Bill Little commentary: The Rose Bowl chronicles -- Chapter II
LOS ANGELES -- As a kid, I can remember crying as I read from the big red book of children's stories. The last chapter was a poem about the ending year, and it featured illustrations of an old man, with an extensive beard and long white hair, slowly walking into the distance.
It was, I would learn, the author's version of the old year leaving.
Saturday in California, the Texas Longhorns said goodbye to the calendar year of 2005...a truly memorable time in Texas athletics.
It had begun here, on a surreal day in Pasadena, in the canyons of the San Gabriel Mountains. The sun had shone on the Rose Bowl Parade, despite dire predictions of rains, and as night came to the Arroyo Secca, Vince Young's star was rising over the canyon, and over all of college football.
The victory in the Longhorns' first-ever appearance in the Rose Bowl, in their first game ever against Michigan, validated Texas football as a power in college football once again.
The Longhorns followed that 38-37 victory, which closed out the 2004 season on January 1, 2005, with twelve straight wins this fall, finishing unbeaten and No. 2 in the nation.
The successes of other Longhorn sports have been duly noted, with the baseball National Championship in the College World Series the center piece of a season that earned Texas the runner-up spot for the over all best program in college athletics.
As we say goodbye to 2005, that is important. The old man with his walking stick in the children's book can be proud of the course he trod over the last year.
Texas football observed the final day of the year with another good practice at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., where a steady light rain forced the team to an all-weather artificial turf practice field. Except for the damp conditions, however, Saturday was business as usual.
Bowl weeks are interesting. It is difficult to remember what day of the week it is, let alone what day of the month. So when Greg Davis and offensive players Vince Young, Selvin Young, Billy Pittman, Limas Sweed and Will Allen made the early morning trek to the Beverly Hilton Hotel to attend an 8 a.m. press conference, the standing joke was, "We'll see you next year." And that meant tomorrow.
There was also a moment of thanksgiving for the players, who had witnessed a scary accident on the way to their dinner at Lawry's Beef Bowl the night before. One of the California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers leading the team through the streets of Beverly Hills was injured when a lady ran through an officer's stop sign. The officer hit her going full speed, and was flipped from his cycle as her Cadillac was spun 180 degrees from the force of the collision.
Fortunately, the Longhorns learned Saturday, the officer will be okay, after suffering a broken arm and leg. He was to be released from the hospital Saturday, hopefully getting home to rest on New Year's Day.
But the passengers on Bus No. 1 had a quick reminder of the value of the moment, and of the fragile nature of life.
The old man in the story in the big red book would understand that, for this year has brought challenges and hardships to many, many people. While we have celebrated success in sports, some lives have changed forever.
That is, after all, how life is, and as we've said before, that is part of the essence of sport, because successes, and setbacks, are manifested in its microcosm.
The Saturday practice, based on game week, was a "Tuesday" practice. "Wednesday" morning, Texas will greet the new year on the practice field again.
The old year will have walked away, leaving its memories, its joys and its sadness.
And in its place is a newborn baby, a child of hope, and anticipation of what lies ahead, wherever the path shall lead in 2006.
So honor the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to the future.
Happy New Year.