I wanted to feel some solidarity with my fellow Duck fans that had made the trip, especially after feeling outnumbered everywhere I went by Kansas State fans, and this was the perfect reminder that I won't be the only one attending the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday. My other mission... to purchase my annual ticket holder and lanyard, plus my traditional bowl game shot glass. While both missions were accomplished, I feel it necessary to provide some thoughts and comparisons to similar pep rallies from previous years.
The venue where the Fiesta Bowl pep rally was held, the Salt River Flats, was just wonderful. Fans were seated throughout (the sun-filled areas of) the stadium and there was a fun cover band doing adult-contemporary music. The baseball stadium wasn't difficult to get to and most importantly, the Duck Truck was kept safely outside, away from blocking the stage as was the case at the Rose Bowl pep rally last year. You can tell where some of the architects got their ideas for PK Park. Just a nice venue and good setup.
As for execution, the event was MC'd by Don Essig and Jorgy who went through a prepared script of comments about how awesome we are, how great the football team was, how super cool the university was, etc. Ahmad Rashad was the only "special guest". He gave a few words, mostly about how proud he was to be a Duck, and sat down. Overall, it wasn't anything special. It seemed like the point was to get it over with, perhaps sell some swag and provide a showcase to the Duck doing a skydive, which, from this perspective, was awesome.
If you hadn't been to a bowl game pep rally in the last 4 years, this might have been pretty fun for you. You got to see the band, the Duck doing a skydive, and were probably disappointed at getting the special video message from Aliotti, Chip, and "Helf" talking about how great we were and not actually seeing them in person.
From someone who has been to the bowl pep rallies over the last 4 years, this one felt, for lack of a better way to describe it, tired and forced. While it was a great venue, probably the best venue for our size of group and certainly better than the Santa Monica Pier, it was hard to listen to prepared words of "That's the kind of Autzen noise we'll bring to the Fiesta Bowl" when it was obvious it just wasn't there. It felt like we were all going through the motions in having the pep rally then really making it a positive and uplifting experience.
There could have been a lot of reasons for the vibe. It could have been due to the weather, it could have been the down attendance, it could have been the production value, it could have been a subdued tone of Chip possibly leaving for the NFL, it could have been BCS pep rally #4 in 4 years. Whatever the reason, I think the mojo just wasn't there today and while I know that fans will bring it during the Fiesta Bowl, I'm glad fans weren't competing on the field of pep rallies.
If Oregon is fortunate to attend these types of bowls in the future, I hope that the Athletic Department looks into how it can "Oregonify" their pep rallies to make them into must-experience events. As this fan can attest, we need more pep in our rallies.