Football fans gear up for Emerald Bowl

Stoddard Lee a big spender, call him obsessed — but whatever you do, don’t tell him he doesn’t love the Florida State Seminoles football team.

“You don’t fly across the country to see a team you don’t love. Let’s just say I would be here no matter what it cost,” said Lee, who spent $5,000 bringing a party of six with him on a three-day trip from Georgia to root for his Seminoles as they play UCLA in today’s Emerald Bowl at AT&T Park.

“We didn’t come all the way to San Francisco to lose,” Lee said.

Fans such as Lee came to The City from around the country for the annual bowl game, most throwing cost to the wind to see the game, which is the first official matchup between Florida State and UCLA. This is the fifth Emerald Bowl, which now matches teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Pacific 10 Conference. Utah, Navy, Boston College and Virginia Tech have won the game the last four years.

Clad in team colors and clutching pompoms and paraphernalia, Florida State and UCLA fans and team members faced off for the first time at Tuesday’s kickoff luncheon at the Westin St. Francis hotel.

Filing in to enter the main ballroom, the Seminoles and Bruins got their first looks at one another while fans went wild. Seminoles lovers did their trademark tomahawk chop and sang the war chant as Bruins fans, spirits raised by the school band that accompanied the team, hooted and hollered.

Because the two teams have never played against each other, this was no clash of bitter, old rivals —the sentiment at the luncheon was more friendly than frothing.

But Bruins fans made sure they didn’t live down to the stereotype of the laid-back Southern California sports fan. UCLA rooter Tom Komaromi described himself as being somewhat of a “die-hard” for shelling out $1,000 to support his alma mater, coming all the way from New York City.

“I am so excited to be here —seeing coach [Karl] Dorrell is an honor,” Komaromi explained, clad in a UCLA hat and sweatshirt.

Frank Samu and Melanie Moore of Tallahassee, Fla., both Florida State alumni and season ticket holders, cut their holiday celebrations short to fly on Christmas Day and make the game — they even left their 17-month-old daughter with family.

“We might be the underdog, but that doesn’t mean we won’t win,” Samu proclaimed, adding that the trip set the couple back more than $2,000.

Ex-pro baseball player Leron Lee, who played for the Cardinals, Padres, Indians and Dodgers, was also on hand for the festivities, supporting his daughters, who are part of the UCLA band.

“I kind of have to be a Bruins fan [because of them],” Lee said.

The Emerald Bowl will take place at 5 p.m. today at AT&T Park and will be televised live on ESPN. Tickets are still available.

For more information, visit www.emeraldbowl.org.

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UCLA Florida State
Team Founded: 1919 1947
Current Coach: Karl Dorrell Bobby Bowden
Colors: Blue and Gold Garnet and Gold
Mascot: Bruin Bear Chief Osceola
Celebrity Alumni: Jim Morrison Burt Reynolds
Sports Alumni: Troy Aikman Sebastian Janikowski
All-time Record: 442-211-17 514-345-37