Rose Bowl

USC football fans gather before the start of the 1923 Rose Bowl game between the Trojans and Penn State. USC won the game, 14-3. The Rose Bowl has played an important role in college football history. (Collegiate Images via Getty Images / January 1, 1923)

The Rose Bowl was born a year before the flight at Kitty Hawk and was still kicking last year as Endeavor crawled through the streets of Los Angeles on the way to its final resting spot.

Between the Rose's first bloom in 1902 and this year's 100th game, a plane covered a few hundred feet and a space shuttle covered 122 million miles.

Time and the Granddaddy march on.

The Rose Bowl has endured, lurched, gurgled, bellowed and expanded. It has hosted triumph and defeat and made it through two world wars, the stock market crash, a Great Depression, the Cold War, Woody Hayes and the Bowl Championship Series.

The game changed — first over radio, then on television — the demographics of the United States. Print, audio and television-relayed images of sun splash spawned migration from a hunkered-down East.

Jim Murray, the Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist for The Times, suggested the Rose Bowl had as much to do with our population growth as the railroad system.

"Ask anybody back in the '20s what came to mind when they thought about Los Angeles and the answer would come back, without hesitation, 'Charlie Chaplin and the Rose Bowl,'" Murray wrote.

Murray opined that some coaches "stepped up their cheating" just to get here, and maintained our metropolis was settled, in part, by "a slow leak in Iowa."

The Rose Bowl excels at sunsets and symmetry.

Michigan won the first game, 49-0 over Stanford, with fullback Neil Snow scoring the first points on a six-yard run. The most recent points, tallied last Jan. 1, came on a 22-yard field goal by Stanford's Jordan Williamson.

A popular national radio host, not from the West, recently wondered out loud why the Rose Bowl was so special. He should have asked Art Spander, the longtime Bay Area sports columnist, who this week will celebrate his 61st straight trip to the Rose Bowl.

Spander, 75, has attended every Rose Bowl since 1954.

The streak started innocently enough, when Spander was a boy growing up in Los Angeles and his father suggested Art could make extra money selling programs at the Rose Bowl.

Spander says he earned 10 bucks during Michigan State's victory over UCLA in the 1954 game. He kept the streak alive as a student at UCLA and then, for more than five decades, as a sportswriter in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

"I just think sitting there is the greatest thing in the world," Spander said during a recent phone interview. "Watching the sun start to set about 4 o'clock, and the shadows falling, with the game going on. It's a great place to be. "

The Rose Bowl is special, first and foremost, because it was first. In fact, it was the only bowl game for decades.

It has known ups and downs and occasionally even fumbled.

The event, which was started as an adjunct to the Rose Parade, was canceled after the 1902 game because of dangerous play and unruly crowds.

It was replaced by chariot ostrich races. An early advertisement for the Cawston Ostrich Farm encouraged patrons to "stop at the Farm and see the Ostriches Plucked."

The 1913 post-parade entertainment, as recounted by Malcolm Moran in a new book celebrating the 100th Rose Bowl, included a race between an elephant and a camel.