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Jack Smith

With professional football games, half the misery is in getting there and the other half is being there

December 26, 1985|JACK SMITH

I went to the Big Game on Monday night.

Rams versus Raiders in the Big A at Anaheim.

I was there with 66,669 other people and about 40,000 cars.

Getting there was half the misery.

I went with my friend Morry Pynoos and his son John. Morry drove his white Seville, so we wouldn't be embarrassed when we parked it among all the Chryslers, Mercedeses, Porsches and Volvo station wagons driven by the Rams' fans.

Not to mention the limousines equipped with bars and television.

Morry was going to pick me up in front of The Times at 4 p.m. A man was going to be waiting for him in the Rams ticket office at the stadium with three tickets. The game started at 6 p.m., so it could be on "Monday Night Football." The nation would be watching.

Morry pulled up 20 minutes late. We began to go south on Spring Street. I told him the Santa Ana Freeway was behind us, to the north.

He said a friend had told him the best way to get to Anaheim Stadium from downtown was to take the Harbor Freeway to the San Diego Freeway, then take the Garden Grove to Highway 57.

"He said stay off the Santa Ana Freeway," Morry explained.

I told Morry the Harbor would be just as bad as the Santa Ana.

We drove on down Spring and got on the Santa Monica Freeway going east. We crept along in heavy traffic for a while, then eased over into the Pomona Freeway, which wasn't any faster. We followed the Pomona until we came to the Long Beach Freeway. I had already given up hope of making Anaheim by 6 o'clock.

"Why don't we take the Long Beach Freeway?" Morry said.

"Great," his son said, "if you want to go to the Queen Mary."

Morry got into the Long Beach Freeway, going south.

I began to figure that we'd end up in some bar, watching the game on television.

We came to the Artesia-Riverside Freeway. "Let's take this," Morry said. "I've never seen any cars on the Riverside Freeway."

There were several cars on the Riverside Freeway. Several thousand. But it had a pool lane on the left that was moving fairly fast.

Morry eased into the pool lane and we moved along fairly fast until we neared Anaheim. Then we wound up somehow on the Santa Ana Freeway. In Anaheim we turned off the freeway and got lost. We were creeping along beside a pearl-colored limousine. I rolled down a window and signaled to the driver. He rolled down his window.

"Is this the way to the stadium?" I shouted.

He shouted back, "We hope so!"

We got to the stadium at 6 o'clock. All the parking gates were closed. The lot was full. The stadium itself was about a quarter of a mile away, glowing in the misty night like the Titanic's iceberg. We decided that John should get out and run to the ticket office to get the tickets from the waiting man. We didn't know how long he'd wait.

John jumped out and we drove on to a vacant lot that had a sign saying "Parking $20." Morry pulled in and parked among hundreds of other cars. All at $20 apiece.

We hurried on foot to the stadium and found the ticket office. John was waiting with the tickets. The man had been waiting, watching the game on a small TV while his seat went empty. Good man.

We took the escalator up to our level and were in our seats with only eight minutes and 12 seconds gone in the first quarter.

The exciting part of the evening was over.

In his column the next day Jim Murray said the game was "like Purdue-Iowa, circa 1929." During the third quarter I remember saying to Morry, "This is Harvard-Princeton, 1890."

There was some good punting, though, and five field goals, and Marcus Allen rushed for 123 yards. And just to show they could do it, the Raiders scored a touchdown with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter.

Final score, 16-6, Raiders.

But the crowd was fantastic. A 66,000-voiced roar, with nothing to roar about. I don't know how Ram fans will adjust to Raider fans, but they just aren't the same type. Many Raider fans came dressed in black and silver and wore pirate hats and were obstreperous and exhibitionistic in their behavior.

I noticed that the young woman sitting at my left, evidently with her husband, was not responding to all the fun on the field and in the stadium.

"Do you like football?" I asked her.

"I'm afraid I don't really understand it," she said.

"I'm not sure that I do either," I said.

She said, "It's fun coming to the games. But when it's on TV I don't watch it."

I was thinking it would be a lot more fun to be watching this one on TV, getting those instant replays and having the benefit of O. J. Simpson and Joe Namath's expertise.

Every time it looked as if someone was going to complete a pass, or something else exciting was going to happen, the crowd would stand up, and if you didn't get to your feet fast enough you missed the play.

I missed the touchdown that way. When I got home I dressed for bed and played the last quarter of the game, which I had taped, so I could see the touchdown.

It was a good play.

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