A Love Letter To Grandpa: In Praise Of The Rose Bowl, The Granddaddy Of ‘Em All

Dear Rose Bowl,

Red roses are meant for ladies, but you are that special grandfather who loves flowers, especially the big rose painted in the middle of your lush football field, the one America gets to see in all its splendor on New Year’s afternoon.

You’re always dressed up for a big occasion, and you always manage to impress an audience of millions. This time around, Florida State and Oregon — playing in a College Football Playoff semifinal, the first of its kind — will lend an extra measure of electricity to the stadium which bears your name. However, you’ve shown — more than any other Bowl Championship Series (or now, New Year’s Six) game — that you don’t need to be part of the championship chase to charm the public. Your background, your visuals, your sunshine-soaked start — melting into shadows near halftime, then to dusk, and then darkness when it’s all over — create what is easily the most aesthetically dramatic college football broadcast of every season.

It takes a special talent to create photos such as this:


And this:


And this:

The 99th Rose Bowl Game - Wisconsin v Stanford

Other bowl games are significant and brimming with excitement. You’re all those things, Rose Bowl, but always a feast for the eyes.

You are Centre Court Wimbledon in the late-afternoon hours:


You are Augusta National on the final Sunday:

Augusta National Archive

You’re always beautiful, always green, always a reminder that sports — when set in nature — can take an event of substance and infuse it with layers of added visual dimension and texture.

There is a reason why you, Granddad, returned to life in 1916 after a 14-year break following your not-very-auspicious 1902 debut, a 49-0 thumping by Michigan over Stanford. You came from humble beginnings to become the game you are today:

There’s a timelessness about you, Grandpa. You grew with college football. The 1925 Rose Bowl between Notre Dame and Stanford captured the national imagination, precisely at the point in time when Red Grange was giving a massive boost to the sport:



You briefly went to Durham, N.C., in 1942, but you became more and more of a fixture in college football, as the Cotton, Orange and Sugar Bowls joined you in the 1930s. You made it through the black-and-white age to reach the era of color television, which you were made for:


Some things in life decay as they get older.

You, Rose Bowl, only continue to get more and more beautiful. It’s what makes you special.

You’re also faithful, always being there at the same time (except for those few instances when the BCS moved you to prime time, a sin against God). When it’s 5 p.m. Eastern on January 1, you are there, and the sun is usually accompanying you.


Oh, Rose Bowl, you’re the crown jewel of college football and one of the five sporting events no American can do without. You are the sweet tonic, the season-ending game at the beginning of every year. You are the crossing of the seasons, you are the West Coast light which pierces through the Midwestern and Northeastern snow and darkness in the heart of winter.

You’re an American classic, and there’s absolutely nothing you need to change.

Be a great host for Florida State and Oregon, as I know you will.

Thank you for everything you’ve given to us as college football fans.


The Student Section

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |