Mesa Musings: Rose Bowl memories

The Rose Bowl Game has long been one of my favorite annual sporting events.

I watched my first televised Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, 1956. I was 10 –- almost 11 –- and Michigan State defeated UCLA, 17-14.

I remember my uncle from Seattle coming south in 1961 to attend the Washington-Minnesota game. The Huskies beat the No. 1-ranked Golden Gophers, 17-7, behind the efforts of quarterback Bob Schloredt.

My family attended the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1963 with our cousins who lived in Arcadia. We went back to my cousins' home after the parade to watch the bowl game "live and in color" on their TV. USC topped Wisconsin in a thriller, 42-37.

USC quarterback Pete Beathard threw four touchdown passes. But the Trojan defense had to hang on for dear life as Badger quarterback Ron VanderKelen mounted a frenzied fourth-quarter rally.

On Jan. 1, 1966, I was a G.I. stationed in South Korea. We listened to the Rose Bowl on Armed Forces Radio. UCLA nipped unbeaten Michigan State, 14-12, and Bruin quarterback Gary Beban scored twice.

On Jan. 1, 1974, I attended my first Rose Bowl. Woody Hayes' Ohio State Buckeyes smacked USC, 42-17, behind Archie Griffin's 149 rushing yards and Pete Johnson's three touchdowns.

I attended the game with a college buddy, but that morning I suffered from an inconvenient malady: the trots. Still, I wasn't about to let anything keep me from attending my first Rose Bowl.

As we approached the stadium in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I grimaced and squirmed in my seat. I warned my friend that I might be forced at any moment to bolt from the car, run up to the nearest Pasadena residence and knock on the door.

Fortunately, I held out until we reached a portable structure in the Rose Bowl parking area on Brookside Golf Club. Kaopectate was my friend. By kickoff all symptoms had subsided.

The next year, on Jan. 1, 1975, I took my fiancée, Hedy, to see USC beat Ohio State, 18-17.

It was a thriller.

Quarterback Pat Haden hit J.K. McKay with a 36-yard touchdown pass late in the contest, then threw to Shelton Diggs for the two-point conversion to win the national title.

On Jan. 2, 1984, I watched UCLA beat favored Illinois, 45-19.

I attended the game with a media friend of mine. He'd managed to score a press box pass and field credential. Our strategy was that I'd spend the first half on the UCLA sideline, and we'd swap places in the second half.

As I entered the press box elevator to go down to the field just prior to kickoff, film critic Roger Ebert stepped in beside me. I elected not to embarrass myself by asking the Illinois alumnus for an autograph. But, I flashed him a thumbs up as we exited the elevator.

The UCLA sideline was a great place to be on a sun-splashed, 74-degree chamber of commerce afternoon. Coach Terry Donohue had his charges fired up, and the Bruins rolled to a surprising 28-3 halftime advantage.

Sometime early in the first quarter I noticed that the head of the chain crew on the Bruin sideline was a good friend of mine who was also a Pac-10 official. I'd not known in advance that he was working the game.

I maneuvered my way down the sideline to his position and called out his name between plays. He looked over, and broke into a smile.

"Jim, what are you doing here?"

"I'm, uh, working the game," I said, pointing to the Nikon with a humongous telephoto lens draped from my neck. It was a prop.

"Jimbo, take my picture," he chirped.

I was forced to politely defer.

"Sorry," I apologized. "I didn't bother to load it with film."

I won't be on the sideline next Monday to see Oregon play Wisconsin. You can bet, however, I'll be perched in front of my flat-screen TV.

It's become my New Year's ritual.

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.

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