The first memory of my life involves the Rose Bowl.
On January 31, 1993, the Cowboys played the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. Putting aside the fact that the NFL will never do something as cool as put the Super Bowl in the Rose Bowl again, it was a historic day. Dallas handed out one of heftiest ass-beatings in NFL history, launching themselves toward team of the 90s status. Michael Jackson played an all-time halftime show. Troy Aikman threw the ball like it had a built-in auto-pilot feature:
The funny thing is I have no idea whether my memories of it are actually real. I was barely two-and-a-half years old during that game, and I'm sure there's some research that says you don't remember shit until you're four or something.
In reality, that game is probably vivid in my memory because I spent so much of my childhood watching the 1992 Cowboys Super Bowl Champions VHS. (No bullshit: I still get emotional watching the Toby Keith music video at the end.) Before I became obsessed with college football, constantly re-watching that VHS was my introduction to how special the Rose Bowl is. In the years since, it became to me what it is to a lot of people: the holy grail of football stadiums.
(Sidenote: the first thing in my life I 100% remember also involves the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. Three years later during Super Bowl XXX vs the Steelers, my dad was celebrating a play and accidentally stepped on my throat while I was laying on the floor. As I remember rolling around, clutching my throat in pain, all I can think about is how this fuckin' team makes me feel exactly that every year as they struggle to even make it back to the NFC Championship.)
That brings us to now. After years of saying the same thing 90% of CFB fans say at least once –"One day I'm going to the Rose Bowl"– everything lined up perfect to finally do it.
Ohio State was playing on Thursday, so that left my week one Saturday open for LSU-UCLA. My dad worked on an oil rig outside of Baton Rouge for a bit after he graduated high school, so he has a soft spot for LSU. My girlfriend is from LA, her parents still live there, and it was her dad's birthday that weekend. Easy sell. Finally, it was a chance for my dad to meet her parents, while also cashing in on all the years we spent talking about going to the Rose Bowl. At some point it felt like the universe was begging me to go to this game so it could put a foot up my ass if I didn't. Yeah, it wasn't the actual Rose Bowl game
Presented by Capital One™ but LSU playing UCLA for the first time in either program's history ain't far off when it comes to tradition. So when UCLA made tickets available to the public, I didn't think twice, and bought them almost the second they dropped.
I didn't bother looking at where our seats were, and I didn't care. My dad and I were finally going to the Rose Bowl. It was way more money than I can probably spend right now, but I wasn't going to miss this opportunity- even for nosebleeds. But as it got closer, I wondered whether I jumped the gun, culminating in seeing how cheap re-sale tickets were just days before the game. I kinda felt like a dumbass, but I was just glad we were going. To try and make myself feel better, I looked at the tickets to see what section we were in. That made me feel even dumber:
I had ass-backwards'd my way into great seats for us, and didn't even realize it until the day before the game. That's basically how the whole weekend ended up going.
My dad finally got to meet my girlfriend's parents. I got to see LSU fans –blissfully unaware of how poor a decision this is– try and talk shit to people from Los Angeles. We gave a random dude $30 to park across the street in what he said was the complex he owned, trusting that our rental wouldn't be towed by the time the game ended. We were back at our hotel across town 25 minutes after we left. It was 95 degrees at kickoff, and our whole side was in the shade. We watched the San Gabriel mountains melt into the Pasadena night sky in person, just like they do on TV every January 1st. Three of the games touchdowns were in our endzone corner. To tie it all together, Aikman walked right in front of us, leading us into a discussion about Super Bowl XXVII, and how much the Cowboys are gonna piss us off this year.
We finally got to cross the Rose Bowl off our list. UCLA pummeled LSU, and we sat in a section full of euphoric Bruins season ticket holders experiencing what could be the turning point for a program they've watched struggle for the last 20 years. They shot off more confetti than I've ever seen in my life, and we each took a bag full of it home. If all of that isn't college football, I don't know what the fuck is. I could go on about the experience of being there, but you need to feel it for yourself. I can't do it justice.
January 31, 1993 probably isn't a real memory –let alone my first– no matter how bad I want it to be, but September 4, 2021 always will be.