After attending the Poinsettia Bowl press conference last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to visit the USS Midway Museum where the Cal-Utah luncheon was taking place. This luncheon featured all the players and coaches of each team, as well as the families of team members and select fans of each team.
[click each photo for a much larger version]
After the jump we look at the Battle of the Bands in the museum, followed by the luncheon and the self-guided tours, where players were free to wander around the museum and look at all the impressive aircraft.
For those of you who have never been to the USS Midway Museum, the museum is literally the USS Midway, one of the most celebrated aircraft carriers in US history.
The battle of the bands started at 11am, which happened to be the same time I was half a mile away at the Omni Hotel for the Cal-Utah press conference. I scrambled over to the museum, but had a tough time getting photos due to all the people. The battle of the bands was originally supposed to be on the flight deck of the museum, but temperatures in the low 50s coupled with 15-25mph winds would have made that an unpleasant experience.
As it was inside, lighting was less than optimal. My camera and I soldiered on, however.
The camera's flash did unkind things to the face of the girl on the right. Sorry about that!
Of course, Utah's band (often referred to as "The Pride of Utah," much to the chagrin of the BYU marching band) was there too.
So Utah's team is called the Utes, but their mascot is an eagle?
So that's what a Ute looks like...
Utah's band came out and did its thing.
Cal went back to work, to the crowd's delight.
The tuba-ers (tubers...like potatoes?) went high-stepping around and drew many cheers.
After the battle, the bands signed a peace treaty by posing together for pictures.
By this time, the luncheon was about to start so I followed the band over to the luncheon area.
Cam Jordan and Ernie Owusu walked by. Jordan was saying hi to everyone and being his normal, jolly self.
I think Cam was asking to borrow someone--anyone's--instrument.
The band opened the luncheon festivities with some Cal songs and the national anthem.
Players all sat in the middle of the room while media/family/everyone else was further from the stage. Coaches, two players from each team (Tepper and Syd from Cal), and Poinsettia Bowl officials sat at the tables on the stage. On either side of the stage was a giant screen, where we watched various highlights from the season as well as other clips.
During the luncheon, coaches and players spoke in addition to bowl officials. We heard some heartwarming stories about three Make-A-Wish foundation kids, two of whom were honorary captains during the game.
Each team gave out a surprise Wishes-Come-True Inspirational Award to a member of the team/staff and Cal's recipient was Kevin "Rope Coach" Parker. He was given the award for giving back to the community, specifically by periodically taking players to San Quentin prison to give a visceral demonstration of what can happen if they make the wrong choices in life. He takes care to let the players know how talented and gifted they are while reminding them not to squander that fortune by making bad decisions.
The award really meant a lot to Parker, who teared up during his acceptance speech. He said some people are meant to lead and others are meant to serve. Parker said he is proud to serve and cherishes his role at Cal. He mentioned that his motto is "hold the rope" and that he will continue to hold the rope for Cal as long as he can. He also briefly spoke about how he and his father recently renewed their relationship after years of silence.
When the luncheon crowd dispersed, we were all free to wander around the ship. I meandered about, taking pictures of various players as they perused the ship.
The first place I went was up to the flight deck.
Soon after, Owusu and Jordan were back. It didn't look like Jordan wasn't successful acquiring any instruments from the band.
Syd and Cat-house went to the edge to look over the side of the ship.
Riley, Ladner, Schwartz, and Kapp went running by. Riley seemed to be having lots of fun on the museum. He was constantly joking around with teammates. The winds were very strong and very cold on this end of the ship.
How many Cal players can you fit on a Sea King helicopter? Guys liked that frog-looking character near the door. Several took pictures of it with their phones.
An entire defensive line walked past.
Several of the younger players wander past, including quarterbacks Ryan Wertenberger, Brock Mansion, and Allan Bridgford.
Kevin Parker and his father walked around together and took pictures of the players. Several fans from the luncheon periodically came up to Kevin and shook his hand while praising his work for Cal.
Kevin Parker poses for a photo with Syd, Hagan, and Jesse Brooks.
Syd and Hagan ponder if they can intercept one of this plane's missiles in mid-flight.
The kickers walked by. I always pictured Tavecchio as a quiet guy, but he was definitely the loudest of the bunch. No matter what his profile says, there is no way he's 170lbs.
Tepper and JO had been talking here for probably fifteen minutes.
Sofele, Vereen, and another player (whom I'm embarassed to admit I don't recognize) walked by. Earlier on the upper deck, Vereen stopped to sign an autograph. Meanwhile, Conte and Sofele, who were walking with Vereen, were waiting for an elevator back to the next lower level. I also happened to be waiting for that elevator. Conte and Sofele left poor Vereen behind while we all rode the elevator down. I don't think Shane will ever forgive them...
After a while players started to leave. At this point I decided to explore the museum for myself so I could learn more about the ship. It was quite entertaining and informative, but not so relevant to this post.
Check back tomorrow for a photo essay from gameday at Qualcomm Stadium!