'Twas the Night Before the Silicon Valley Football Classic

    Dec. 20, 2000

    By Teena Shields

    `Twas the day before New Years in what would be `01 and the tale I'm relating had already begun. I was minding my business, all nice and relaxed, when it suddenly sounded like I lived on the tracks. I ran to the window, "What the heck's going on?" There were thousands of cars bound for Silicon. They were honking and cheering and waving red signs. I knew they were looking at big traffic fines. The cops were there too with their sirens and lights, but not writing citations, they were leading the flight!

    They were coming from Fresno, from Clovis and Selma. From Sanger and Porterville, Visalia, Madera. With two to a carload, perhaps even four. I just gave up counting, there were fans by the score. I saw Hondas and Benzes, and a Lexus deluxe, Toyotas, RVs and some Ford pick up trucks, stretching mile after mile in an unending line - at the end a Mack Truck with a "Go Bulldogs" sign. I grabbed my red sweater right there on the shelf and drove through the town to see for myself.

    But the place was deserted, not a soul anywhere. It was if they'd all vanished right into thin air. Then I spotted a boy, he was 8, maybe 9 and I asked him, "What's happening? Have I lost my mind?" "Just drive," he commanded and pointed the way, and I'll always remember what the kid had to say, "The Valley is empty, or so it would seem. Everyone has gone north with the `Dogs football team. It's the big bowl game, mister. There's no time to wait. You'd better get going or we're gonna be late."

    I just couldn't see letting this poor kid down, so I floored my old Chevy and we shot out of town. We roared up the freeway and made excellent time, screeched into the parking lot, stopped on a dime. We jumped from the car and ran up to the gate. They were just kicking off, and we weren't too late! I bought him some popcorn and found us a seat. We were there for the start, which had been no small feat. We shouted and cheered and did the big wave, and the `Dogs won the victory on that New Year's Eve day.

    Now I'm a believer and a new Bulldog fan, so I turned in my seat to thank the young man. But the bleacher was empty, "Hey, where's the kid gone?" An old man behind me said, "You came in alone. There never has been a young boy sitting here. Just my brother-in-law and he's gone for more beer." And as the game ended and celebrations began, I saw that the kid had been part of a plan. So there is my story, I always tell it the same - how my guardian angel got me to that game.

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