I made the mistake that I often do after a big loss to one our of favorite Wisconsin teams - I checked Facebook. The news feed was cluttered with people expressing their disgust about the Badgers losing and many of my social network friends were calling for Bret Bielema to be fired. I felt quite sad for those feeling pain after the loss. What those upset about the Rose Bowl heartbreak don't realize is that the outcome of the Rose Bowl, from a fan's perspective historically, doesn't matter.
Here's my point - the Rose Bowl is a consolation game. Getting to the game itself is the prize, the result of the game really doesn't matter from season to season. Sure, you want to win the game and fans should be disappointed that the Badgers lost. But there's two reasons that the initial Facebook reaction should not have been carried into your office today. One, Oregon is the better team. Never were the Badgers favored, and never did we think that Wisconsin had the more talented squad. The better team won, congrats. But more importantly, the Rose Bowl - just like every other college bowl besides whatever they call the championship game - is no different than the NFL's Pro Bowl. Getting there is the reward, the outcome of the game is irrelevant.
College football's postseason is already a flawed system when compared to every other major sport. Only two teams get to play for the trophy, the rest of the pack takes vacations to (in most cases) warm weather locales to hang out and then, oh yeah, play a football game. What's the difference between Oregon winning the Rose Bowl and Temple winning the Gildan New Mexico Bowl? Both teams were awarded for their solid regular seasons by the chance to play a game in a neutral site on national television. Both teams won their final game of the year and flew home feeling happy. Yes, I realize that Oregon did it on a larger scale, but the fact that the Ducks won the game still remains irrelevant. Coaches don't get fired if they lose bowl games - hell, some coaches leave fore new jobs before the bowl game even arrives, what does that say about their importance? Recruits are going to be impressed that the school made the Rose Bowl, but not whether your team won it or not. Win or lose, it's the final game of the season for both teams, and both schools return to business as usual after the contest.
Here's the meat and potatoes of this post - Getting to the Rose Bowl is a legitimate accomplishment that should be celebrated. But the result of the game is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
I don't fault anyone for being upset that the Badgers lost, it's a natural reaction. But to have those feelings last longer than ten minutes is pretty ridiculous. These bowl games, after all, are exhibition games (unless you're betting on the games, then that is a different story). And to get so upset about the loss that you think Bielema should be fired is even more asinine. Sure, he may not have coached the best game (the timeouts that he did took are easy to criticize in hindsight if you had the advantage of watching the game on TV) but he's not the reason the Badgers lost this game. Getting to the Rose Bowl in back-to-back seasons is a good enough accomplishment for me. Sure, I would have liked to see the Badgers in the national championship game, but they were denied a trip there because of fluke hail marys, not because of bad coaching. Let's drop the wish to fire this guy right now.
When you look at this period in Badgers history years from now, it really won't matter that the Badgers lost the Rose Bowl. You'll say, "The Badgers went to the Rose Bowl in back to back years under Bielema", just like we say "the Badgers went to the Rose Bowl three times under Alvarez". The operative word there is went as opposed to won/loss. Getting there is the reward, the result is just a cherry on top of the sundae.
Need more proof that the Rose Bowl doesn't matter? Watch sports television the day after the Rose Bowl. Nobody was talking about the timeouts. Nobody was talking about the dynamic offenses. A few mentioned the last second spike. But the top story? How cool were the Oregon helmets!
Congrats, Wisconsin. You made the Rose Bowl. You lost the exhibition. Better luck next year.
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