God created college football as a grand gift to an imperfect world. I learned this as a very small boy living in the middle of the Texas Panhandle. In time I would come to believe that college football contained all of the joy, faith, pageantry, feeling, failure, and renewal that any person could hope for out of life. It taught me about patience and commitment, about enthusiasm and exasperation, about fatherhood and faith.
Like Norman Maclean’s classic, A River Runs Through It, Rose Bowl Dreams is a memoir that transcends the limits of the sports genre to contemplate faith, love, grief and the challenges of fatherhood.
Rose Bowl Dreams is the story of a family whose passion for college football begins at a small stadium in the remote Texas Panhandle and leads to college football’s most famous venue, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Rose Bowl Dreams develops parallel stories of a son and his mother, a crisis of faith, and three fraught football seasons that end in bittersweet triumph as the author follows the story of the University of Texas Longhorns between the time he discovers his mother has inoperable cancer and Texas triumphs in the National Championship Game over USC in what might well be the greatest college football game ever played.
Along the way Jones lays bare the heart and passionate soul of the college football fan. To millions, college football is the essence of life. It is, yes, religious in intensity. And its impact on families and its greater meaning possesses tremendous resonance. Rose Bowl Dreams reveals the growth and evolution of a college football fan with the humor and poignancy only personal experience could provide: kitchen table conversations with Panhandle football legend “Bulldog” Jones, good-byes to a mother who taught her son about unconditional love and unconditional fandom, the wise counsel of a psychiatrist father, the love of a beautiful woman, raising three boys, Mennonites singing, night games in Lubbock, a scrappy gamer of a quarterback, a man with a golden left arm, and finally, redemptively, a small boy from the south side of Houston named Vince.
He would change everything.
Rose Bowl Dreams is an artfully rendered portrait of a Texas family bound by a game, and an inspiring account of how redemption flows through the contests on the field and into the lives of its fans. It’s a portrait of divine will realized on the college football gridiron. A narrative that is like no football book you’ve ever read, Rose Bowl Dreams reminds us all that the good life moves ever forward.