Volume 1 Episode 14
In light of the events of my last post, the title of this post sounds a bit more ominous than it really is. I was able to complete a lifelong dream over the New Year’s holiday this year and attend the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. I witnessed the Michigan State Spartans (Go Green!, My Alma Mater) defeat the Stanford Cardinal to cap an epic 13 win season. Some back story…
Prior to the 1975 season, I believe, the Big Ten conference sent only one team to a bowl game, its conference champion. That was not Michigan State, most years. If one can actually remember, in those days, we didn’t have multiple 24 hour sports networks, and seeing a game on television was a big deal. I spent every New Years’ day as a youth watching college football bowl games from a snowy and cold southern Michigan. California always looked magical on TV, especially the Rose Bowl. Add in the romance of “Hollywood” (…swimming pools; movie stars…) and that day, and especially that game takes on mythical greatness on one’s mind. I’ve been fortunate to witness MSU in several bowl games (El Paso, Orlando), as well as NCAA tournament basketball games, and other sports event through the years, but the Rose Bowl was particularly elusive. I was in my 5th year on campus in East Lansing the last time the Spartans played in the Rose Bowl in 1987. I couldn’t afford to make the trip across country to attend. I was the guy that said “…there will be other Rose Bowls. I’ll go to the next one…” Well, we were close a couple of times on the last couple of years, but didn’t make it. I had high hopes for the 2012 season, and when the Spartans had a disappointing season, I had finally resigned myself to the fact that the Rose Bowl would be a dream to me. The mythology just kept growing.
So the success of the 2013 Spartan football team kind of snuck up on me, and I think along with a number of us Spartan fans as well. Factor in my health issue, and I wasn’t as focused as I may have been on the football team too. It the days leading up to the conference championship game, and a Rose Bowl game within reach, it was really odd and exciting. As a Spartan we’ve been conditioned of sorts to expect that something bad would happen and our dreams would again be dashed. It felt different this year, but that idea was nagging in the back of our heads, well, my head at least, and I bet many more, if everyone else is being honest. I had such an amount of joy as we took control of the championship game…just so excited. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t stand up, couldn’t bear to watch, couldn’t look away, just amazing. RAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Go Green!! I know I woke up my neighbors, I had to yell! Rose Bowl Baby!!!!!!!
I had been exchanging texts and calls with a good buddy of mine Eric, also an alumnus, during the game. I texted him “I need tickets”. His response was “Seriously??” “Hell Yes” was my reply. California here I come! And thus began the trip building would consume the next few days. A quick anecdote on how much demand there was for tickets and hotels for this game. I was on the phone the next morning with my buddy, planning the trip, and one of the “official” bowl tours was already sold out at 10:00 and two more had sold out while we were speaking, in less than 30 minutes. Logistics were tough, but not impossible, and well, it was the trip I had been waiting my whole life for, I was not going to miss this.
I flew to Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve, I had been hearing reports of all the Spartans meeting on their planes to California, and I expected to see a few on my flight (direct from Orlando to LA), but was blown away at the numbers. At least 1/3 of the flight was in Green and White! (Another 1/3 was Florida State fans going out for the national championship, the balance were civilians.) This was an indicator of the next few days. The story out of the MSU camp was “Spartans invade Los Angeles” and that proved to be true. Eric met me at the airport and we proceeded to meet with some friends of his, and had lunch on Manhattan Beach. It was just about perfect. We traveled to Pasadena where Eric’s family had brought a RV and were already at the stadium, our “home base” for a couple of days. I got to see some of the Rose Parade floats, and just soaked it in. I just randomly broke into incredulous laughter…I was at the Rose Bowl, and I was going to see MSU! It was so much to take in.
I won’t take you through my memories in real time, but I was just so happy to be there, and the outcome of the game didn’t really matter. I got to be among Spartans, see the band, Sparty, the cheerleaders, got to sing the Fight Song…everything! The weather was perfect, the sightlines were magical, it was sensory overload. At the end of the game, I sent the following to my friends: “Have you ever laughed, cried and sat in stunned silence, overwhelmed all at the say time?” I was at that moment, doing all of those things. I didn’t want to leave.
I could write more and more about this. My DVD copy of the game itself just arrived, and I’ll be re-watching the game very soon. Needless to say, it was worth every penny. I have another trip I’m working on, another “bucket list” type item that I’ll share some details of soon. In the meantime, it’s good to be back writing. Hopefully, you’re out there, and enjoying the words.
Go Green! Go White! Let’s Go State!!