Since my last blog was titled “I Am Lost” and was typed through tears of pain, I thought I’d lighten the mood and return to a time where any tears shed were strictly of the happy nature… a time when I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Outside of my work life consisting of zero success stories, 2023 has been a stellar year, and it began in the best way possible: a trip to see a Rose Bowl that ended in a Penn State W, with an immense amount of hope and promise for the upcoming fall.
The path to my presence in Pasadena was paved in a way that sums up my life — meeting people on the internet is cool! After Utah’s molly-whopping of USC in the PAC-12 Championship, one of my internet friends hit me up and asked if I wanted to make the trip, since it was almost certain that Penn State would be. In what was, at the time, unknowingly the beginning of my “Money Grows On Trees” Era (MGOT Era for short), me and the too-many-glasses of wine I’d drank at a girls night had solidified our plans. On New Year’s Eve, I, a young woman who is sometimes too trusting, would be flying across the country alone to sit in club seats at Rose Bowl Stadium with two men from the internet that I’d never met, and one of their wives. Definitely not every parents’ worst nightmare!
The next day, Purdue did their best to give Penn State fans a scare for the second time that season, but Michigan eventually came away with the B1G Championship victory. It was official: I was buying myself roses from Whole Foods for the sole purpose of creating photo ops for social media. JK, that actually happened earlier in the day and I was praying that I didn’t jinx us by doing so.
Rose Bowl apparel was being purchased online, signs were being updated in my kitchen, and bets were being placed.
Actually, I never ended up placing a bet on the game, but I’m not even mad. We totally would’ve lost if I had, and at this point in my short-lived gambling career, I am not willing to sacrifice a Penn State win for a few extra bucks. Although, I did just tell you in my last blog that I’m likely getting fired soon, so I may be retreating to a mindset where I am willing to be riskier for a payday.
Speaking of risk-taking, I’m sure not enough time has passed to forget the disaster that was Southwest Holiday Travel 2022. Those who are close to me will say that one of my best qualities is my loyalty (the glaring exception being the five jobs I’ve had in five years), and I am Southwest loyal. I’ve got the credit card and refuse to fly on any other airline even if it would cost me less money to do so. I like what I like. Sue me (like people probably did to Southwest — heyo!).
I made it home on my flight from Nashville to Baltimore without issue, but was growing increasingly panicked about my New Year’s Eve flight to Los Angeles. Instead of making alternative plans, I went with the ole “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be” adage and checked the flight’s route every morning that week to see if it was flying as planned. To my surprise, it was, so I felt a lot better than some of you negative Nancies that were definitely just trying to help me out, but I’m stubborn and won’t listen to anyone.
The luggage situation still worried me, so I shoved everything I needed for the game and my return to Nashville into a carry-on, and left the rest at my parents. Mind you, I am a 28-year-old girl who had packed a suitcase for two weeks before this, so “the rest” was kind of a lot. “Nevertheless, she persisted.” …which was quote definitely created from a moment as serious for packing for a football game. I thought I’d be returning home quickly for my sister’s baby shower, but my month-long Pasadena Flu later prevented that.
My flight on NYE was at 6:20 AM over an hour away in Baltimore, and my sleep schedule had already been completely jacked up while on break, so I decided not to sleep. I was young and spry, surely nothing bad would come from this. Surely not a month-long illness!
But that was to worry about in three days’ time. Me and my fancy new headphones had made it onto that damn Southwest plane. Next stop, a plane at LAX, with a dream and a
cardigan new Rose Bowl crewneck from Family Clothesline.
As my notoriously bad luck should have it, the weather was nasty all three days I was in town. I showed up to my downtown hotel exhausted, damp, way uglier than I’d began my day (which was technically when I woke up at noon the day before) and ready for a drink. The good news was that the day was young, I had not a care in the world (other than the fact that my hair was severely unwell), and I was lodging across the street from the team hotel. I texted one of my internet friends, Garrett, and I was on my way over to meet him for the very first time, in broad daylight, to the delight of my parents. Let the games begin!
