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The Slice A Different Kind Of Passion Infects Fans

Fri., Jan. 2, 1998

In time, some of those who were there will have trouble remembering the final score.

But it’s unlikely that many will forget what it felt like to be submerged in the brimming dish of emotion they call the Rose Bowl.

It wasn’t just the pumped up volume of the cheering, though Thursday’s feverish tribal exhortations were something to hear. (At times it sounded as if you had your ear pressed up to a super-amplified seashell.)

And it wasn’t just that it happened to be, as you might have heard, a big football game.

This was a different kind of passion. This was about pride of identity and decades of waiting. That kind of rooting has a special intensity.

The popular term is “electricity.” And, brother, could you ever feel it. Even at the end.

“I’m stunned,” said WSU cheerleader Trisha Roche as she watched Michigan’s postgame celebration at sunset.

Sure, it’s always a good idea to keep sports in perspective. But the tears welling up in her eyes looked like the real thing.

Here’s a few other things that wound up in our notebook.

First injury: Before the game, this one little kid got his tongue stuck to an exceptionally frigid fudgesicle. You know, like on a frozen flagpole.

His mom and the vendor almost duked it out.

Sign of the day (a takeoff on the written pleas of the tickletless): “Need 2 Beers.”

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Wow”: Any Coug fan who didn’t get a serious tingle when looking out at all the red and white in that storied stadium should have let someone else use his ticket.

Best use of a TV timeout: During a first-half break in the action the stadium sound system filled the place with the Beatles’ “Help!”

Estimated number of times the Michigan band played “The Victors”: 568,981.

The truth about whether it’s an infectious fight song: Yes, it is.

What’s your pain-reliever: Down on the sidelines, two of ESPN’s high-profile college football analysts missed several plays as they discussed the relative merits of Advil.

It was sort of like that dueling national anthems scene in “Casablanca”: There was an entertaining competition between the fans. The WSU loyalists would start chanting “Go Cougs” and the Michigan fans would attempt to drown them out with en masse calls of “Go Blue.”

People at the game who seemed intent on seeming more important than they were:

1. About half of the legions wearing an “Event Staff” windbreaker.

2. Various rich twits down on the sideline wearing suspenders and talking on cell phones. “Yeah babe, I was just talking with Lynn Swann.”

(Yes, some guy actually said that.)

Nice moment: A lot of the Michigan fans applauded when members of the 1931 WSU Rose Bowl team were introduced at halftime.

Overheard: At halftime, we made a full circuit and walked around the Rose Bowl’s stadium-encircling concessions/restrooms concourse - a feat that took the entire intermission. And here are a couple of eavesdropping nuggets we mined.

“There were no lights in there - talk about tough yardage.” - a portly man in a blue “Woodson” jersey upon emerging from a mind-alteringly crowded men’s room.

“I think someone behind me is committing a misdemeanor violation of my space, but they probably can’t help it.” - a woman in a WSU shirt who found herself smushed in among people trying to wedge through a wall of humanity.

The Granddaddy of Health Code Violations: At halftime, more than a few men elected to urinate in a not-secluded patch of ivy near Gate G.

Say “Cougar Gold cheese”: Hundreds, maybe thousands of fans spent part of their time at the Rose Bowl taking family snapshots with part of the stadium in the background. And we saw one gray-haired man in a Coug hat volunteer to take a picture of a Michigan family decked out in Wolverine apparel so all of them could be in the shot.

TV nation: More than once we saw fans ignore the actual plays and then just watch the replay on the big stadium screen.

So, OK, maybe not everyone viewed this game as life or death: At the time of the opening kickoff, there were hundreds of fans still milling around out by the T-shirt stands and hot dog counters.

Quintessential WSU sideline moment not involving the players: School president Sam Smith shaking hands with Butch the mascot.

Sore winner: “Oh, hell, the beer stands are closed.” - Michigan fan emerging from the Rose Bowl after his team’s big victory.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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