One of my regrets in life, if you can call it that, will finally be dealt with starting this morning. By the time this post goes live on RLR, I will be on a plane headed west towards Southern California, and the 103rd Rose Bowl Game.
Eight years ago when Penn State last appeared in the Granddaddy of Them All, I would have done just about anything to be in attendance. You see, I grew up in a time and place where there weren't playoffs, and something called the Bowl Alliance attempted to match Nos. 1 and 2 for a national championship game. It was as ridiculous as it sounds.
But, it was also a time when winning the Big Ten Conference, and earning a berth in the Rose Bowl was your top goal every year. If you won the league, and got to play in Pasadena, those other things would ultimately take care of themselves.
In today's college football world, with a four team playoff designed to crown the closest thing to a true champion the sport has ever seen, the importance of playing on New Year's Day (or Jan. 2 if the festivities would fall on a Sunday) at the base of the San Gabriels seems to be lost by many. I don't blame them. Heck, about a month ago in Indianapolis, I was one of them. You play any sport, and cheer for any team, with the goal to be the best in the country, and win the sports top prize.
After the initial disappointment of not getting to be a likely sacrificial lamb to what could be the best Alabama team of Nick Saban's tenure wore off, those childhood memories came flying back, along with memories of eight years ago.
My girlfriend and I spent the trip back from Indianapolis to Michigan searching flights, and trying to find a way to make a New Year's in L.A. work. Well, she did. I drove. By the time we arrived back in metro Detroit, the outlines of a plan were in place. Two days later, flights were booked, hotel rooms were reserved, and tickets had been acquired. The dreams of this kid from Ohio were going to be realized. I get to go to the Rose Bowl. And I get to see perhaps my favorite group of Nittany Lions play on that famed field.
In the big picture, the most meaningful games will take place later today when Alabama, Washington, Clemson, and Ohio State take the field. But, as the sun begins to set over the San Gabriel Mountains on Monday afternoon, plenty is still at stake, and more than a few dreams will become reality.