Inside the Capitol

Monday, January 03, 2005

1-9 Emerald Bowl

SANTA FE – It was the luck of the draw. The University of New Mexico Lobos drew a sentimental favorite to play in San Francisco’s Emerald Bowl on Dec. 30.
The U.S. Naval Academy was the darling of the holiday bowl games. A team that didn’t win a game three years ago, won nine (now 10) of them this season.
And more importantly, many of the players on the senior-laden team will be defending our country by this summer, many in Iraq. Three former Navy football players have lost their lives there in the past three months.
The Navy fans at the game were estimated at three times the number of Lobo fans. A large portion of the Navy student body had made the coast-to-coast trip. When the players first took the field, they were led by an offensive lineman carrying a huge American flag. Film clips of that were rerun all day.
It just wasn’t the Lobos’ day. They had been consigned to a role as bit players in the glorification of the Navy team. Pre-game promos focused on Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco, who will be a Marine pilot. Viewers seldom heard UNM coach Rocky Long mentioned. It was all about the Navy coach who was portrayed as the brilliant admiral of his team.
But that’s what sells tickets and hooks viewers. Any service academy is a good choice for bowl games because they have diehard fans throughout the nation.
At least one diehard Army fan was at the game rooting for New Mexico. UNM President Louis Caldera, a former Secretary of the Army, suffered through a humiliating 42-13 rout of Navy over Army earlier in December. He had hoped for a better outcome this time.
Navy also seemed so at home at the Bowl by the Bay, playing in coastal fog and rain on a slippery field. New Mexico’s desert rats just seemed out of place.
Although the midshipman carrying the flag was on TV clips rerun the rest of the day, there were no clips of the pre-game coin toss that was missed because an earlier bowl game ran overtime. That ceremony was to involve New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Navy Secretary Gordon England.
Richardson had sent out a news release announcing his participation in the ceremony and revealing that he and Secretary England were participating in the traditional friendly wager that officials often make before bowl games. Gov. Richardson put up a case of Sadie’s salsa from Albuquerque against England’s case of Navy bean soup.
England said he and his staff would enjoy eating some good New Mexico salsa. He might have to eat those words. Sadie’s has some of the hottest salsa around. It’s not quite like those salsas made in New York City that the folks in Annapolis are accustomed to eating.
Sadie’s Dining Room in Albuquerque’s North Valley is a favorite gathering place for local Democrat politicos, including former lawmakers Raymond Sanchez and Manny Aragon. It serves some of the hottest chile anywhere.
When former President Bill Clinton wanted New Mexican food, it usually came either from Sadie’s or the Sanitary Tortilla Factory in downtown Albuquerque, favored by Mayor Martin Chavez. New Mexican food for the two presidents Bush usually comes from El Pinto, a little farther north on 4th Street from Sadie’s.
So when Christmas-gift calls by the referees occurred, such as Navy’s field goal that was wide right or New Mexico’s touchdown that wasn’t awarded, I could take solace in thinking of the Navy’s top brass and their reaction to some of Sadie’s finest.
When I shared that thought with Gilbert Gallegos, the governor’s deputy director of communications, he revealed that he had taken some compassion, especially when he learned that the players would get to share in the feed. “I sprinkled in a few jars of the milder version,” Gallegos admitted.


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