College Football How Long To Play To Count As Game New Book Reveals Untold Story of First Rose Bowl at 100-Year Anniversary

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New Book Reveals Untold Story of First Rose Bowl at 100-Year Anniversary

Chance for Glory is the kind of book that great sports movies are made of. It has everything a true sports fan or a lover of a good story could want, from an engaging plot to interesting characters, a blend of history, plenty of action and just the right dose of humor. And it’s being released just in time for the one-hundred-year anniversary of the first Rose Bowl game played by Washington State College against Brown University in 1916.

Since author Darrin Watkins is now a Washington State University alumnus, his focus is of course on the Washington team, and he begins the story by portraying a young school struggling to hold its own against its biggest rival, the University of Washington. Washington, who wanted to limit what his sister school could teach.

The opening chapter depicts a fascinating inaugural football game in 1912 played at West Point – a game between Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe and future general and US president Dwight D. Eisenhower will be among the players. One of the coaches in that game was “Pop” Warner, who coached William Dietz and recommended him as a coach at Washington State College when it was in dire need of a good coach.

Washington State had a long history of losing football games, but Coach Dietz turned it around quickly. I will let readers explore his methods for themselves, but I will say that he was very innovative. What was most remarkable was that he was a Native American at a time when racism was rampant. In 1915, when he became coach of the Washington State Cougars, it had only been twenty-five years since the Wounded Knee Massacre. But it didn’t take long for Dietz to win the trust of his players and make them believe that they could succeed not only as a team, but as powerful rivals in the Pacific Northwest.

The events that follow are like a moving movie montage of one victory after another, and yet, Watkins takes the time to describe each play and each key play, and he brings these historical figures to life, infusing them with emotion and feeling. The book reads like good historical fiction, yet should be full of facts. Each player becomes a person to us and we know them both on and off the football field, in some cases, by the women they have dated. The research Watkins has done to put all these pieces together and gain insight into his characters is amazing, and he documents it all, yet the book easily reads more like a novel than a history.

As the Cougars rack up win after win, they begin to gain national attention and before long, they are invited to compete in the first Rose Bowl. Of course, the Rose Bowl is a big deal today, but in 1915 no one was sure it would be a success. Watkins’ depiction of the committee’s struggle to attract committee attention and sell tickets, the first Roses Parade, the publicity and overall results turned the pageant into an American institution.

A fascinating aspect of the Rose Bowl was that the Cougars, since they were still going to Pasadena, were invited to appear in a Hollywood film – Tom Brown Goes to Harvard – part of the popular silent film series of the day, which included football. Watkins’ presentation of glimpses of the game early in the film’s production is engaging and witty.

And then it’s on to the Rose Bowl. Watkins fills us with every drama, every joy, every worry and, ultimately, the great victory. Through the written word, Watkins provides a highly visual narrative of a history-making event.

Few American stories of overcoming adversity are as thrilling and exhilarating as Chance for Glory. Watkins’ ability to bring history to life, like Erik Larsen’s Devil in the White City about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, sets this book apart from other great history storytelling, and its triumphant message is perfect for a Disney film.

How wonderful that Watkins has timed this book to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl. The efforts of the Washington State Cougars give new life and meaning to the game of football by reminding us that anyone with courage and a dream can be successful, be it sports or anything else.

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