January 1, 1994, UCLA vs. Wisconsin - For the first time since 1963 when Ron Vanderkelen almost led the #2 Badgers to an upset win over #1 USC, Wisconsin was coming to Pasadena. And it seemed like the entire state showed up in Pasadena. Half of Milwaukee turned up. The entire city of Oconomowoc came to Pasadena. Sheboygan I believed stayed home and watched everybody else's place. It was a cooperative agreement. And everybody was promised tickets. But only 101,237 got in. And it seemed like about 90,000 of them were wearing red and acting in a maniacally friendly manner. And the Wisconsinites went home happy as UCLA turned the ball over six times to gift wrap a 21-16 win for Wisconsin. Except for the numerous people who filed suit against tour promoters who didn't deliver tickets that people had paid for.
Although UCLA had clinched the Rose Bowl by beating USC in its final game with the Rose Bowl on the line for both teams, an event that rarely happens (USC is 15-6-1 in games of that nature.), Bruin fans looked at their Rose Bowl tickets not as a chance to root on their team, but instead as a nice opportunity to make a tidy profit by scalping the tickets to visiting Badger fans, also known in the trade as marks or pigeons. Apparently economics majors scooped much of the tickets and quickly gauged the supply and demand curves for the tickets and priced them appropriately. The tickets had a face value of $46, but they were selling for up to $400.
As for me, I had the best seats for a football game that I have ever had and likely will ever have. I feel that UCLA lost because I somehow lost a corrupt bargain with Satan, even though my tickets were obtained legally and without any chicanery. A friend at work was given the opportunity by her local councilman in Pasadena to buy a pair of Rose Bowl tickets at face value. She told me I could use them as long as I promised to drive she and her mother to their Rose Parade seats (which they got for free). When my friend and I got to our seats we noticed that they were seated about 1 degree off of the 50-yard line. The mayor of Pasadena was sitting in front of us. So was my congressman. Kareem Abdul Jabbar was seated behind me. Merlin Olson was in the same section. And so were a bunch of Wisconsin fans, who were loud, but exceedingly friendly and polite.
Three of my friends came to my apartment to stay with me before the game and numerous others used me as a way station. No doubt my toilet got a workout that day.
I recall going to a New Year's Eve party at a home in San Marino and being cornered for about 45 minutes by a somewhat inebriated Canadian woman who berated me for not knowing enough about the principles of Canada's New Democratic Party. The sad part is that I was most likely the most conversant person in the entire house about the workings of the Canadian NDP. Instances like that made me really wish I could drink, so I could have forgotten about that night.
When my friends and I got to the Rose Bowl, we realized that Wisconsin fans like to tailgate.
With a lot of food.
And a lot of beer.
And more food.
And more beer.
Even though we were all bedecked in UCLA colors, a group of Wisconsin fans offered us some food from their party. And they didn't give us a beer. Or some potato chips. No, they gave us steaks. All eight of us got whole steaks. They actually had eight extra steaks. But they didn't have any extra knives and forks, so we just gnawed at them like cavemen as we made our way in to the Rose Bowl knowing that we were well fed. Of course, why did they have all those extra steaks?
The game, as I've mentioned was pretty awful. UCLA was really bad, making mistakes left and right. They lost a Rose Bowl record five fumbles and quarterback Wayne Cook threw an interception.
Nevertheless, UCLA was down just 21-16 with 15 seconds left and the ball on the Wisconsin 18. Cook went back to pass and scrambled around looking for an open receiver, presumably J.J. Stokes, who had already caught a Rose Bowl record 14 passes for 176 yards. But Cook found no one open. So he decided to run for it.
Wayne Cook was not a bad college quarterback. But Wayne Cook was not Vince Young. Or Steve Young. He was about as mobile as Gig Young. Cook scrambled all the way to the Wisconsin 15 before he was tackled as time expired. I believe the word UCLA fans was looking for was "D'oh!"
Brent Moss of Wisconsin was the MVP with 158 rushing yards and one touchdown. It was Wisconsin's first ever Rose Bowl win after three losses: 1953 to USC, 1960 to Washington, 1963 to USC.
As my friend and I walked out of our row, one of the maniacally friendly and passionate Badger fans said to us, "Thanks for the great time, we're sorry you had to lose, but we're so gosh darned happy!"