Growing up in Big 10 country meant that the Rose Bowl was the top of the mountain. In the time before divisions, conference championship games and the college football playoff, it was the end of the line for the best team in the conference. The place where the might and glory of the Big 10 would face off against the the best that the Pac 10 (now the Pac 12) had to offer. As the site of one the most storied Bowl Game series in college football, I figured it was high time that I got my ass out to Pasadena to check out a game.
I hadn’t really planned on attending the matchup of unranked Arizona State against #7 UCLA a couple Saturdays past, but after happening upon some free tickets, I figured what the hell. Nestled amongst the San Gabriel Mountains, the stadium sits low and you don’t really get a view of it until you are right on top of it. There’s nothing glamorous about the design and you wouldn’t guess that it’s the 12th largest stadium in the U.S. when walking up to it, but you can feel the history of the site.
We arrived to the game a little late so we didn’t get a chance to see the parking lot tailgate festivities, but once we got inside there was no shortage of drunken college kids. In fact, during the first ten minutes of trying to find a general admission section that would let us gain entry, we saw no less than three glossy eyed coeds who were either in the process of falling or just picking themselves up off the ground. Ah, to be young again.
I was just about to do my best to get on their level when I realized they don’t sell beer. Despite being located 26.6 miles down the freeway from the actual school campus, the Rose Bowl is not one of the 21 college football stadiums that supplies it’s thirsty fans with the nectar of the Gods. Next time I’ll know to bring a flask.
After making our way to our seats, situated three rows from the back in the corner of the stadium, we settled in amongst throngs of blue and yellow clad UCLA fans. The stadium itself was an impressive sight to behold, yet didn’t seem as large as it’s capacity of 95,000+ would have you believe. Having been brought into football by the imposing behemoth of the Big House in Ann Arbor, I thought all large college football stadiums would be just as grand in the stature. Either way, the place was packed shoulder to shoulder with fans and people were pumped to see their Bruins do some damage to the Sun Devils.
It didn’t exactly go down like that, and the Bruins came out flat. The Sun Devils defense stifled the UCLA offense and gave Arizona State a 29-10 lead going into the 4th quarter. It was right around that time that the fans began to file out of the stadium en masse. The Bruins faithful that stayed until the bitter end were given shred of hope when the team brought it to 29-23 with 9:19 left but it was not to be. A late safety sealed the game and the Bruins lost 38-23.
When it became clear that the game was out of hand, we made the decision to try to beat the crowd out of the parking lot. Hundreds of buses were standing ready to transport the sad, drunk, and hung over college kids who had made the long trip out to Pasadena. How many would puke their sorrows away on that trek back to Westwood? Perhaps they would be in better shape if they had been allowed to buy a beer during the game. Instead they were in those late stages of drunk; the wrong side of the borderline between the high and the crash. I could see the sadness and disappointment that all of us fans know so well. That knowledge that one day your football team was undefeated and sitting in the top 10 and the next day it’s gone, along with all real chances of competing for a national title.
At least they can rest easy, knowing that their team plays in one of the classic stadiums in all of the country. Who cares that it’s miles, and miles, and miles from the actual campus. It’s still a beautiful stadium surrounded by an even more beautiful landscape. Seriously though, they should start selling beer there…. and at all other college stadiums.