Posted: Friday December 9, 2005 1:56PM; Updated: Saturday December 10, 2005 11:06PM
Rinkside or suite?
After Gretzky finished talking with the media about his new video game, I sat down with him and reminisced about his career for a new feature that will debut online in the near future. I had always heard he was one of the nicest guys in sports, but I came away thinking the guy was even nicer than I had heard. He was so nice in fact, that after the interview I had the opportunity to watch the Coyotes' game against the Atlanta Thrashers later that night from his personal suite at the Glendale Arena and from a rinkside seat that was across from the Coyotes bench. Two amazing seats and only one butt to fill them with, what was a person to do?
It made me wonder what I would do if were a sports owner. Would I be the type to sit courtside like Mark Cuban or up in a suite like Jerry Buss? Would I be the type to saunter around the sideline like Jerry Jones or the type to cross my legs above the action like Art Modell?
Being that I would probably never get this chance again, I did a little bit of both. I watched the first period from his suite, which was stocked with pulled pork sandwiches, bratwursts, meatballs, onion rings, chicken fingers and a free-flowing tap of Michelob Ultra. "It's the only tap in the arena that runs after the third period," said one of Gretzky's buddies visiting from Canada.
So with my plans after the third period set, I enjoyed the rest of the first period from the suite before walking down to my rinkside seat in time to see Derek Morris check Marian Hossa right in front of me. Before the third period ended, however, I went back to the suite, which has a framed picture of Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe on the left-hand wall, a mounted flat screen television on the right, and a perfect center-ice view in front, and toasted Gretzky over a pint of Michelob Ultra, regretting every time I tried to make his head bleed while playing NHL '94.
Sorry, Wayne. You're so money and you don't even know it.
How soon we forget
I know sports journalists have short memories, but is 11 months really that long ago? Every time I hear or read how this year's Rose Bowl between USC and Texas is the most anticipated, most hyped and most star-studded national title game in history I am amazed at how quickly people forgot about last year's title game.
Sure the game ended up being a blowout, but that had nothing to do with the pre-game hype, which was at an all-time high.
Consider these facts about last year's Orange Bowl compared to this year's Rose Bowl:
Last year, for the first time, the No. 1 and 2 teams in the AP preseason Top 25 poll went wire-to-wire holding the top two spots as both USC and Oklahoma finished the season undefeated.
This year USC and Texas also went wire-to-wire as the top two teams.
Last year, for the first time, two Heisman Trophy winners (Jason White and Matt Leinart) faced each other in a college game. The Orange Bowl would also be the first game to feature four Heisman finalists (White, Leinart, Adrian Peterson and Reggie Bush) from the same season.
This year, Leinart and Bush might form the first dual Heisman backfield at the Rose Bowl, but Young will likely be left without a Heisman and none of his teammates were deemed good enough to be a finalist in this year's race.
Last year, the Orange Bowl featured two of the brightest coaches in the game as Bob Stoops, who had lead Oklahoma to four BCS games and one national title in the past five seasons, went up against Pete Carroll, who had led USC to three BCS games and one national title in the past three seasons heading into the game.
This year, Carroll goes up against Mack Brown, who before this year was best known for losing five straight games to Oklahoma and consistently missing out on a BCS Bowl.
The Rose Bowl certainly has all the makings of a classic, and one would hope that it's at least a closer game than last year's Orange Bowl, but before we get too excited and start calling it the best match-up ever we should flip the pages on our calendars back a few months and remember that the last time we had a game this big wasn't all that long ago.