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FROM THIS EPISODE

The Bowls

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

I may not be a big college football fan, and usually join the chorus of the annual whiners about the post season mostly meaningless Bowl frenzy that plays out over the holidays. But even the crustiest of curmudgeons got up off the couch and felt an adrenaline surge over the past two nights. First it was the Orange Bowl in Miami and a cruncher that went nearly five hours and three overtime periods deep into the early morning, with Penn State eking out a victory over Florida State. It was heartening to see the 79-year-old Penn State coach Joe Paterno resuscitate his reputation as one of the greatest all-time coaches in the history of the college game.

If the Orange Bowl was dramatic theater, last night's Rose Bowl here in Pasadena was worthy of serial standing ovations. Down to the last second, that was one WOW of a football game. My beef with the college brand is that it's often all offense, sloppy defense, with crazy plays that run the score up sometimes into the 60s and 70s. But the hyped-up National Championship between the media darling, dual Heisman trophy team of USC and the gritty, just-get-it-done University of Texas Longhorns lived up to the month-long build-up. These guys played four quarters, literally every single play, of impeccable football, including defense. The ending was also fairy tale perfect. The glam team USC lost just moments before the final whistle to the workhorse Longhorns. The game's Most Valuable Player, Texas quarterback Vince Young, was more than impressive. Young was sublime. Every one of his 200 rushing yards, which brought three touchdowns, were electric. Here's a kid who grew up poor and troubled in Houston, his peer group mostly gang members who often went to jail, sometimes got shot. Vince Young chose a different road and today he's sitting on top of the college football world, with all kinds of positive scenarios laying in wait for him. He could stay at UT for his senior year and possibly win the coveted Heisman Trophy, which he contended for this season. He could turn pro early and, with work on his oddball throwing mechanics, make his mark and some serious cash in the NFL.

As high as Vince Young is flying with his Rose Bowl victory is as low as Maurice Clarett has sunk. This Monday his former team, the Ohio State Buckeyes, trounced Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Clarett might have eased into a club chair to watch the game and flashed back to a short three years ago, when he was the star Buckeye who took Ohio State all the way to the National Championship title in the same Fiesta Bowl. Instead, at the moment the Ohio State players switched into exuberant celebration mode in Arizona, their former premiere running back was arrested back in Ohio for allegedly holding up two people at gunpoint. Clarett's been in trouble before. But his family and former coaches and some compassionate Buckeye fans were all hoping he'd get his life together, perhaps suit up for an NFL Europe team and make a comeback to the NFL. Instead, Maurice Clarett is now facing two counts of aggravated robbery. And what was he attempting to steal, at gunpoint, from this man and woman on a Columbus street? A cell phone. A cell phone which you can get for free from any phone service... or for some $25 anywhere around town. Two kids who didn't get an easy start in life, Vince Young and Maurice Clarett. Both outstanding talents with the rare opportunity to change their lives through sport. One has seized the day. The other is making some tragic choices.

And now before I go, please allow me an apology for an error in last week's Score. I was lamenting the end of Monday Night Football and mistakenly said the game will no longer be played on Monday nights. Well, the game will still be played Monday nights. It's just moving over to cable, ESPN, and my lament is that it will be more of a typical sports broadcast, not a prime-time network special. Please forgive me the gaff. And Happy New Year.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.

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