USC road trip report

Well I’m back from my trip.  Of course the result of the game was disappointing, but I enjoyed the trip overall.  Here’s a report.

I left my house in Roseville just before 7:00 AM on Saturdy with the plan to make it to a tailgating spot in the parking lot by 1:00 PM.  I made great time to the grapevine, even considering that I’m currently on a “speeding fast enough to get another ticket” ban.  I noticed a number of cars that were proudly displaying Cal insignias and were clearly headed for the game.

I stopped just before the grapevine for lunch.  The place I stopped at had a fast-food food-court and I was suprised when I entered that there was a lady handing out fliers for a massage parlor at the other side of the food court.  If I hadn’t have been on a strict timeline and pretty broke these days I would have considered it.  It’s an excellent idea to have the opportunity to get a massage on long car trips.

While coming down into LA, there was a large brushfire on the side of the road.  It’s pretty easy to see why they have such horrible fires down there.  It had clearly just started but was blazing hot and the fire-fighters were having a tough time getting control of it.  Of course, despite the fact that the fire was not directly affecting the roadway, I had to sit through 20 minutes of stop and go traffic so all the gawkers could slow down and watch.

I also hit bad traffic in LA.  Of course that is to be expected but now that I was running a little late it grated on my nerves particularly considering I was not getting close enough to game time that I expected the game traffic to be more of an issue.  I got to the streets surround the stadium about 1:30 PM, so only a little late.  While I had beat the game-time arrivals the tailgating crowd had obviously been there for a long time.

There are clearly a lot of opportunistic parking lot owners at the Coliseum.  Most privately owned lots wanted $60 to park and the highest I saw was $80.  I think they get away with it in part, because the information for the Coliseum online is so bad and it doesn’t tell you where to park, what the parking rates are and what the alternatives are.  It just says “we have 6000 parking spots.  Check elsewhere for other places to park.”  Thanks guys, that’s a lot of help.  No price, no how quickly it fills up, no how to get to the parking lots, no nothing of value.

I found a lot that was still privately owned but only wanted $25.  I thought I could probably get into the main lot for cheaper but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get a spot and I didn’t know how expensive it would be, although I expected between $10 and $20.  I figured for $25 it was worth being able to park right now.

But at least there was a parking lot because it meant there was lots of tailgating.  It’s really a shame that there aren’t more tailgating opportunities in Berkeley.  I think Cal would have a better following if there was.  You could see how much of an all day, oh yeah there’s a game too, type of event at USC and I think Cal would benefit from the same environment.

I tailgated with the guys from  They’re the USC site for Rivals and the publisher of, the Cal site for Rivals, is good friends with them. put on a great tailgate.  It really challenged me to think bigger for the future of  It was also good to finally meet in person the publisher of who I’ve always communicated with via e-mail and phone up until now.

After tailgating I headed for the stadium at 4 PM.  I found my way to the press box via the elevator outside the stadium right by the press entrance (who would have thought?).

The press box at USC has two levels.  The bottom level is the boxes where the TV and radio are.  The top level is the standard press box.  It had three rows and each row got successively worse in it’s view.  I was in the middle row on the very end, which put me on about the 35 yard line.  That’s about the same place I would have been at Cal but since it’s a single row and lower to the field, Cal’s press box has much better seats.

Also of note from the 2nd row was my inability to see either the “big-screen” or the scoreboard.  I spent most of the game unaware of the time left in the quarter or the time on the play clock.  On the upside, I had a full wireless internet connection so I could overcome a lot of those visibility issues with technology.

Also on the plus side, I had a very enjoyable time sitting next to Chris Avery from  They’re the Scout site for the Bears just like I’m with the Rivals site for the Bears.  We talked a great deal about the game and the team throughout the game.

Regarding the pre-game, Cal brought their full band to USC and played their usual set of songs before the USC band played their song.  I could remember if other schools when they played at Cal were so bold as to play their usual fight songs on Cal’s turf.  In any case, the USC fans were not happy when they saw the script Cal on their turf.  They cheered loudly when one of the tuba players bit it while running.

The USC band came out and played their fight song.  MAN is it LOOOONG.  During the game it’s annoying because they play it every 2nd play but before the game when the play the whole thing it must go on for 15 minutes.

The other interesting thing I noticed is that the USC band had no “entrance”.  Cal’s pre-game songs have so much impact in Berkeley because of how they rush onto the field.  USC lacked a similar impact.  They just kind of marched on to the field long before the game.

I won’t comment on the game here except for crowd noise.  The Coliseum has the potential to be VERY loud.  It’s stands are much steeper than Cal’s so the noise echos back and forth much better than at the gently sloped Memorial Stadium.  That said, the Cal defense kept the USC crowd pretty quiet for most of the game.  Crowd noise was not a factor until late in the 4th quarter when Cal got desperate.

