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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Drove Through THIS for Another 4th Quarter Collapse?


As mentioned the other day, BaggyPantsDevil has joined our staff. Below is his look back on the roadtrip he took to see Michigan play Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. Oh, and if you're from El Paso, you might want to scroll past this story. Might we suggest the hot Ohio State co-ed stripping below.

As many of you know, I made the journey to San Antonio to attend the Alamo Bowl. I sure can pick ‘em when it comes to selecting my first ever Michigan game, can’t I? A disappointing game to cap off a disappointing season. Still, it was a worthwhile experience and I’m glad I was able to attend and support the Wolverines. I figured I'd post this to report on something other than the awful officiating involved with the game. Nothing particularly interesting happened to me at the game so I have to really reach here to come up with something, thus my odyssey to the Alamo Bowl.

Although these were less than ideal circumstances for my first Michigan game, I just haven’t lived any place close to where Michigan has played. This one was the closest since I moved from Michigan back in the early 80’s. So, I figured I should jump at the opportunity. Plus—and this angle is always important—my wife and I have friends in Texas so I wouldn’t be dragging her on a trip to ONLY watch a football game.

Although many Michigan fans—and Lloyd Carr himself—were disappointed by Michigan’s invite to the Alamo Bowl, there is a worse destination for mediocre Big Ten teams, it’s called the Sun Bowl. My trip to San Antonio took me through El Paso, the home of this bowl game. If you've driven through El Paso, you know what I mean and if you haven't, be grateful you haven't experienced first hand the ugliness that is El Paso.

The area probably once had that unique beauty of the desert with wide open spaces interspersed with jagged mountain ranges and brilliant blue skies. Not anymore. The first thing one notices about El Paso is that at about 40 miles out, the brown smog that shrouds the city becomes visible on the horizon. From there it only gets worse. The tangle of on ramps, off ramps, and overpasses plunging through oil refineries and unregulated Mexican factories led my wife—who is from New Jersey—to observe that El Paso is simply Newark in the desert. All that’s missing are toll booths.

There’s no way for a traveler to avoid El Paso’s ugliness. Interstate 10 can’t bypass the city since Mexico is to the south and Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range extend at least 200 miles to the north. Nothing for a traveller to do except plow on through as quickly as possible.

Sun Bowl Stadium is perched up in mountains that overlook El Paso and would be a beautiful stadium if a quick glance to its left didn’t reveal hills covered in Mexican slums sprinkled with huge smokestacks. Not that the American side of the border is much better.

In addition to being ugly and polluted, El Paso is also tawdry. Strip joints and porn shops are wedged alongside motels, the usual chain restaurants, and car dealerships all along Interstate 10. Now, I have nothing against adult entertainment and thought it was kind of cool that it can be found in abundance in all the Texas cities I visited—El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, and Galveston—it just doesn’t make for attractive cityscapes. I'm sure Mike Price digs it, though.

One such establishment was Gateway News and Video. Why do these places always have ‘news and video’ in their names? The video part I get, it’s the news part that baffles me. Who do they think they're fooling? Will I be able to stop in and get the latest updates on the war in Iraq? What about the Patriot Act and intelligence collection in the US? Maybe the latest on genetic engineering and cloning? I’m willing to bet that the only mention of tsunami I’ll find there will be referring to female ejaculation. Then there’s the Adult Warehouse—yes boys and girls an entire warehouse!--and its sign that read “GET YOUR X MAS GIFTS HERE.” Oh yeah, nothing taps into the true spirit of Christmas like an 18 inch double-dong and a DVD titled 'Backdoor Babes Volume 16.'

So, Michigan fans, please, no more complaining about bowls that involve going to San Antonio, Tampa, or Orlando; we could just as well wind up in this place for a bowl game. And standard disclaimer: I have met and worked with many folks from El Paso, including a detachment of Air National Guardsmen who were all full time El Paso police officers, and found them all to be first rate individuals. So, the people sure seem to be wonderful, I just think the place has been trashed.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take too long to race through the swirling eddies of plastic bags and snack food wrappers that drift along the interstate and get back to the wide open desert. Unfortunately, my trip still had approximately 12,823 more miles to go. Anyone who’s ever crossed Texas will know that west Texas is a Mad Max-like wasteland. This barren, monotonous landscape features tumbleweeds blowing across the highway—I should know, I ran right into one—driven by gusts that buffet your car as you try to escape the bleakness as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, that's not really posible given the distances involved. Stopping for gas in this part of the state is an experience right of of a Sergio Leone movie with banging sun-bleached screen doors, creaking metal signs, and dust squalls.


