Thursday, February 20, 2014
What happened to tradition?
By Greg Katz
LOS ANGELES -- A great oracle once said the difference between a young person and an old person is that a day in the life of a young person seems like a week and a week in the life of an old person seems like a day.
That great oracle obviously missed bridging the generational gap between young and old when it comes to college football, a sport that thrives on tradition and the unification of young and old. When it comes to college football, especially USC Trojans football, it seems as though yesteryear was just yesterday.
Not all changes will be bad for USC fans.
There is, however, a disturbing trend as it relates to USC football tradition. In many cases, Trojans gridiron traditions are being disturbed not necessarily by self-inflicted wounds, but from external forces that threaten the very fabric of this time-tested and honored fall experience.
Changes in the college football experience and environment are starting to eat away at what makes the whole game-day experience. Because the Trojans are part of the Pac-12, they are being forced to go along with edicts that would have been rejected in the past by USC athletic administrations.
Pac-12 athletics directors are not pleased regarding the various kickoff times during the football season. Wanting more money, the university athletic directors and their presidents opted for the loot in exchange for game times, which vary from noontime to 7:30 p.m. Playing night games at Colorado at 7:30 in November certainly doesn’t motivate fans from Los Angeles to fly to Boulder. The same could be said of hot scorchers in Tempe or Tucson in September.
And whatever happened to that once traditional 1:30 p.m. kickoff?
One can only yearn for the “good old days.” The 1:30 kickoff was perfect for mid-morning tailgating and after the final gun, a celebratory postgame dinner. What was not to like?
And there is the issue of uniforms.
What is college football if traditional teams like USC and Notre Dame don’t look like USC and Notre Dame? Although even the Irish have occasionally succumbed to uniform and helmet alterations. What’s with that?
For teams like the university of Oregon, changes of uniforms are a weekly occurrence -- if not a way to bring in more money. Yeah, I get it, the recruited kids of today just love those wild and crazy Ducks uniforms. Thank goodness there was almost a major insurrection by the mass of Trojans fans when Lane Kiffin wanted to change the Trojans uniforms for recruiting purposes or who knows what would have come out of the Coliseum tunnel?
And whatever happened to going to college to play for good old USC or anybody else?
Nowadays, it seems like players are more focused on getting to the NFL than winning a conference or national title. It is asking too much for celebrated college All-American to look forward to enjoying college as opposed to concentrating on their NFL draft projections?
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with future goals of making millions playing the game you love. However, when recruits coming out of high school and keep remarking it’s all about getting to “the next level,” the pressures for a head coach at a major power like USC to win a national championship and try to appease a player’s personal agenda become almost overwhelming.
Then is the lost tradition of listening to a college football game on radio.
Sure, television has been the great boon for college football, but, boy, those games on radio could really stir the imagination. For USC fans, it didn’t get any better than listening to the golden throat and distinct style of Tom Kelly. Love him or hate him, he was one of a kind -- a true original. His clichés, metaphors, and similes were as famous to Trojans fans as the Hollywood Bowl.
And while Kelley was the voice of the Trojans, there was nothing like Mr. “Whoa, Nellie” broadcasting a USC game nationally from the Coliseum.
It seems like just yesterday that Mr. College Football, Keith Jackson, was a symbol of all that was good in the sport. You knew it was a Saturday afternoon in Norman, Lincoln, South Bend, Athens, Columbus, College Station, Los Angeles, or Pasadena when you heard that Georgia drawl and saw that Marine Corps scowl.
And then there were the traditional fan and student experiences at a Coliseum game.
Remember the old routine halftime card stunts?
If you’re over 50 years old you remember those beloved card stunts. Few fans left their Coliseum seats during halftime or did so to get a better vantage point, as the famed “Southern California” spell-out was performed. USC students and even some fans looked forward to being part of the “show.”
Today, students are lucky if they are even seated near the Trojans bench. Heck, even the famed Trojans Marching Band now performs from that ugly portable metal bleacher in the peristyle end of the Coliseum. It’s as though the Spirit of Troy has been excommunicated for bad behavior. Geez.
Yeah, this all appears to be a diatribe from an old dog that wants to live in the past, but isn’t that tradition is all about -- the past with a few good wrinkles added like the new College Football Playoff?
Well, there is hope here in Los Angeles when it comes to Trojans tradition -- past and present.
There is a new rail transportation system tradition that once again drops USC fans near the Coliseum.
Pete Carroll is winning Super Bowls in Seattle but not before he restored the Trojans uniforms to the 1960s look and you saw those results.
And the traditional Coliseum temperature clock was restored to full function without some crazy digital replacement. And, yes, “The Torch” still burns in the fourth quarter.
Now, if Trojans athletic director Pat Haden would only renovate the Coliseum’s dilapidated stadium seats. Now that would be one old tradition being recycled into a perfectly acceptable new tradition, which any new and old cardinal and gold traditionalist could come to agreement.