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The Rose Bowl Story

It's been 36 hours since Ohio State's great Rose Bowl stand, and I've spent my time parading in exile in Southern California. Sure, I'd planned to write sooner -- I even worked out a title for this piece in my head walking over the soft ground on my way back to the car after the game. But when it came down to it, I couldn't put the experience into words. At least not right away. Like an old wine, a good story sometimes needs a little time to open up. Only then can a chorus of colors, shapes, and sounds become comprehensible.

Friday was the second time I've been to a Rose Bowl, and to be honest, I owe my passion for the Ohio State Buckeyes to the trip I made in 1997 to Pasadena. As I wrote about that experience:

I was twelve years old with my dad in Section 14 of the Lower Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Jake "the Snake" Plummer's eleven yard scramble put Arizona State 1 minute and 40 seconds away from the school's first National Championship. Cooper must have felt some admiration in watching the program he carried to a Rose Bowl victory in 1987 on the threshold of immortality. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it was like watching a startup firm you left before the dot-com boom become silicon royalty.

Irregardless, Cooper put down his clipboard, placed his hand on Joe Germaine's shoulder pads, and wafering the bill of his block O cap, put two fingers into the air. He then turned his back and wandered down the sideline. Fifty-nine seconds later Germaine hit David Boston in the north west corner of the end zone from five yards out for the game.

That moment was when I truly became a Buckeye. Sure, I'd wandered through the crowds on Woody Hayes Drive with my Dad and Grandpa draped in an oversized jersey a hundred times before. But that was the moment when I really got it.

I share this, because it helps explain the reverence I have for the stadium that sits at the base of the Arroyo Seco. I worked in Los Angeles this summer for a large law firm, and every time I'd cross the bridge on the 134 and catch a glimpse of the bowl resting in the canyon, like an ancient screen goddess -- its famous gold and green insignia glowing in the warm night -- I'd get goosebumps.

After I graduate in May I'll be moving back to Los Angeles. I imagine the stadium playing another role then, as my symbolic link to the Midwest. When I'm homesick in September -- and make no mistake, I will be -- the Rose Bowl will remind me that Big Ten football is never too far away.

Friday was a proud day for all the reasons you've read a hundred times by now. Ohio State took chances, Terrelle Pryor lived up to his potential, and the defense suffocated a well-oiled Oregon attack. We were smart. We were physical, and we were disciplined.

When I get back to Columbus, I'll re-visit the game on a technical level.

But for now, I want to share with you a simple moment that stood out from all the rest. It's not Jake Ballard rising like a predestined Phoenix to pull in a 23 yard pass to convert on 3rd and 13 early in the fourth quarter. Nor is it Terrelle Pryor's subsequent 17 yard look-back "Peyton Manning" pass to Devier Posey for a touchdown.

It's a site I know all too well: a sea of confetti erupting from the on field cannons after the last second runs off the clock in a BCS bowl game. I watched from lower-deck seats at the University of Phoenix Stadium in 2006, from a rooftop Columbus patio in 2007, and again from Glendale in 2008 as the glitter rained down for someone else's triumph.

This time, the celebration belonged to us. Or, as Terrelle Pryor said after, "Not just for us but for the Big Ten as a whole. That's our family. This is for them too."