The Tailgate Party And Singles Scene At This Cross-Town Rivalry
I’ll never forget attending my first USC-UCLA game.
The rivalry is something I had watched on TV from afar, one vivid memory being of the camera following a very attractive blonde as she walked up the steps at the L.A. Coliseum, dressed in a full-length coat on a warm, sunny day in November and, upon arriving at her row and obviously aware the camera was on her the whole time turned, winked, and dropped her coat to reveal she was wearing, well, nothing.
“I’ve GOT to get to that game someday,” I told myself.
A few yeas later I was there, freshly arrived in Los Angeles from the South, with a group of friends.
I had been to football games at Tennessee (I’m from Knoxville), Alabama (where I went to school), Death Valley on a Saturday night (LSU), Florida State, Georgia, Auburn, Clemson and South Carolina. But what awaited me here was a completely different experience.
We had arrived by party bus. This game was at the Rose Bowl, which meant we had to travel quite a distance from where we lived in the South Bay Beach Cities. That alone was different – SEC stadiums are all on campus in small and mid-sized towns – but enjoyabe. Party buses are fun, I was quick to learn.
Even before departing, I could tell things were different. People showed up for the bus dressed not in school colors and shirts with their teams logos, but in normal – albeit casual – going-out attire. The same clothes they wore to the bars.
In the South, and in particularly the SEC, you dress head-to-toe in the school colors, right down to the color of underwear. And you do NOT put anything with the other school’s colors anywhere near your body.
To get acclimated to this new environment, I clung to a friend who not only went to UCLA, he played on the team. I figured Chris would help me with the pre-game pageantry, let me know when the band matches through the crowd and into the stadium, perhaps check out the players’ walk, that sort of thing.
“No bro, sorry,” he replied. “I don’t know about any of those things.” He, by the way, was NOT wearing his school colors.
Instead, Chris instructed me to plop my styrofoam cooler, filled with beers and ice, at a place called “the backstop.” There, I followed his every move, which was to move about the crowd and talk with people on the bus and hundreds of other people there for the same reason. This was not a football game, it was an outdoor party for singles!
I loved it but there was no intensity to the game, no buildup, no fans from the other team walking by yelling their school’s chant in your direction, all the stuff you encounter at SEC games. None of us even had tickets. “Don’t worry bro,” Chris kept assuring me,” we’ll get ’em.”
Eventually, gametime approached and I asked Chris, “isn’t it about time we looked for tickets?”
“Not yet,” he replied. So we kept tailgating.
Eventually, perhaps an hour or so later, Chris said, “okay, let’s find some tickets.”
Amazingly – or at least amazingly to me – we got tickets. With ease. But instead of going to our seats, Chris headed to one of the end zone concourses where we joined a few hundred NEW people who were just hanging out and mingling. This game, I determined, is not about winning or losing, it’s about trying to hook up with other singles!
Eventually, Chris said “well let’s go inside now,” and we waked through the tunnel to the seats. The fourth quarter had just started, it was an exciting, close game, we saw the game-winning drive and had that great thrill that only college football can provide.
It sure was not the same as a game in the South but I enjoyed it and have been back more than a dozen times, both to the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum. I enjoy not having to deal with the intensity of the action, but rather to take in the much more laid-back attitude of the whole thing.
It makes the entire day a much more relaxing experience.
And it provided me a good introduction to life in L.A., as well.