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This week’s Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl, and for that matter the Sugar Bowl, all show-cased some of the very best drama in top level intercollegiate football. Pageantry, competitiveness, excellence, achievement, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It was all there for anyone who cared to tune in.

Unless you’re from West Virginia, you probably don’t know much about the state or even where it is. My wife is from West Virginia, so over the years we’ve actually heard otherwise well-educated people ask if she knows this or that person “in Richmond.” We’ve also endured people who seriously seem to think that all West Virginians walk around barefoot, drink moonshine, and don’t know what a library is. So, yes, we rooted for West Virginia University in the Nokia Sugar Bowl, and yes, we were happy when WVU beat Georgia 38-35. This is a big win for WVU—for the football program, for the conference, for the school, and probably for the state.

It’s genuinely too bad the people of WV could not celebrate the victory for long, for it was understandably replaced on the front pages by the tragic loss of 12 out of 13 miners at the Sago Mine near Tallmansville, West Virginia. That sad story, compounded by confusing misinformation in the midst of rescue attempts, has placed West Virginia squarely in the nation’s focus for the past several days. Mining is still the lifeblood of the state’s economy, so this accident and loss of life strikes home for nearly everyone in this state that Governor Joe Manchin called, “a tough little state with good and tough people.”

Back to football, watching 79 year old Coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State University Nittany Lions defeat 76 year old Coach Bobby Bowden of the Florida State University Seminoles in three overtimes, 26-23, in the Fedex Orange Bowl was priceless. If that wasn’t enough, the next night the University of Texas Longhorns upset the two time national champion, 34 game-win-streak, University of Southern California Trojans, 41-38, in the Rose Bowl. Celebrities, Heisman trophy winners, pageantry, Keith Jackson probably doing his last bowl game, great weather, fans and fanatics, you name it, this game had it.

I’m waxing eloquent, or at least waxing, on all this because I think it is an incredible example of the beauty and sheer enjoyment afforded competitive athletics—free of steroids and other substances, point shaving and gambling, and other forms of cheating. Athletics at its best is an opportunity for men and women to perfect and demonstrate exceptional talent, skills, and execution. At its best, athletics is as much about “heart,” goals, striving, and achievement, as it is about physical talents. Athletics at its best is part of the best in the human story.

I was never a great or even a very good athlete. But I am at times a good maybe even a great fan. Three cheers for all that’s compelling about athletics at its pinnacle.

By the way, we did not go to the game, but we were in Pasadena for the Rose Parade—the first parade in the rain since 1955—not just rain, pouring rain. It was wet, cool, still beautiful and amazing, and fun.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

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