IT'S A pretty safe bet that on New Year's Day, when the TV set is flipped on to catch the college bowl parades and games, at least one voice in the room will sigh: "I'd like to see them in person some day."
An understandable wish. Television cameras -- no matter how strategically located -- never really transmit the fragrant beauty of the flower-covered floats of Pasadena's Tournament of Roses. On screen, what is a blurred mass of color becomes, when you are only a few yards away, thousands of fragile blossoms.
And the curbside viewer has much more time to take in the spectacle. On screen, you get a quick glimpse, but in person you can see the big floats coming for blocks.
True, it's late in the year to be considering a trip for the approaching bowl events, but the parade hasn't entirely passed you by. While game tickets are scarce, bleacher seats for the big parades are still available.
Or if this year's end is too early, bowl committees will start taking reservations for 1984 almost as soon as the season's last touchdown is scored.
This year or next, here are suggestions on how to get tickets for the parade and/or game at Pasadena's Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and the Sugar Bowl (no parade) in New Orleans:
The Rose Parade is the big New Year's Day extravaganza -- this Jan. 1 the theme is "Rejoice" -- and frequently it is more exciting than the football game that follows later in the day. Thousands of people show up the night before with sleeping bags and hot thermoses and camp out on the curb along the five-mile route in order to get a front view. It's free, but it's also the hard way to see the two and one-half hour parade.
The Rose Bowl committee lists at least four Pasadena firms that set up grandstand seats along the parade route and sell reserved seats throughout the year. The largest, Sharp Seating Company with about 80,000 seats, reports tickets are still available.
The price this year ranges from $13 to $20 per seat, with the highest prices closest to the review stand near the beginning of the route at Orange Grove and West Colorado Boulevard. Reserved parking at $6 to $12 per car (depending on location) can also be arranged from these firms:
* Sharp Seating Company: Phone (213) 795-4171 or write P.O. Box 68, Pasadena, Calif. 91102.
* Gilbert Higbee: 2,500 seats near the review stand, sold out this season. Phone (213) 793-5385 or write P.O. Box 624, Pasadena, Calif. 91102.
* Marsden Brothers: Phone (213) 394-6639.
* Milne Brothers: 2,000 seats about two-thirds along the parade route. Some reported available at $13. Phone (213) 798-7000 or write 22 North Greenwood, Pasadena, Calif. 91107.
Tickets to the game itself are much harder to obtain. Though the stadium seats 109,000, about 40,000 seats each go to the two colleges playing, and most of the rest go to the other campuses in the Big 10 and Pacific conferences. But 3,500 tickets are set aside for a lottery held in the fall (this season's price, $25-$30). To enter, contact the Rose Bowl committee before August at (213) 449-4100.
An alternative: Special Event Services, a Los Angeles tour operator, puts together a tour package that includes parade and game tickets. At $150 per person, it's expensive but convenient. The package includes bus pick up at 6 a.m. (for an 8:30 parade beginning) at either the Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. or at the Farmers Market in the Hollywood-Wilshire area (more locations next season); parade seating near the review stand; a box lunch before the game; game seating in the end zone; return transportation. Parade tickets alone are $50. For information: Special Event Services, 253 S. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, Calif. 90004.
Floats in the King Orange Jamboree Parade twinkle in the dark since it's held on New Year's Eve, beginning at 7:30 p.m. This year the theme is "Something To Sing About," and, if things go as usual, the Coppertone sun lotion float will be singing the praises of Miami's seashore.
Parade fans can line up for free along Biscayne Boulevard and Flagler Street or contact the Orange Bowl Committee for a place in the 25,000 bleacher seats: $5.50 for nonreserved bleachers and $8.50 for reserved box seats. Add $2 per order for handling (return certified mail). Phone (305) 642-5211 or send a certified check or money order to P.O. Box 350748, Miami, Fla. 331350748 (9-digit ZIP).
Orange Bowl game seats may all be gone by now, but for the latest information contact the ticket office at the same phone number. This year tickets sold for $18 each. Each year, about 75,000 seats go on sale to the public. The committee starts taking reservations in February, at the address above, and begins mailing tickets out in June.
The 110-member Woodson Senior High School band of the District of Columbia has been invited to march in the Cotton Bowl Parade in Dallas on New Year's morning, and they are busy raising money to finance the trip. Under a theme of "Festivals Around the World," floats will celebrate, among other things, Carnival in Rio, Chinese New Year and Cheyenne's Frontier Days.
There are no reserved seats for this 90-minute parade, whichcustomarily draws a crowd of 100,000, although 2,500 bleacher seats are provided free, on a first-come basis, near the review stand at the John F. Kennedy memorial. But for a 9 a.m. beginning, they start to fill at 6:30 a.m. There's plenty of standing room along the two-mile route.
By now, the Cotton Bowl game is expected to be sold out, since Texans are big football fans, but a last-minute phone check can be made to the Cotton Bowl Association (214) 634-7525 or (214) 634-1983. Normally, the association begins taking ticket orders in August for 70,000 seats. Where you sit is determined by a drawing. This year the price was $20, plus $1 per order for handling, payable by MasterCard, Visa, American Express, money order or personal check.
New Orleans throws no parade for the Suger Bowl, but of course they are busy preparing for the Mardi Gras festivities a few weeks later. Still the city celebrates bowl week with a boat regatta on Lake Pontchartrain, tennis tournament and a national collegiate flag football tourney--and the delightful old French Quarter is a show in itself.
Game tickets can be difficult to obtain by outsiders. Of 75,000 seats, about 30,000 go to the two schools competing and another 20,000 to previous ticket holders. Another 7,000 are set aside for what the Sugar Bowl Committee calls its "terrace package." The ticket office suggests the best way to get a seat is to write before September (they start accepting orders Jan. 15) for the package, which includes two seats to the game plus two seats to both games of a basketball tournament held the same week.
This year the terrace combination sold for $56 for two people. To reserve for next year, write to: Sugar Bowl, Louisiana Superdome, 1500 Poydras St., New Orleans, La. 70112.
An alternative: Mardi Gras Tours and Conventions, a New Orleans tour company, provides three nights at a hotel plus game ticket and city shuttle for $318 per person (double occupancy). The hotel, Fountain Bay, is about two miles from the French Quarter and the Superdome. For information: (504) 522-7565 or write P.O. Box 57133, New Orleans, La. 70157.
As a last resort: For this year, find an alumnus of a participating school who has good connections; and for next year, enroll yourself or a child in a college with a winning football team.