And … Wow.
First of all, there is something extremely satisfying in the tummy about a bowl game that has a classic name instead of an advertisement handle. No offense to the PapaJohns.com Bowl, but Rose rings just a little bit more authentic.*
*Even if it is Rose Bowl presented by Vizio. Sigh. How can I be nostalgic when I am only 22-years-old?
Most importantly, however, there is an aura about the experience that is bigger then just a football game. It recalls classic Rose Bowls of old — is Texas vs. USC the greatest ever? — and brings Wisconsin's greatest moments into sharp focus. How many clips have you seen the past few weeks of Ron Dayne rumbling for a touchdown in sunny California?
This is all well and good for the fans. We get to enjoy the parade. We get to escape frigid Wisconsin and try our luck on the Price is Right. We can see the sun for more then six hours in a day. Awesome.
But all of this tradition and history and aura and sun rings true for the players too.
And they are well aware of it.
"It is the Rose Bowl, everyone knows how much that means to Wisconsin fans," UW defensive end J.J. Watt said. "Now here we are and it is everything I could have ever wished for and more and everything every kid dreams about."
Even non-Wisconsin natives can appreciate the effect the bowl game has on the Badger State.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin's No. 1 back heading into the game, has been able to feel the anticipation building for the game on campus.
"To be honest, growing up, I didn't watch it. I was into video games," Ball said with a laugh. "But I started watching it three or four years ago, and it was like 'why haven't I been watching this the whole time?' It is incredible. The atmosphere and everything is incredible. I am really looking forward to it."
Each player has their own story. And each Badger wants to add their own personal piece to the lore.
"I was a Big Ten fan growing up," UW quarterback Scott Tolzien said the day the Badgers were invited to the Grandaddy of them All. "So I always rooted for the Big Ten team. It was actually a pretty big deal in my household. We would have all of the TVs onto the bowl games and be out playing in the yard. We watched the Rose Bowl every year."