1986, Orange Bowl, Miami, Fla.: I was late in applying for credentials and, because of the oversight, I get stuck in the worst part of the Oklahoma media press box. I don’t have a seat on the front row. Or second row. With a poor view on a wooden stool in the back row of the press suite, I’m also left to juggle my TRS-80 laptop, notebooks, game program and phone on my lap. Luckily, I had spent enough time in the Orange Bowl’s hospitality suite to make friends with one of the Orange Bowl volunteers who was a retired teacher. He was fascinated in Native Americans (I’m one). Late in the second quarter, when the Pennsylvania governor and his delegation left the press box suite that had a more central view of the field, my Orange Bowl pal motioned for me to follow him. Ta-da! I get a press box suite to myself, with plenty of room and a better view than the rest of the Oklahoma media contingent. I can see Oklahoma sports writers glaring at me as I spread out in my new digs. They don’t look happy and some are mouthing words, like “How does he rate?” — or perhaps something more profane. It didn’t matter. I was too busy enjoying the view. As for the game, OU defeated Penn State 25-10 and laid claim to the national championship. It was a good night. Obviously, it pays to be friendly.
More from the Orange Bowl: Troy Aikman, a sophomore, didn’t get to play in the game. Earlier that season, he had broken his leg against Miami and was replaced by freshman Jamielle Holieway. I had worked with Troy’s mom at the Henryetta newspaper, and I’d met him when he was in junior high. While everyone in the OU locker room was yelling and celebrating, Troy was alone, not looking happy. When I walk up to him, he is slamming his cleats into a locker, obviously frustrated about not seeing any playing time. He says he’s not sure whether he has a future at OU. I told him to keep me updated, but it’s obvious his days at OU are done.