Thursday, January 05, 2006

Best. Rose. Bowl. Game. Ever.

If you’re wondering why I’m posting so late, I taped The Game so that Katie and I could get a late dinner out with our friend Ida and her visiting roommate Rachel. Sadly, we found that Blueberry Hill is now closed to minors after 8 PM. So we went to Rigazzi’s on the Hill, with TVs spread out across the building, all playing The Game. I managed to position myself with my back to one and the rest obscured by pillars, threatened the girls with instant doom should they tell me anything, and let the conversation block out the sounds of The Game.

Thus I enjoyed my dinner and a bunch of really fascinating stories.

I came back late and started watching it on the VCR. You all remember my stake in this? Not only am I sick of USC dominance, not only is Cal a rival of theirs, but I had bet my dignity that they’d lose at least once this season. That, and I’d been anticipating this matchup all season. In either case, I was full of caffeine and nervous energy. The Game couldn’t wait till the morning.

And what a game! Sixty minutes of pure, gorgeous, immaculate football plays. Did you notice the offensive lines in this game: what didn’t you see that you normally see? False starts and holding calls, the fouls that bog down games. Only a boatload of hard tackling and tight coverage held the explosive offenses in check; against lesser defenses, the scores would have been in three digits.

Beyond the beautiful plays, there was the drama. The Game was back and forth, especially in that magical second half. 7-0 USC, 16-7 Texas, 17-16 USC, 23-17 Texas, 24-23 USC. USC was impeccable on four long touchdown drives in the half, pushing that last lead to 38-26 with 6:42 left. I paced frantically back and forth in the family room.

But if Reggie Bush has turned superhuman in the last few games for USC, Vince Young turned mythical (Herculean, Achillean) in those last few minutes. He would not be stopped that first time, pulling them to 38-33 with a run that froze all defenders. Texas made that life-or-death stop on fourth-and-2, and with two minutes left, it was glory time. On fourth-and-5 from the 9-yard-line, with 19 seconds left, Young made it look easy. One last nerve-defying gasp from Leinart and Bush, and it was all over. I exhaled in spasms of relief.

OK, OK, it’s just a football game. But this is vicarious competition at its best, at its highest. And I stand in some measure of awe.

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