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A Rose Bowl Game Not Ruined for its Thorn

Photo: Don Feria/

By Kevin Cool

Michigan State, 24, Stanford, 20. That simple, declarative math is one way to judge what happened in the 100th Rose Bowl Game. 

It was disappointing. And yet . . .

Even as Stanford fans filed out of the venerable old house moments after Stanford’s final fourth down run was stuffed by the Spartans, the mood wasn’t altogether sad. Indeed, it was more like . . . accepting. Yes, there was grumbling about missed opportunities, penalties at critical moments, typical second-guessing of calls. No loss would be complete without a little woulda, coulda, shoulda. And David Shaw, stoic and candid after the game, conceded that his team didn’t make enough big plays to win.

The game was entertaining and worthy of the size of this stage, the 100th playing of America’s favorite New Year’s Day festival. But the takeaway from Stanford’s fourth consecutive BCS bowl was just how deeply the success of the football program has burrowed into the hearts of students and alumni. It was about so much more than football. 

It was about Nicholas Feitzinger, who gelled his hair into a Shayne Skov style mohawk. For good luck he was wearing a t-shirt he got at the Orange Bowl in 2011, the first of four straight bowl games he has attended. Not bad for a 7-year-old. 

It was about Wynn Michael, an engineering student, and Jaqi Pok, who stood on a balcony clapping lustily as their team, their classmates, streamed through the tunnel to the locker room prior to the game. Pok, ’13, was “sort of” a football fan when she arrived at the Farm. Now she’s all in. 

It was about Tanicia Perry, ’99, a trombonist reunited for half time with the Band 14 years after she was on the field as drum major during the Cardinal’s 2000 Rose Bowl Game appearance. 

It was about Shaw, ’94, embracing his players one by one after they had navigated a raucous receiving line at the team hotel after the game. Trent Murphy, ’13, one of a group of fifth-year seniors who returned for a final season, quietly accepted Shaw’s hug and said to his coach, in a voice barely above a whisper, “I appreciate everything you’ve done.”

As a community agent, nothing compares to these bowl games. Tens of thousands of alumni were in Pasadena, hoping for a victory but mostly enjoying themselves with capacious zeal. A pep rally on the Santa Monica Pier; a tailgate party under a brilliant SoCal sky; music, food, drink, baubles. The whole thing was like a giant serotonin bath. Not that you had to be there. How many hundreds of bowl game parties were hosted in alumni homes? How many tweets and Facebook posts and texts from old friends were read? How many shrieks and groans and OMGs reverberated around basements and living rooms and patios around the world?

This was a memorable season. Stanford fans are beginning to get used to such seasons, and this Rose Bowl Game was another deposit in the football program’s equity account. It will help recruiting, despite the loss. So much was good; about the only thing that wasn’t was the final score.

When it was over, Shaw and two of his stalwart players, Tyler Gaffney and Shayne Skov, both ’13, met the media. Gaffney, inspired by last season’s Rose Bowl Game victory, returned for a final year of eligibility after a year in professional baseball. His punishing runs and selfless, seemingly tireless performances won the admiration of Stanford fans. How much he was hurting was hard to say; he was gracious in defeat, praising Michigan State and talking plainly about his team’s failures. 

As for Skov, what more can be said about the spiritual and emotional leader of a defense that rescued the Cardinal so many times? Both he and Gaffney will be gone next season, along with many other players whose contributions will last long beyond their playing years. “We made some plays, we missed some. That’s the nature of football,” Skov told the reporters. And then he added, quickly, “Proud of our team.”

He isn’t the only one. 

Comments (2)

  • Mr. Gregory Yee

    Well said, Mr. Cool.  Well said.  Kudos to all the players and coaching staff.  It was a great year for our alumni and fans.

    Posted by Mr. Gregory Yee on Jan 6, 2014 3:38 PM

  • Mrs. Susan Hamilton

    Thank you to the players for making our three years of being season tickets holders so FABULOUS!  We have had the best time! Best wishes to the graduating seniors and good luck to those continuing! See you this fall! Alumna '84 Parent '12 & '14

    Posted by Mrs. Susan Hamilton on Jan 19, 2014 9:46 PM


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