Independence Bowl Ghosts of Christmases Past

In my personal Tedders brain, Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl memories are a wild wintertime blend of a lost cell phone, a bad dude named Zack Valentine, a giant Sharpie, John Wayne, a hypnotist, a wrist watch, snow, and grinning Iowa State fans walking around filled with joy and dressed as giant ears of corn.

Good times.

I-Bowl teams will tee it up for the 46th time — only 10 bowls are older — on Friday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. at cleverly named Independence Stadium. The afternoon (or make it an all-day) experience would be a thoughtful and fun early Christmas gift, which you can make happen by visiting the bowl’s website (Google “Independence Bowl”) or by calling 318.221.0712.

We hope to see you there. But first … let’s review. 

McNeese State 20, Tulsa 16, 1976: This bowl started it all in America’s bicentennial year, thus the name of the “Independence” Bowl. Tedroe missed the game. Was in high school in West Monroe and probably could not have told you where the stadium was or, if I had known, could not have even imagined any way to get to the game. 

Louisiana Tech 24, Louisville 14, 1977: Saw the highlights on the late news and said, “Wait. What? Bowl game? Shreveport?” 

East Carolina 35, Tech 13, 1978: Was on the sidelines and fairly occupied, through a strange turn of events only the Creator could have devised, as the Tech equipment manager. John Wayne was there and Omar Bradley and, unfortunately, the aforementioned Zack Valentine, who hit our QB near our sideline and literally knocked the snot out of him. This was when a cliché actually happened; I witnessed it. Our friend the late Keith Thibodeaux, still the best all-around athlete I’ve ever seen at Tech, was knocked out of the game early on that play and I was sort of glad he didn’t have to endure the rest of it like we did. Tech had just won two Southland Conference titles in a row, but the other team was better, at least on that cold and sunny afternoon. That was the end of an era, the final game for Hall of Fame coach Maxie Lambright. (They gave us watches at the team banquet and we were thrilled; now team gifts are … well, let’s just say, speaking of eras, a new day has dawned in the Bowl Gifting World.) 

Elderly Miss 35, Texas Tech 18, 1998: Sanford writing products was the bowl sponsor and the beautiful mother of maybe my favorite I-Bowl Memory: the giant blow-up Sharpie in the parking lot. A thing of undisputed beauty. Think of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. God I miss it still. 

Mississippi State 43, Texas A&M 41, 2000: The glorious, unmatched, never-to- be-forgotten Snow Game/Snow Bowl. Watched it on TV because me and 10-year-olds were playing football in the front yard, in the snow, and they didn’t want to stop. We’d run inside to warm up and watch and go back outside. (Ours is the not-as-memorable Snow Bowl — except to us.)

Elderly Miss 27, Nebraska 25, 2002: At the banquet for both teams, a hypnotist — he was nothing short of spectacular, had guys walking around like chickens and such — brought maybe five players from each team up and sat them in chairs and attempted to hypnotize them. It “took” on most, but not on all. Eli Manning was one who tried, but you could tell it was not working on him; not sure any of the Football Manning Family have a brain that can un-think long enough to be hypnotized. So Eli was one of the guys fired. Fortunately for the Rebels, he didn’t fall asleep at the game, either: 25-of 44 for 313 yards and a touchdown. (Programming note: Eli is one of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023 inductees; the star-studded bunch will be inducted in July. for more info; hope to see you there, too.)

Missouri 38, South Carolina 31, 2005: Our friend Patrick Meehan was on an elevator a couple days before the game and dropped his cell phone through the slot where the doors close. You could hear it bumping metal and breaking on the way down. Carolina coach Steve Spurrier looked down the narrow opening and said, to no one, “That’s unfortunate.” He had the best post-game quote too: his team led 28-14 at half and when we asked him about losing the second-half lead, he pointed to a couple of his defensive coaches and said, “Go ask those guys.”

Not a third of the way down my list and … we could go on and on. We will, next year. Good grief we love us some Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl.

But now it’s time to look forward, not back. So see you at the game. Wonder what will happen? Come getcha some!

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