No wonder they call it grandaddy. It’s been going on for 103 years and yesterday’s installment of the Rose Bowl game was one of the best ever — certainly in my lifetime, and I’ve seen almost all of them I’ve been alive to see. It was one of those classic games that never seemed to end. 52-49? Thirteen touchdowns? You try to remember some of those early touchdowns and they seem to be from another game. It started in the early afternoon and played well into the night. The game was so long that guys got injured and had enough time to heal up and get back in it. And even if they didn’t heal, they came back anyway, because, well, this was the Rose Bowl and you had the rest of your life to heal.
It was so long that they had to cut to the next bowl game without being able to see any of the celebration, and that was a shame because there’s no doubt that one of the seniors from the hometown USC Trojans got to climb the ladder and direct the band in the traditional Trojans victory song, the classic “Conquest” by Alfred Newman from his score to the 1947 motion picture classic “Captain from Castile.” And we undoubtedly missed seniors on both sides crying, overcome by the emotions of their last game, and the unforgettable realization that they were privileged to have their last game be this one. In the end, it was one of those games that made it a shame that someone had to lose. But, for the players on both sides, as the years pile on, it will become more and more irrelevant whether they won or lost, because they’ll be so proud to tell stories about what it was like just to play in this game. As a friend from Pennsylvania just wrote me: “It was a game for the ages.”
So now that I have surrendered significantly to my sportswriter fantasy, because it was screaming to be written this morning, do I have to legitimize all this in the Catch by making it spiritual?
Why would I do that?
It was theater. It was human emotion. It was tradition. It was the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It was drama like no other because you can’t script it, and if you did, no one would believe it. And what part of that isn’t spiritual?
To all our Catch family from Pennsylvania (and there are a lot of you) Penn State played a heck of a game. And I think, in the long run, it will be true that no one actually lost this game. Everyone was in it. And that sounds spiritual to me.
A fun little piece of Trojan trivia I dug up:
The trumpet “Charge,” heard often at athletic contests, was composed by a post-World War II USC student named Tommy Walker. As a member of the Trojan Marching Band, he was known as “Tommy Trojan,” and as a USC football player, he would shed his band uniform, come down from the stands, and kick extra points (he lettered in 1947). Upon graduation in 1948, he was hired as the band’s director. He later was the first entertainment director at Disneyland and then went into business as one of the world’s leading creators of show business spectacles (including Super Bowl halftimes and Olympic opening and closing ceremonies). He died in 1986.