities (partly because I was nervous but partly because I had had three Gatorades already). I chose the lucky urinal and in true Miami fashion, there was the bull logo of USF that was stuck to the porcelain so that it got ‘rained on’ every time.

On one occasion during the actual game, I slid [and was partially pushed] into the bright orange wall on the field so close to the sidelines of the football field. This orange wall was lucky. This orange wall was and is part of history. In hindsight, this game was not so much about the result, but rather the exhilarating experience.

When news broke that the Orange Bowl was going to close down, a little piece of Miami died. I knew that there was only one more event that I could go to at the OB. It was December 2007, state football playoffs against the #1 ranked team in the nation, Northwestern. The Hurricanes had already lost their finale at the OB, 48-0 to Virginia. My school wanted this place to go out in style.

Our team was clearly overmatched and lost, 41-14. On the way out, my friends and I tried to smuggle out some of the famous orange seats that thousands have sat in. And we succeeded. Soon, one of my friends stole the seat from me and to this day, I still harbor hatred. A piece of the OB was taken from me.

I would not ever forget that, but I will always remember that the city of Miami will always welcome me to the Orange Bowl.

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