Shortly after I got food in my stomach, the drinking and the College Football Playoff semi-finals were underway. We’d initially planned to attend the alumni group’s watch party, but settled on hanging at the hotel instead, where the action we were concerned about seemed to be. I didn’t see much of Los Angeles outside of two hotels, two steakhouses, and two football stadiums, but honestly, I’m fine with that. Sorta seems like a dump. I perched myself up in a seat at the bar of the very impressive and PSU-decorated lobby and watched in drunken delight as both Michigan and Ohio State put tallies in the L column.
Once the seal was broken, I required several trips to the lobby bathroom, and found myself looking around in hopes of spotting someone of importance. On one of my trips, I spotted Donald Driver, who you may have heard of before. Was just chilling on his phone playing Candy Crush, in his PSU gear, as one does.
My favorite moment of the afternoon, however, came when I turned around in my chair and spotted none other than PSU punter Barney Amor right in front of me. I leapt out of my seat, yelling, “BARNEY!” which was super chill and not weird, I told myself, since we had interacted online before that. To my excitement, he replied, “My favorite twitter account!” and I knew in that moment that it was going to be a weekend for the ages.
Later, I ran back to my hotel, changed for our fancy steakhouse dinner reservation, and headed back to the team hotel where my internet friend, Eddie, and his wife, Lisa, were staying. Upon re-entering the bar, I was greeted by one of my other internet friends, Anthony Saunders, father of Kaden, who insisted on buying me a drink. I told him that I had two minutes until our Uber arrived, but he waved it off. In no position to decline a free drink (I was literally in that exact position, I’d been drinking all day on barely any food), I went with a Truly that I could continue to drink in the car. Shortly thereafter, we ate so much meat at the Brazilian steakhouse that we named the outing #GoutFest2022. It was beautiful.
Back at the team hotel, I bopped around some more, making all sorts of new friends — football staff, players, parents, and fellow fans. My two highlights that night were probably:
- The guy who made me FaceTime his friend, claiming he was my “biggest fan,” saying that he would freak out. Not gonna lie, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt cooler in my life.
- None other than The Prince Who Was Promised himself. My friend claims that Drew was more starstruck than I was, which I’m pretty sure isn’t true, cause I’m just some dork who paid for a blue check on twitter, but I like telling the story better that way. What an ending to the year.
The first day of 2023 was fairly chill. I almost puked out the window of a very long Uber ride to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, where we bought last-minute tickets to the Chargers-Rams game. I’m not a puker by nature, so that’s how you know things were bad. Nothing some tailgate food and a Diet Coke in a souvenir cup couldn’t fix! People kept offering me alcohol, but in this case I did decline a free drink, saving myself for the more important game the next day.
The stadium was even wilder than it looks on TV, and no, my seats weren’t that bad. I took the picture on 0.5, damnit. It was fun to root for the Chargers in person at a “home” game, for the first time since they started ruining my life as a middle schooler in 2007. A nice, relaxing time was had by all — the calm before the storm that was trying to find an Uber home to avoid paying for a $200 driving service. Highly recommend going with your richest friend possible if you ever attend a game there. Nightmare.
Eventually we made it back for another steakhouse and team hotel bar combo. The best moment from night two was definitely when I was leaving the hotel and a guy said to me, “Are you Lindsey Vonn?” and his friend said, “No, that’s Caroline!” I would’ve preferred to have been Lindsey Vonn, but was flattered by the friend’s correction nonetheless. It was a silly end to a nice day, and it was time for bed — that is, if I could sleep (who am I kidding, I was still recovering from a cross-country flight that I didn’t sleep before, of course I could sleep). We had a job to do.
I woke up at the ass crack of dawn and prepared myself for a day that already had itself smelling like sweet victory. As I’ve mentioned, I have notoriously bad luck, so this REALLY felt like one of my better omens.
