The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 9, 2014

Rose Bowl better than advertised (WITH VIDEO)

By Jonathan Deal

PASADENA — Covering the BCS National Championship earlier this week, I was overwhelmed with all the sights and sounds associated with such a big game. More than anything, I was overwhelmed with Rose Bowl Stadium.

I had heard all about Pasadena and the Rose Bowl, but I’d heard a lot of things about a lot of stadiums. To truly experience the aura surrounding the historic stadium, you have to take in a game for yourself.

And there’s a lot to take in.

With the San Gabriel Mountains rising over the north end zone, Rose Bowl Stadium sits between a pristine golf course and a quaint little neighborhood.

It’s as if a valley was carved out just big enough to fit this magnificent bowl where 95,000 people could gather to watch football.

On this picturesque Monday, there was every bit of that on hand to watch Auburn and Florida State play for one last crystal football, before it was retired along with the Bowl Championship Series.

Decked out in orange and blue or garnet and gold, fans gathered outside the stadium to take selfies with the Rose Bowl logo behind them. Some convened in massive tents labeled “private party” while others wandered around a 40-foot high ESPN set listening to voices they could almost see from the ground below.

For a second, it almost feels like you could be at any football stadium across the country. People tailgating, throwing footballs and carrying large liquids wrapped with bright colored cozies of their favorite teams.

Then you look up and see undulating mountains, a piercing blue sky and feel a cool breeze that makes you forget it’s January.

If you are lucky enough to get past the dozens of smiling, polite security guards wearing vests, standing in pairs at every gate, stairwell or escalator, a football field awaits behind rows of concessions that more closely resemble Disney World than a football stadium.

The stadium itself is something to behold. SEC fans walking through one of the many tunnels probably look up and wonder where the other half of this 95,000-seat stadium is.

As I walk from row to row in the near empty stadium some three hours before kickoff, I realize there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

I’ve never sat behind the ivy at Wrigley Field, bundled up on the frozen tundra of Lambeau or strolled through Augusta National on a spring day but, until I do, Rose Bowl Stadium is America’s best place to watch a sporting event.

Video by Jonathan Deal/News Courier