This past Saturday I attended my favorite sporting event in the annual USC-UCLA football game for the third straight year, and the fourth time in the past five years. Here on ETSF, the Pac-10 doesn’t receive a lot of love (Oregon playing for the title!), so I’ve decided to share a little bit on the experience of one of the most unique, if not the most unique rivalry game in college football.
Because Los Angeles is such a large metropolitan area, the sport’s scene out here is ridiculously crazy. The city is constantly divided between two teams in all sports whether it be basketball (Lakers, Clippers -- there are more Clippers fans that one would ever imagine); baseball (Dodgers, Angels); hockey (Kings, Ducks); even football had its glory days (Raiders, Rams). All of these teams are within 50 miles of each other, but the biggest split is USC-UCLA. We’re talking about two major universities with the campuses within 12 miles of each other. If you’re living in Southern California, your neighbor to your right could be a USC fan, and the one to your left could be a UCLA fan. This rivalry splits relationships, friends and family -- even if it were for one day -- down the red and blue line of fandom.
One of the beautiful things about this rivalry is the venues. Each year, the game switches back and forth between the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and The Rose Bowl. Before last night’s game, my lady and I spent some time in Old Pasadena before taking the trolley up to the Rose Bowl. Both USC and UCLA fans roamed Colorado street, talking trash, yelling chants and all other kinds of tomfoolery associated with fandom. We grabbed some pizza at Bella’s, had a waiter who was glad to see some ‘SC fans, and sat at a table right next to a slew of Bruin fans. On the Trolley, you couldn’t look too far without seeing the colors of either team. An old UCLA fan said the night’s game was “The Losers Bowl” because both teams were having bad seasons (a testament to how great USC has been in the last decade as they finished this season 8-5).
The Trolley dropped us off right in front of the Rose Bowl, the “Grand Daddy Of Them All.” It’s not the prettiest stadium in the country, but knowing how many classic football games, the decades of history and the number of hall of fame players who have stepped foot on this field over the years makes the trip worth everything. The Rose Bowl is divided into four sections -- UCLA fans sit on the sidelines, while USC fans get the seats behind the end zones, which makes sense because USC’s offense spends more time in the end zone than on the sideline (#boomroasted). The best seats in the house, however, are on the boarder lines, where USC and UCLA fans are right next to each other talking all kinds of trash. That’s where we were last night, close to the field and right next to the boarder.
Let me set one thing straight: What you think you know about Los Angeles sports fans is irrelevant. We LOVE our sports teams out here, the attendance at Lakers and Dodgers (I hate the Dodgers, just in case y’all didn’t know) games is more of a reflection of the cost of living, the cost of tickets and the amount of traffic that is a part of the Southern California culture. But when it comes to loving our team and hating rivals, LA sports fans are just as reverent and knowledgeable as any other fan. Which leads me to this: In my section, there was a game long debate about not only the two teams on the field, but the best players in history from each school.
Say what you want about football out west, but don’t knock one of the most culturally significant rivalries in all of sports. If you’re planning a trip to California anytime soon, I implore you to schedule that trip during late November/early December. There’s nothing but great food, great atmosphere, great fans and great football.
-P. Barnett aka "I'm So Hideous"
P.S. As a reminder, checkout the livest sports talk (and hopefully on the radio soon) show around, "The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show" as we are live Wednesday's at 9pm Eastern at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edthesportsfan! Download our podcasts if you missed the live show as well!