Another note about the Coliseum, it’s a dump.  Yeah Memorial was poorly designed for concessions and the such but the Coliseum was in much worse condition with cracked concrete and flaking paint just about everywhere.  I’m surprised I never hear about that when watching USC games.  I wonder if they’re thinking about building a new stadium.

The last thing of interest about the Coliseum is that field level is below ground level.  The lower of the two concourse entrances is at ground level and the field goes down a good 30 feet below that.  That made it hard for me to find my way to the field as when I got down to ground level I couldn’t find the entrance to the tunnel.  It turned out that was because it was below ground level (an actual tunnel).

Once on the field for the post-game interviews, I just didn’t have it in my heart to interview a number of the guys.  You could tell they were heart broken.  They knew they lost a game that was very winnable.  For a number of guys, this was their last chance at the Rose Bowl.  It was very tough on them.

Of particular note was DeSean Jackson.  He managed to get to the locker room mostly unscathed but a group of reporters were waiting for him when he left.  He tried to avoid them but they were not going to be denied.  I wasn’t willing to join in the ordeal.

That’s one of the things I don’t like about being a reporter.  I’m not going to put the interests of my articles above my desire to be a good human being.  If there are guys who are hurting, I’m not going to shove a microphone in their face.  Maybe it won’t make me good at this job but oh well.  These kids put their hearts and souls into this game for us.  They deserve to be treated with respect.

Along those lines I interviewed Sandy Barbour.  One could have easily walked up to her and said “does this shake your confidence in Tedford?” or something like that.  I just didn’t find that appropriate.  Instead I asked her if she had any words of encouragement for Tedford and the rest of the team.

Speaking of which, expect an article about Barbour to be posted on later this week.

It took about an hour after the game for me to get my few interviews and leave.  I went to my hotel which was by LAX.  I went that direction because it was fairly inexpensive and not in a neighborhood I worried about my car being there in the morning.  I was also able to get a room that was oriented towards business men so it had free internet and the such.

In retrospect that was a mistake.  Although it wasn’t too far of a drive, it was far enough that it would have been wiser to get a room farther from the stadium but in the direction of northern California.

By the time I had finished writing my article it was 1 AM.  I had a really hard time writing the article.  I didn’t want to just bash the team because there was a lot they did well.  On the other hand, this was a very winnable game and there was plenty of negative things to be said about the play calling and the play of Longshore late in the game.  I chose to write an article about not being able to play a complete game and the missed opportunities.

I was exhausted when I finally got to sleep and I didn’t set an alarm so I didn’t wake up until 11:30 AM.  Checkout was at noon so I rushed to take a shower and got on the road, after checking out at 11:59 AM, by 12:30.  I didn’t stop other than to gas up (speaking of which, I’m getting much better mileage on my Jetta these days: 31.4 mpg on this trip) and made it home a few minutes before 7:00 PM Sunday evening.

Overall I drove 853 miles on a 36 hour trip almost to the minute.  It was a very enjoyable trip despite the loss.  The comradie amongst the Cal reporters as well as the quality of the game made it enjoyable even if my next road trip will only be to the Holiday bowl.  Next time I’ll take more pictures.

One Response to “USC road trip report”

  1. Josh Says:

    I went down to the game with about 15 fellow old-blues. Some of us came from as far as Kabul and Barcelona to make it. We are all serious enough fans that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a game that could have meant so much to Cal as an institution as to us as fans.

    We were told that we had to get to the Coliseum when the gates opened at 6am to secure a spot, so 4 of us set off from the valley in our rented RV at 4:30 in the morning. We arrived around 5:30, got in when the gates open, and found the spot where we would spend the next 12 hours.

    It was my first trip to the Coliseum, and it was really my first time at a “big time” college football stadium. I have to say I was very impressed. There were plenty of people there with me at 6am starting to tailgate a full 11 hours before game time. Serious devotion. Sure, it’s easy to be devoted to one of the best programs in the world. But still, there were thousands of people there before the sun even came up.

    I have to say one thing: I found the USC fans I met in the parking lot to be incredibly gracious and nice. They welcomed the budding rivarly and were very knowledge about the college game. It was a great, if long, day in the parking lot.

    I wish I could say the same about the game itself. Sure, Cal played well in the first half, but the horrible play by the offense in the second half coupled with gutless play calling left me with the empty, sad realization that once again it would be another year without smelling roses. It was a long trip back to the valley. We consolled ourself by singing that song from Vacation called “Holiday Road”, instead we changed the chorus to ” Holiday Bowl” and made up our own verses with highlights from the game. I guess you had to be there.

    I’m glad I went, and we had a wonderful time, but I have to admit, it’s kind of depressing to think that it could be a very, very long time until we have a chance like that to make the Rose Bowl. Maybe a thorough thrashing of the ‘furd will make me feel better, but right now, I feel like I’m looking at a lifetime of playing second fiddle to the Trojans, always getting close, but not close enough. Just close enough to break your heart.