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NOTE ON THE ROSE BOWL

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THE RECEIVER IS OPEN

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 02 Rose Bowl - USC v Penn State Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hi so the Rose Bowl with USC beating Penn State was a last-second thing that featured pretty much every heart-stopping thing you would like to imagine in a free-wheeling shootout. It was death-defying football where each team did precisely what you thought they could do, and then did a few things you did not believe they could do. USC gunned away with Sam Darnold’s precision and power; Penn State’s Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley countered with ludicrous, induplicable nonsense.

The two continued doing this until the teams ran out of time, and one had to kick a field goal to win. This happened because Penn State kept throwing and being aggressive, which we have no problems with because life is short, football is just a game, and winning is overrated if done in the name of cowardice. Trace McSorley made mistakes and that is fine because the brave always do.

The thing we got reading Jason’s piece this morning on the Rose Bowl—that we couldn’t quite articulate when we went—is that the Rose Bowl, and in particular this Rose Bowl, represents something like renewable, annual dose of football-borne hope.

That’s especially true of this Rose Bowl. Offensive-minded football is the best possible football because ultimately, at its core, offensive-minded football begins with hope and optimism. There will be new life, new players, youth and innovation and eye-popping talent at every seam. There will be someones like Trace McSorley or Saquon Barkley or Sam Darnold or Ronald Jones II. They will begin each play with potential, with hope. This person will get the ball, and when they do things will happen—insanely good, spectacular, kinetic things will happen.

Like this, for instance.

Good things will happen. Beautiful things, even, like the Rose Bowl itself, which if you see in a championship game is clearly the most beautiful thing in college football even under overcast skies. The new year in college football starts in a poured concrete bowl from the Jazz Age with neon red and green flowers on the side and a mountain range overlooking it and a golf course wrapped around it like a table cloth fringe. Going there would be a ritual if you believed in making little rituals for yourself to get through the boring squalor of the rest of your life.

We do believe in those, if only to pick something to break one slab of time up from another. Watching two teams do football mayhem on a field of green velvety horticultural perfection is a ritual, and you need those. You need to remember that there is potential in things. We do, at least. It could be a bad year. It could be a terrible year. Tomorrow a comet might obliterate life as we know it and that would be fine, because you can’t control it, and also because that comet would destroy the Florida State football program, taking with it humanity but also one thing that clearly deserves the aforementioned comet. (You have to see the bright side, even in Armageddon.)

You need to remember that in games you can find hope, potential, and things beyond system and the inevitability of design. That is what a ritual should be: reminder of rebirth, potential, and the aching, wonderful realization that things, good things, can happen if you just keep going. That new begins with the decision that things will be new; That the second that just passed is dead, and in every other second replaced by a blameless new second that can be accomplice or foe, depending on you. That the world’s settings and stages are beautiful and you are lucky to pass through them once in defeat or victory.

Sometimes that reminder, that ritual, is as real as anything. Sometimes you slip like Sam Darnold did on a two-point conversion yesterday, but still recover only to find yourself not only upright, but staring at the raised and waving arms of an open receiver. There are a thousand defenders running at and around you but there is green grass under your feet and it’s a new year without a script and you started it on a perfect field in Pasadena, California, the place you thought America would look like.

The receiver is open. Hit him between the numbers before either of you start thinking too much.