From: McLane, Jeff

To: Ford, Bob; Sheridan, Phil

Subject: The Rose Bowl: Should we care?

You can imagine my excitement when the higher-ups here at The Inky informed me that I, a lowly Penn State beat reporter, would be filling in for the vacationing Gonzo. Not only do I get to rap with two of the finest foreheads in sportswriting history, but also my mug's first appearance in these pages isn't tilted. It's like having my own column - minus the fame, salary and company-paid BlackBerry.

I guess I was the likely choice. For one, I think I'm the only Gen Xer left in the newspaper biz. And two, who cares about the active pro sports teams in town? The Eagles are all but through. The Sixers are through. And the Flyers . . . wake me in April after they're through the regular season.

So "Talkin' " will be a Penn State football exclusive for a week as I vacation, er, work from Southern California in the lead-up to the Rose Bowl. I know youse guys have been mostly watching the Lions and college football from afar, but should a Penn State-Southern Cal matchup rouse enthusiasm other than the image of JoePa resting beachside with a Jack on the rocks as he gawks at a few L.A. birds?

From: Ford, Bob

To: McLane, Jeff; Sheridan, Phil

Subject: The Rose Bowl: Should we care?

I sense a lack of interest in this Rose Bowl. I mean, if the most interesting aspect is whether Paterno will coach from the sideline or the press box, something is lacking.

It is probably because there aren't any national championship implications and because it seems likely the Nits will get their skis waxed by USC. Sorry to say, but I'd be surprised if it's much of a game.

How's that for an upbeat lid-lifter?

From: McLane, Jeff

To: Ford, Bob; Sheridan, Phil

Subject: The Rose Bowl: Should we care?

Perfect, Bob. It is the season of the Grinch. If I may play devil's advocate, however, what if it's the Trojans that get their surfboards waxed? Couldn't the Lions then make the claim that they, at least, deserve to be in the national championship game?

From: Sheridan, Phil

To: McLane, Jeff; Ford, Bob

Subject: The Rose Bowl: Should we care?

There's an irony here that isn't lost on those of us who prefer a playoff in college football. The argument against a real national championship playoff is that we'd lose the delightful (read: lucrative) and traditional (read: lucrative) bowl classics. And the Rose Bowl, as we know, is the most delightful and traditional of all the bowls.

So if there is tepid interest in a Rose Bowl that doesn't affect the BCS championship picture, and the BCS matchup isn't decided on the field but by a computer, what exactly is the point? Other than TV revenues, that is.

In a sense, there's something fitting about Joe Paterno coaching in the Rose Bowl. It's like a black-and-white photo from 1942 or something.

From: McLane, Jeff

To: Ford, Bob; Sheridan, Phil

Subject: The Rose Bowl: Should we care?

Now there's a Kodak. Actually, Joe was quarterbacking the no-huddle, spread offense at Brooklyn Prep in 1942.