The Athletic: So many Rose Bowl memories, and Georgia and Oklahoma did their part to add to them
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Art Spander in Georgia, Oklahoma, Rose Bowl, articles, football

By Art Spander
Special to The Athletic

PASADENA, California — Not a bad Rose Bowl. For football. A lot of scoring. Several long runs by Georgia and Oklahoma. First overtime ever.

But no earthquakes. Or rain. Or card stunts or scoreboard mischief by students from good old Cal Tech, a school a few blocks away — or if you consider the chances of it ever playing in the game, a million miles away.

They’ve held the Bowl 104 times, which probably is long enough to earn the label traditional. I’ve been to the most recent 65 games, which also may be long enough to make me considered traditional. Or insane.

I started in 1954 A.D, Michigan State-UCLA (Spartans won 28-20) and haven’t stopped since. The way the swallows return to Capistrano each March from their winter grounds in Argentina thousands of miles away (or about the distance of Rodrigo Blankenship’s game-record field goal for Georgia), each January I return to the Rose Bowl. And why not?

There’s nothing like watching the sun set over the San Gabriel mountains east of the stadium. (Although Monday there was little sunshine, and plenty of haze).

Weather, mostly good, is so much a part of the Rose Bowl the late, great Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray would moan in print, “Oh no, not another beautiful day; another 20,000 Midwesterners will be moving here.”

I didn’t have to move. I’m an L.A. native. When I was a kid, L.A. didn’t have tall buildings, espresso stands or the Dodgers. It had movie stars and the Rose Bowl. I had no chance with the actress Jane Russell, so I signed up to sell programs at the game.

And year after year, as a West Coast guy, suffered while the Big Ten pummeled the western teams, taking 12 of the first 13 … Yikes!

That came to a halt when Jim Owens showed up at Washington and John McKay at USC. “What do you mean we’re not good enough?” McKay had told a reporter. Blush.

That song, “It Never Rains in Southern California”? Well, it’s rained on the Rose Bowl, if infrequently. The last time there was more than a mist, however, was 64 years ago, 1955. And it poured. So much so that Woody Hayes, the scourge of Columbus, whined about the USC band marching at halftime, even though Ohio State was able to march to a 20-7 victory. Days later cars were being towed out of the mud of the golf course which surrounds the bowl and is used as a parking lot.

Some people, like Hayes, who another New Year’s Day slugged photog Art Rogers, find disenchantment at the Rose Bowl.

Until the 1947 contract that matched champions of the Big Ten and Pacific Coast Conference, the Rose Bowl would bring in any Midwest or eastern school — Georgia in 1943 for example — to face one from the Coast.

UCLA wanted to play Army in that ’47 game, but was obligated to meet Illinois. Oh, the grumbling. Oh, the embarrassment. Illinois, with a back named Buddy Young running everywhere, won 45-14.

I’ve been attending the Rose Bowl so long I saw Cal (or as Millenials call it, UC Berkeley). Play in the Rose Bowl. Really. That was 1959. Before the Free Speech Movement.

Joe Kapp was the Golden Bears quarterback. He didn’t play defense. No one played defense for Cal, which had a 178-pound tackle, Pat Newell. “We’re going to make a freeway over him,” Forrest Evashevski, the Iowa coach, supposedly said. The Hawkeyes did that, Bob Jeter running for TDs and Iowa winning, 38-12.

A couple of years later, 14 of those future physicists from Cal Tech infiltrated the rally committee planning the card stunts for Washington before the 1961 Rose Bowl against Minnesota. So the card stunts included SEIKSUH.(Huskies spelled backward) and CALTECH. In 1984, when UCLA met Illinois, some other Cal Tech kids took over. It was hysterical, if you weren’t UCLA, Illinois or a Rose Bowl official.

“Granddaddy of them all,” is the copyrighted slogan the Rose Bowl people use to remind us it was in first in the business. I’ll raise a glass to that and to epic Rose Bowl played the opening day of 2018.

Copyright 2018 The Athletic

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