December 29, 2021

Talk about deflating.

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Two hours before officials announced UCLA had pulled out of the first football game ever at Petco Park, a monster football balloon was punctured midair during Tuesday’s Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade.

Times of San Diego photos showed a rip in the pigskin — after it snagged a horizontal support pole meant for vertical banners above the street. No sign was present at the site, south of Ash Street. (But “Deflategate” jokes circulated on social media.)

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Worse, at least 10 balloons of 25 expected never made the trip down Harbor Drive in front of tens of festive thousands awaiting the self-described largest balloon parade in the country.

MIAs included the Lorax, sea turtle, seahorse, T-Rex, San Diego Zoo tiger, Clifford the dog, the Maritime Museum octopus and Port of San Diego octonauts.

Even the principal sponsor’s inflatable — the Kaiser Permanente wizard — was a no-show for the first Holiday Bowl parade since 2019 (having skipped 2020 for COVID-19).

To the rescue came two San Diego icons — Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove as grand marshal and a brief rainbow over San Diego Bay.

“Rainbow, rainbow,” members of the crowd shouted and pointed, taking their attention away for a moment from a parade with only about half the expected 25 floats.

Marvin Heinze of the Holiday Bowl Committee told KFMB-TV, Channel 8, that the parade experienced some “helium issues.”

At 9:33 a.m., a half-hour before the parade, Fox5 San Diego reported that the helium “had just arrived.”

Musgrove — the former Grossmont High School hurler traded to the Padres last season, throwing the team’s first no-hitter — waved to fans from a convertible.

Before starting his slow-speed trek south, he told reporters he planned to tailgate at Petco before entering the ballpark (where he’s locked out as an MLB player) to do the official coin toss.

He said he didn’t have a dog in the fight between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the UCLA Bruins, but if he had to pick, he’d go with the Westwood team because “I’ve got a lot of buddies who went to UCLA.”

His plans for New Year’s?

He and his girlfriend were planning to take a red-eye to New York late Tuesday — pandemic permitting.

“I have a buddy out there who I played with in Pittsburgh who lives in the city now, playing with the Yankees,” he said. “So we’re going to spend New Year’s with them and do some nice dinners.”

He mused about his life-changing year — although “it’s a little bit overwhelming at times.”

“People have been supporting me from the start of my career, and even before then throughout my high school career,” he told Times of San Diego.

“I’ve had a lot of support from people in San Diego. That’s kind of the cool thing about this city. They get behind and support anybody that’s from the city. …. whether it’s baseball, music, politics, whatever it is, they really support their own from here.”


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