My father was never a curmudgeon or even a somewhat negative person. In fact, he tried to instill a positive attitude in me when I was growing up and he exemplified that by never complaining about his long illness that eventually took him from me.
But there was one day in the year that he would put all that goodness aside. It was a day when disappointment reigned and there was an understanding that not all was always going to go well.
That day was always New Year’s Day and it really came to fruition by the evening when the Rose Bowl game was ending.
Yes, it was hard maintaining a positive attitude that day when all your football teams lost, seemingly year after year. And it was worse when, as a child in the 1970s, I always rooted for the Big 10 teams.
Back then, there were usually only five bowl games on New Year’s Day. There wasn’t the myriad of contests in those days. No Petco Dog Food Bowl, or Kohler Toilet Bowl, or Interchanging Logo Here Bowl. There were only the four majors: Orange, Cotton, Sugar and Rose bowls. And maybe the Gator Bowl earlier that day to whet the football appetite.
My dad earned his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin and he and my mother often went to games in Madison. They left me, at the time a toddler, behind and it was a move that still miffs me. Even then I wanted to see the games. Later, we moved to Minnesota, so I became a Gopher fan.
So, it only stood to reason we’d be Big 10 fans having lived in the conference’s turf.
We also rooted mostly for the northern most team when the bowl games ensued. Back then the SEC wasn’t the NFL’s developmental league, so the games that often pitted the Big 10 with the SEC teams should have been more evenly contested.
That wasn’t the case usually, though. By kickoff of the Rose Bowl, if one of our four teams won the previous games, we’d be faring well.
Sadly, the time I really watched the Rose Bowls with my father was in the 1970s, when the Big 10 teams lost most of those games. I remember Michigan missing a last second field goal once, and Charles White scoring a late fourth quarter touchdown for USC to beat the Wolverines. Ohio State beat USC in 1974, the only time in that decade that a Big 10 team won.
As a huge sports fan, my father put in perspective. “What a way to start off the year,” he say as we turned off the television when the game ended.
The rest of the year went well and my dad returned to his optimistic self. But there was always that day.
My father has been gone for 25 years now. I still watch the Rose Bowl each year, as much a tribute to him as the fact that I inherited his sports obsession.
This year, the same result. Wisconsin lost to Stanford. Last year, the Badgers lost by seven and the year before that they fell by two points.
Disappointment is common on New Year’s Day,
What a way to start off the year.