Fight On! That’s the USC Trojans’ motto — fitting for a team named after great Roman warriors. And it’s quite appropriate given what we were headed into. See, USC has what most college football fans and students think is a top-10 tailgate… mostly because of their campus. Sure, they’ve sheer volume, with tens of thousands of currently enrolled students (most of whom are California gorgeous). And there are recent grads, wealthy alums and celebrity attendees galore. But their campus can get so wild that, at times, a legion of Roman soldiers would have trouble policing it. (There’s this place called YouTube… look it up).
Well, turns out that USC administration didn’t think that it was such a good idea to let their Roman Bacchanalia of a campus tailgate disturb class, especially on Parents Weekend. (You know, what with all the parents around to see where their money is going.) So, for the second year in a row, USC banned tailgating on campus for their Thursday night game. Right when we were coming to profile them for the show. Oh, and the parking lots and parks around the stadium only open three and a half hours before kickoff. SWEAR WORDS!
It looked like we might only get half the show, which (I’ll be honest) caused a little panic when the realization hit us. It was already too late to switch to another game and save USC for next year. With USC at half-mast, 50% capacity, without their fastball, we wondered if we’d need some bits or schtick to fill the time. A half-hour TV show (22 minutes outside the commercials) was looking longer and longer. Would there be enough tailgaters or even people? This is USC, just outside downtown LA, where traffic grows on trees and through the streets. This is supposed to be the most relaxed, freewheeling job going. And here we were headed into a top-10 tailgate… and I was stressed out. Not cool, dude.
Don’t forget the turnaround was pretty quick. We landed back in NYC after a kick-ass weekend in East Lansing with Sparty, and now we’re out the door Wednesday morning for a game all the way across the country… riddled with uncertainty! I hadn’t slept. I was still full of hearty Sparty food. Yeesh… but, we had to be more LA about being in LA. We realized it would be what it would be, and we’d do the best we could with what they brought. In true Hollywood fashion (and after some needed In-N-Out burgers and beers at The Surly Goat), cooler heads prevailed.
We met real football fans. Yes, they do exist in LA, even though America’s second largest city lacks a professional football team. USC is a factory, and it has produced a lot of NFL players, beautiful people and fans. Fans love to rock out with their brat out! Even if they only get a couple hours, they make it count.
One of those guys is Big Al, the owner of El Trojan, the single coolest tailgate ride we’ve ever seen. He bought a 1957 Chevy Bel*Air, and repaired and restored it to pristine condition. Then he built a mobile tailgate kitchen in the truck, complete with deep fryer, warming dishes, grill, flattop, sink… seriously. It’s the Batmobile of tailgate mobiles. He had it outside the lots, cooking and prepping, waiting to get into his section to rock out. It’s such an attraction. It’s manly. It’s sexy. And it’s delicious. The second you see our show, or meet Al, you’ll want him to make you an El Trojan. It’s ridiculous. He parks in the main lot. Go see him ASAYGT (as soon as you get there). I asked if he was going to pass this beauty onto his son one day. He said no. He said he’ll build Little Al one of his own one day. Luckiest. Kid. EVER.
Al, with his El Trojan, was just one of the great fans we met. Seems like you’d meet several bro-hemoths dressed up like a Trojan. We met one, Dave. Dave the Trojan. Not exactly a name that would inspire fear. But he was one big dude… having a great time, and feeling no pain! We met fans of the show who gussied up their tailgate — the Dusk To Dawn Doing It Right Tailgate — after watching our show. And weren’t they thrilled to see us come waltzing in to see the chandelier they added after watching our Ole Miss episode last season. Color me flattered and impressed.
As we got closer to game time, the energy picked up. The food was flying off the grill — tacos, dirty dogs and more tacos — the adult beverages were going down nice ’n easy, and the students were making their way over from campus. And with that came the energy they bring. We crashed a tailgate full of awesome moms earlier in the day, and like all responsible moms are apt to do, they gave us chips, dips and shots of Fireball. Who loves ya like your mom, right?
Well, this mom — Awesome Mom Mary we’ll call her — invited us back when the kids were there for more fun. (“If you’re thirsty or hungry we’ll feed ya!” -SWOON!) So we came back about an hour before kickoff and met hers and all the other moms’ kids, and played the best version of our game show segment Random Fandom ever. Students versus parents. No spoilers, but let’s just say the parents felt like they got their money’s worth with the result.
And with that it was 6pm, kickoff! And everyone had to abandon the tailgate party they just kicked into gear. So fun, but also disappointing, because we were having so much fun, making new friends, which is easy out that way. All the sun and cerveza has a way of breaking down barriers and chillaxing the best of us.
Tailgating for under four hours, and on but half their massive party space, money was left on the table. USC looked, smelled and tasted like a great tailgate. And we just got a taste, enough to make us want to come back. So, gee whiz, I guess we’ll have to go back next season for the battle for LA: UCLA @ USC. That could be days, and we may never be the same after. But seeing what good looks USC just gave us, and knowing UCLA brings the heat and handsome? Mark it, Donny! It’s on.
We didn’t get a chance to visit and showcase a USC staple watering hole — 901 Bar & Grille — though they were kind enough to invite us in. Every student swears it’s a must if, you know, being elbow-to-elbow with a ton of beautiful people, drinking beer, listening to good music and watching sports on TV is your thing. If not, move to Russia, you hippie! 🙂 Visiting 901 is just one of the many many things on our to-do list for our visit to USC next season.
Fight On, Tailgate Fans! We’re taking a nice little break before we journey homeward (all three members of our crew are from Massachusetts) to partake of the Harvard/Yale classic in Cambridge the weekend before Thanksgiving. Should be the smahtest pahtee we visit all season.