Both Wisconsin and TCU had magical seasons that led them to a unique Rose Bowl matchup on New Year’s Day. Our trip to Pasadena turned out to be less than magical. We left on New Year’s Eve ready to connect in Kansas City, then Phoenix, then Long Beach en route to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, our flight from Chicago was delayed and upon arriving Kansas City, our connect to Phoenix was gone. Panic stricken, we found ourselves in a deserted airport seemingly destined to ring in the New Year 2,000 miles from the Rose Bowl.
Thankfully, a Kansas City baggage claim angel (I say angel because it was a blessing to find anyone left in that airport) found that we had been rebooked on a 6am flight to Phoenix and she got us a connect from there to Orange County…first class. We did ring the New Year in at Kansas City hotel bar with a few other strangers stuck where they would rather have not been. Despite all the mess, our plane landed in California at 9:30am on New Year’s Day. Traveling by covered wagon may have been faster, but we made it. Rushing off the plane, we rented a car and drove to Pasadena, parked, hopped a shuttle and stood on the Rose Bowl grounds two hours prior to kickoff. Whew!
The last time I was in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl was eleven years ago and each time, it just gets better. Nothing defines college football better than the this game. Nothing has deeper tradition, grander pageantry, or more exquisite views. Everyone who attends the Rose Bowl feels like royalty…royalty that wears bold colored t-shirts with badgers and frogs on them. The game was not the classic Big Ten vs. Pac Ten that history has taught us, but an opportunity for a non BCS team to make their mark on the highest of college sport stages. TCU fans were so appreciative to be in Pasadena. All the talk during the past month described predictions of the Badgers pounding down the Horned Frogs’ lauded defense. However, from the national anthem and chilling flyover to the blasts of confetti that showered the game’s end, TCU gave Wisconsin all they could handle. The purple had something to prove and they did. Grand Marshal Paula Deen’s coin flip turned TCU’s way and valiant efforts by both teams ensued. The play of the game (and what most are saying is the biggest play in TCU football history) came when defensive back Tank Carder swatted down a two point conversion attempt by the Badgers that would have tied the game with two minutes remaining. The red that dominated the Rose Bowl stands collapsed with disbelief. The Horned Frogs were able to run out the clock and send a message that weaker conferences don’t always produce weaker teams.
As a Badger fan, the moment certainly was heartbreaking. But, as a college football fan, I understand that we witnessed some history today. There was probably no other team that I would have wanted to lose to in the Rose Bowl than TCU. Their fans were more gracious and appreciative than any Pac Ten squad that would have represented. As tough of a loss as this was to swallow, an older TCU fan at the Long Beach airport kindly put it in perspective for me. He reminded me that for Horned Frog fans, this is the pinnacle. They will most likely never have a moment like this again. “Wisconsin will be back (to the Rose Bowl),” he said. He was right.