I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 11 years, but it doesn’t take that long to see what comes closest to uniting this sprawling megalopolis.
The SC vs. UCLA football game.
That’s it folks. One game, one day. (Clippers-Lakers? Child pleez.)
As school rivalries go, this ancient college football aficionado places SC vs. UCLA at the very top of the list when it comes the utter, personal repugnance one side assigns the other. On the field and, perhaps moreso, in the seats.
Those of you in Big Ten and SEC country may chuckle when you hear that, but I’m far from a provincial observer.
(Last year Bruin Bear was sabotaged by SC)
I grew up in Kansas City, in the crosshairs of KU and Mizzou. Mom is a Sooner, so I was immersed in OU-Nebraska hate back in the day. Same with Arky vs. Bevo in the ’70s and ’80s thanks to my grandpappy - a proud Hawg.
I graduated from the Univ. of Georgia, where Thanksgiving mean taunting Tech and cocktails are garnished with, “it’s great, to be, a Gator hater!”
First job out of college, I worked Univ. of South Carolina football broadcasts for three seasons, and was blown away by Cocky vs. CLEMP-sun.
(SC defeated this Bruin defense to defile Bruin Bear)
I was a credential-carrying media member in Columbus for nearly five years and hosted local Ohio State football broadcasts during that time. (See a little thing I like to call “that team up north.“)
And after moving to L.A. I worked USC football broadcasts for three seasons.
Through it all, my early allegiance was most tied to Notre Dame. My father, brother and cousin all graduated from the school and I spent my childhood bunking several times a year in the ND dorms the night before Irish home games.
(USC electric tapes Tommy Trojan week of UCLA game to stop vandals)
I was a gape-mouthed 10-year-old at a single-deck Notre Dame Stadium for the ‘77 ND-SC game when the Irish broke out the green jerseys for the first time in 14 years. Before the unis became a tired novelty act signifying more Champs clearance than actual inspiration.
Former USC student manager Brad Green remembers the ‘77 SC-Notre Dame pregame:
Two weeks later, we traveled to Notre Dame. All seemed normal during pre-game warm-ups—then both teams went back to their locker rooms for final instructions. USC came onto the field first with rousing boos, which are to be expected at a visiting stadium.
After we were all on the field, a huge Trojan Horse rolled out of the tunnel. No one knew what was going on; then all of a sudden, the Notre Dame players broke through the horse wearing their green jerseys! The crowd went absolutely wild. The players were going wild. It was an amazing sight.
I personally thought their uniforms looked like the University of Oregon’s—and we had crushed them the week before. But the Notre Dame team was so psyched up they were not going to be denied. Joe Montana played pitch and catch with Ken MacAffee, and destroyed us 49-19, and used this game as a launching point to a National Championship.
Before I moved to Los Angeles, that ‘77 game was my most memorable in-stadium experience. Then my attending the ‘06 Rose Bowl game between Texas and USC took precedent.
But after those two games, the 2006 UCLA-USC game will probably most remain in my memory.
I went as a fan to that game, seated in the middle of the UCLA side of the stadium. Best I can tell you is I was locked into my section of seats for an hour after the game because no one would leave.
That from UCLA fans, normally the most laissez-faire group you’ll happen upon.
Except, of course, when it comes to SC-UCLA.
I’ve been in the stands and on the field for Ohio State-Michigan, UGA-Florida and covered Alabama-Auburn as a media member - among other rivalry games - and I’ve never seen the sparring, verbal and otherwise, between SC and UCLA fans that I saw at the 2006 UCLA-SC Rose Bowl game.
USC vs. Notre Dame? That’s a rivalry borne out of respect from afar. Walk around the Coliseum before a USC-ND game and you’ll see fans of the opposing teams enjoying each other’s company. (Generally.)
Not so when SC hosts UCLA every other year. The LAPD is out in force and fraternizing between the faithful is rare, if at all.
There is a palpable, cultural disdain dividing private USC and public UCLA. It’s fratzy (rich OC kids) vs. statzy (teacher’s pets). Half the city went to one of the schools, and, at least for now, the other half roots for USC. (Let UCLA run off another eight straight, like it did in the ’90s, and I’ll get back to you on that.)
It’s rivalry week, sh– just got real.
See you in Pasadena in five days.