One of these tiny, gas stops is Fort Hancock. The 1800’s era water tower of Fort Hancock boasted of multiple 6-Man Football State Championships back in the late 1980’s. Yes, that’s how sparsely populated this area is; they can't field full football teams. Some of the specifics of 6-man football are: the field is 40 yards by 80 yards, it’s 15 yards for a first down, all players are eligible receivers, field goals are worth four points, kicked extra points worth two and a run or pass extra point is worth one. As bizzare and alien as this game sounds, it’s nice to see that the lack of a sufficient population can’t stifle Texan’s love of football. I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps Vince Young played 6-Man football as a child and that's how he got so used to doing everything on the field.

Eventually, I made it to San Antonio and civilization. For those who have never been there, San Antonio is a lovely, prosperous city and actually does make a fine bowl game destination. Any city with a Ferrari dealership and a Mercedes Benz dealership that's the size of one of those mega-GM superstores is prosperous in my book. The Riverwalk area downtown—within walking distance of the Alamo Bowl—is gorgeous and a great place to hang out and appease spouses with shopping prior to the game and enjoy celebratory drinks after the game if one’s team actually manages to win.

On the day of the game, I learned that three hours prior to kickoff is NOT early enough to arrive at the game. The Alamodome parking lots were full and I had to spend some time in traffic before finding a place to park just down the street from the Alamo itself. I took this shot as we walked to the stadium. It was a lovely scene--historic landmark, setting sun, holiday decorations--and I was feeling optimistic and excited about the game. But, we all know how that thing turned out.

Next up will be my slavish praise of Nebraska fans.



Ed. Note: All pissed off El Paso city officials are free to send their emails to BaggyPantsDevil care of the M Zone. BaggyPantsDevil is free to send "Backdoor Babes, Vol. 16" to Yost (only because he wants to see how they tied up all the loose ends from volumes 1-15).

13 comments:

Dezzi13 said...

baggypantsdevil... I would love to see more pictures of the flatness that is Texas.

I was also wondering... were you complaining about all the porn places that are rampant in Texas?

I can top your "First UM football game" experience... mine was at the Big House... Colorado was the opponent... Kordell Stewart was the QB for Colorado... enough said...

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Dezzi,

Definitely not complaining about Texas's adult oriented entertainment establishments. When I think of Texas I think of vast wastelands where there's no cell phone reception and using the 'search' function on the car stereo results in the device futilely scanning through all the frequencies over and over because there's no FM stations within range and sending the mentally retarded to the gas chamber and would-be Michigan tacklers avoiding Vince Young like he's infected with Ebola. So, lot’s of strip joints and porn shops—both of which I support—gives Texas a positive spin in my eyes. Also positive was that San Antonio has a really beautiful section downtown around the Alamo and my visit with friends in Houston and Galveston was fantastic.

I just don’t think El Paso represents itself well by lining the interstate with porn shops, strip clubs, all the fast food joints, used car lots, pawn shops, and assorted litter. Plus, porn shops are always the ugliest buildings around. When I’m a quarter of a mile away and I see a purple building with pink neon lights, I know porn’s involved.

As for the Kordell Stewart thing, ouch. I feel for you, man. *hugs*

IC said...

Baggy:

Your travelogue was outstanding.

I was particularly interested in your thoughts on El Paso, as my wife spent most of her youth in the town Mrs. Baggy (or would it be Mrs. Pants-Devil?) termed "Newark of the Desert." I was born and raised in Flint, MI, which some might call "The El Paso of the Midwest." So we've got that going for us.

Always great meeting new people, telling them where I'm from, and hearing, "Oh, Flint. Is that the town that looked like it was wiped out by a nuclear device in 'Roger and Me'?" I'll be paying close attention to hear if anybody tells my wife,"El Paso? Have you ever been to the Gateway News and Video?"

My experience in El Paso has not been quite as bad as yours. Once, however, the car I was driving on an El Paso street was inexplicably struck by a raw egg. I had the windows down, so the sound and subsequent wetness had me convinced for a few seconds that I had been shot. The whole incident actually made me feel as if I was in Columbus on the third Saturday in November.

Looking forward to more reflections from your Alamo Bowl trip.