After I chugged some Starbucks, we made our way into town for the Rose Bowl Parade, which was quite the spectacle. What I really enjoyed were the guys marching up and down the street with their big signs and megaphones yelling about how we’re all going to hell or whatever was so important that they had to preach for such a long period of time. The floats and performers were almost as impressive as those stamina on those goons. My favorite part, however, was the little kids who walked behind the horses with shovels in case of an accident.
At the conclusion of the parade, it was time to walk to the stadium. It was a bit of a trek, but at least there was some entertainment along the way. This guy certainly had part of a correct statement going for him!
After reaching the stadium, and wandering around aimlessly for awhile, unable to find the LA Alumni Chapter’s tailgate, we decided to make use of our club seats. We headed inside, I plugged in the stadium wifi password that a nice man gave me a couple days earlier, and started our own form of tailgating. The free food was great, the expensive drinks were… doing their job, and the anticipation was building at a rapid pace.
You know, doing a dive back through memory lane kinda makes me rethink the “notoriously bad luck” comments. Like, what did I do to deserve this?
The outcome of the game, as we know, was everything we could’ve wanted and more. I don’t really need to rehash that. What I do need to rehash is the game beyond the game between Team Internet Friends and Team Salty Utah Fans.
First of all, who cares, and second of all, Rose Bowl MVP Sean Clifford is laughing at you! What a bunch of weenies. Garrett would like me to mention that he “made sure the Utah fans knew they played bitch ass west coast football.” My guy Eddie continued to get riled up and go at them for the rest of the game, while I attempted to quell my rage during halftime.
Apparently, the pasta salad had me a little TOO calm by the end of the game, cause I started crying about Sean Clifford. Garrett will disagree with this statement, as he probably still has bruises where I excitedly slapped him every time we made a big play.
When I talked to Sean after the game, he told me it was his favorite game ever. Me too dude, me too. It was a day that couldn’t have gone any more perfectly, and yet, my night was just beginning — if the below tweet was any indication of how things were going to unfold.
Not long after, once my wings arrived at our table in the hotel bar (buffalo sauce in an all-white outfit was certainly a choice), I was mid-wing-inhalation when two hands grabbed and shook my shoulders, as their owner yelled, “WOOOOOOOO!” I turned around laughing and tried not to make a (bigger) mess of my food. Classic Barney Amor.
Seeing CJF this happy made me so happy. What a moment.
Throughout the rest of the night, the alcohol was flowing, and ya girl was on a roll, introducing myself to as many players and staff as I could. Some highlights:
- Charlie Katshir: My dad knows him from his Cumberland Valley days so I made sure to chat with him about that. Dr. B is literally his biggest fan. Charlie was stunned when I said my dad’s name. Old man must be cool or something. Weird.
- Chop Robinson: When I said, “Hey Chop,” not only did he respond with, “Hey, are you Caroline?” but he was also so excited that I called him by the right name, because apparently people always confuse him with Abdul Carter. I did not tell him that two days earlier I saw one of them and did the same in my head. I am also still not sure which one I saw that day.
- Dvon Ellies: Upon seeing me, he led a collective yelling of, “CAROLIIIIIINE!” with a few other players. I do not remember which players because I was too flustered to take note. He asked if I could tweet about him next, so I asked if he was coming back next year, and he ran away from me. Luckily, he is!
I also had conversations with several staff members, Cliff, Brenton Strange, Tyler Elsdon, Kalen King, KeAndre Lambert-Smith. I even managed to get a photo with the shy and very humble Nick Singleton.
When I finally got back to my hotel room at who knows what time, it took hours for me to finally go to sleep. I was drunk on rum and diets, but mostly vibes. I stared at my photos from the weekend in awe of the weekend I’d just had. I couldn’t believe that we’d just won the Rose Bowl in such incredible fashion, and that I’d met so many people that were a part of the team I loved so much — and that so many of them were excited to meet me. Like… what?
I am eternally grateful for this internet community and what it has allowed me to experience so far, and I will never take it for granted. Whether you’ve been around from the start, or you’re new here, thank you. Your kind messages and funny banter mean a lot to me, and this will never get old. In fact, some days I feel like I’m just getting started.
We Are, Bitch.
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