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Why is the Rose Bowl called a bowl?

(If E.M. Forster’s fiction becomes reality, it will be realized in incremental steps.)

Bob and Judy were in the basement, celebrating New Year’s Day in their entertainment center. The display screen, which Bob and Judy still occasionally called a “TV,” was currently displaying the items that were going to be delivered to their home in the next half hour. Bob and Judy, Luddites that they were, still liked to order real meat, and occasionally Judy would even contact the specialty stores and have them drone some organic meat over to them.

The order perused, Bob switched the display back to the Huffington Entertainment Channel, just in time to hear an announcement about the forthcoming Rose Bowl football game. This year’s matchup appeared to be a competitive one, in which Ohio State was cast to face Reed College.


Bob turned to Judy. “I’m bored,” he said. “Do you think our grandson’s awake yet?”

“Probably,” Judy replied.

“Are you up for an adventure?” Bob asked.

Judy nodded, and went to wake North up.

North walked into the basement eating a bowl of Soylent. “North,” asked his grandfather, “how would you like to go to the Rose Bowl today to watch the football game?”

North looked puzzled. “What do you mean, go to the Rose Bowl?”

Judy smiled. “Well, instead of watching the game on the TV – I mean display – we can go right to where the game is being played. Did you know that it’s being played in Pasadena, just a few miles from here?”

North still looked puzzled. “Why would you want to do that?”

Bob smiled. “Because then you could be right there and see the players as they play, rather than watching it through the display!”

North remained silent as Bob continued. “There are actually seats surrounding the field, and we can sit in them and watch the players!”

North’s puzzled look returned. “But then you wouldn’t get all the camera angles and the supplemental information feeds. Are the seats more comfortable than the seats in this room?”

Despite the fact that they hadn’t been in a stadium for decades, Bob and Judy quickly answered, “No.”

Judy smiled. “But it’s an experience that you’ll never forget. Back when Grandpa and I were kids, tens of thousands of people would go to the Rose Bowl just to watch the game. I don’t want you to miss this. You’re coming with us.”

“OK,” said North in a grudging tone. “But this sounds weird.”

30 minutes later, the car had deposited them at the Rose Bowl, and they stood outside in the sun. Each of them was wearing a (southern California) winter jacket, and they weren’t used to them.

“What is that Tickets building?” asked North, gesturing to an empty structure.

“Well,” explained Bob, “years ago, people would pay lots of money to come here and sit in the stadium and watch the game. Some people paid hundreds of dollars for the tickets alone, which was a lot of money in those days. And if a team from Ohio were playing in the Rose Bowl, then thousands of people from Ohio would fly in airplanes to Pasadena and stay here for several days, culminating in the big game.”

“I know it seems silly,” Bob continued, “but back when my parents were kids, displays often had a screen size of less than 30 inches. And the entertainment channels just showed the game, without the supplementary information, and with just two or three people talking about it. Back in those days, you’d actually have a better time going to the game itself than trying to watch it on a tiny little TV – I mean display.”

As Bob talked, the three of them walked past the empty ticket building and entered the stadium. Unlike the scene at previous Rose Bowls, the stands only contained a few hundred spectators, mostly older people like Bob and Judy. Ticket sales had ceased 20 years ago, and there was even talk of eliminating the physical game – and all physical football games – altogether, and just asking the Madden Company (named for a 20th century football figure and early game pioneer) to create simulations for the games.

Despite the empty stadium, football was still football, although the rules that had emerged over the years tended to favor the offense over the defense. Rare was the game in which either team scored less than 50 points, but there was still some competitive balance in the game, and it was not as ridiculous as it could have been.

Despite the discomfort, North was actually enjoying the game – especially since Reed had jumped out to an early 21-7 lead against Ohio State. He was smiling as he munched on his Soylent snack, and Bob and Judy were smiling also, happy that North could have this experience.

During a break in the action, North turned to his grandparents and asked a question.

“Grandma, Grandpa,” asked North. “Why is it called the ROSE Bowl?”

Bob and Judy found themselves at a loss for words.

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3 thoughts on “Why is the Rose Bowl called a bowl?

  1. Pingback: Live from Stamford, it’s the Sochi Olympics! | tymshft

  2. Since Google+ is no longer working, the E.M. Forster piece referenced at the beginning of the post was The Machine Stops.

  3. Pingback: Extrapolating to new businesses – John E. Bredehoft

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