Benny Friedman said...

With my apologies to Marty Robbins (and all the people too young to remember those "Country Classics" commercials),

On through the West Texas town of El Paso
Baggy journeyed to the Alamo Bowl.
Night-time would find him in Gateway Video
Looking for "news" amid trash on his stroll.

Browner than shit were the skies of El Paso,
Years of pollution that Oust couldn't douse.
But his love was deep for this desolate city;
Oh the titles at the Adult Warehouse.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Ian,

I can definitely relate, I grew up in Jackson. When I saw "Bowling for Columbine" and Michael Moore showed Flint I was overcome by a wave of nostalgia. I thought, "OMG, that looks just like Jackson did!" I made my wife watch that part so she could get a picture of what my hometown was like.

The King said...

You're a brave man, BPD. That's a long haul. Nice job. I rolled through Texas myself a few years back during my epic "College Bowl Tour of 02," in which I drove from Vegas to Miami in 8 days and hit 7 bowl games. Maybe I'll write that up someday.

Point being, the worst part, walking away, was driving through Texas. Though I sort of enjoyed El Paso. I don't know why. Maybe I was still delirious from my stop the previous day at the Bolo Tie museum somewhere in Arizona.

Dezzi's story of his first UM game is harrowing indeed, but I can beat that. I one time watched a UM game at a bar WITH Dezzi, where a strange man bought us shots of Jager all day, and then escorted us down the street to another bar, where we watched the Cold War and drank more Jager. When I spent the rest of the night vomiting, I announced to Dezzi that I must have the flu.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Benny,

LOL! That is too funny. Not only are you the official PhotoShopper of the M Zone, you’re the official lyricist, too

BaggyPantsDevil said...

King,

Yeah, I'm never making such a long drive again. The only benefit to driving was it gave us some flexibility to visit our friends.

Next time, I'm flying and staying in a hotel within walking distance of the stadium.

Dezzi13 said...

The King... ah yes! That infamous day/night at Teasers and Yankee Doodles... needless to say, I believed that you had the flu!

The only thing that might've made that day/night more fun would've been an abundance of porn stores!

I could also recall last year's Rose Bowl as a failed trip... I was crazy enough to fly from Detroit to Switzerland, then turn around the next morning and fly from Switzerland to Los Angeles via Paris. Only to see Dusty Mangum kick a field goal with no time left to give the Longhorns the victory! I must say though... the tailgate party with all the UT coeds was ASTOUNDING! Worth the long trip.

P.S. - I will not do that again unless it is for a National Championship game!

Yost said...

BPD,

Next time, I hope we're not in the Alamo Bowl.

CapBuck said...

My regrets are extended to you, BPD, for your trek across western Texas. As an Army brat, we've made all sorts of driving excusions (aka 'moving') to all parts of the country. We used to think that driving across western Kansas was bad. The legend states the engineers who built I-70 across west Kansas actually 'designed-in' curves in the road that were unecessary-to help keep people awake. You've never seen so much wheat in your life.

Then around the 8th grade time frame, we moved from the Cal desert to central Texas. That was horrific. From El Paso on there is just nothing. You actually have to plan your gas stops, b/c if not you'll end up running out before the next station comes around. We concluded that west Texas was far worse than west Kansas, b/c in Kansas at least the wheat indicated that the ecosystem is capable of supporting life. In west Texas the ecosystem looks like...nuclear wasteland on the moon. Yummy.

We also live in San Antonio for 2 years, which is indeed a great city and a great vacation spot.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

CapBuck,

Ah yes, the military is behind so many of life’s little adventures. Normal people just don’t do things like drive for an entire day through barren desert.

I think a big part of my distaste for driving across Texas in general and through El Paso specifically is that I've made the drive from North Carolina to Arizona six times in the last five years. I've always been grateful that I've never had to make that drive across Kansas, but you are dead on in that it’s easy to run out of gas in western Texas (ironic considering the abundance of cricket pumps in the area). I once just barely made it to Fort Hancock.

Christian said...

This too was my first Michigan game, and I'm grateful Kordell wasn't the quarterback for the opposing team.

Was it just me or did the whole town seem to be Nebraska fans? Afterwards I was down on the riverwalk and was so relieved to see someone else wearing blue that I immediately went up and started talking to them.

At least the Nebraska fans didn't pelt me with hard objects, I was sitting on their side of the stadium.