I remember asking my dad what it meant, and he explained it in terms that a very young kid might understand. At that point, I might not ever have seen or hear of football yet. I know I attended my first game, a Marshall-Lincoln tilt at Marshall in the fall of 1960, so perhaps my questioning of the pennant prompted him to take me. I don't remember much of that game except for the stands being jam packed for an afternoon game, and a guy in a Tiger suit jumping up and down with human motions. I had never seen a Tiger before, but was pretty sure it was a man, for I didn't think Tigers stood up like people!
The next game I saw was the Marshall-Garfield playoff game in 1961, as Dad and I ran back and froth from our parking spot outside of East L.A. College's stadium where you could see the game from "cheapskate hill" without having to pay. It was pouring rain—coming down as hard as I could recall before, and not many times since.
Marshall won in a huge upset, we got soaked, and it was really fun and very memorable.
My next game was just a snippet—I got to watch most of the fourth quarter of the USC-Navy game at the Coliseum in 1962. Roger Staubach led Navy, which was very good, against USC. Navy was down on the one-foot line or something like it and fumbled away a chance to not only win the game, but also probably win the national championship. The Trojans got both victories. It was only the second time I had ever seen the Coliseum in use, the first being after a Ringling Brothers Circus at the brand new Sports Arena, we went out and hustled over to the torch and watched Jim Gilliam ground into a double play to record the final outs in the history of baseball at the Grand Old Lady.
It was amazing to me how big the place was, especially after having seen only high school games.
My next game, however, proved to be a catalyst for my life goals and dreams.
I got a ticket to go to the Rose Bowl game on January 1, 1963. #1 USC (already my team) against #2 Wisconsin. Honestly I don't remember much about the game: I went with my dad and both of his parents (my grandparents) We sat down low, and it was hard to see, because I was a little kid and everyone had to stand up to see over the top of the Wisconsin bench. The crowd energy was tremendous. It was getting dark, and the game was getting late, I knew SC was ahead, but I have the impression Wisconsin ran out of time. Everyone cheered around me, and me and my grandpa Lew went on the field. The fans pulled down the goalpost, and I got a six-inch size piece of cardinal and gold wood that fell at my feet. As Prince Hal Bedsole ran by for the locker room, I patted him on the butt.
In short, my first Rose Bowl experience was pretty darn bitchen'!
So much so, that each year for the next I-don't-know-how-many, my Dad would get me two tickets (sometimes four if the game was a bad one) for the game.
In '63 I know followed the game feverishly, and knew everything about the West Coast teams. Washington got in this time (hey, I thought we got to go EVERY year—it just seems that way) and played Illinois. Can't root for a team that beat SC, and since I was born in Chicago, I wore a straw hat, rooted for Butkus and sang, "We're loyal to you Illinois"
"We" won that 1964 RB.
In 1964 of course, we got the Rose Bowl ripped away from us by a vote of conference presidents, who tabbed Oregon State. I, along with many others was incensed. I vowed to pour out my hatred usually reserved for UCLA, ND the Giants Yankees and Celtics on the Beavs. I hope to this very day they never again play in the Granddaddy of them All. So far, so good. I rooted like hell for Michigan, and they didn't let me down in the 65 game.
In 66, I went, even though UCLA played. I rooted against them. They won anyway.
The 67 game we had a ton of tickets, and I sat with my mom. SC scored late and in tradition McKay fashion, went for two, didn't get it and lost. Good show of character. SC lost four of it's last five this year. Bob Greise was Purdue's QB. They didn't come back here for a loooooong time.
In 68 of course, we were all in love with OJ. Indiana made its first and only appearance. They were all fired up. SC won the game easily and national championship.
The following year, we led going into the 4th, and I thought we might have been the better team, but Rex Kern put on a closing show worthy of an MVP. I began to hate Ohio State. A shot at a national title only comes along every so often, and you need to seal the deal. It got away.
The 1970 game I really and truly only remember the single play that matters. Maybe it's because I've seen it so many times on tape since. Bobby Chandler catches and runs it in, and that was that. SC-10, Michigan-3. The Wolverines and the Big Ten had not yet learned to pass. The Trojans ended the season, as the Times headline suggested "undefeated and underappreciated".
Being a huge Ohio State detractor made it easy to root for underdog Stanford and Plunkett, who passed another Pac-10 team to glory over the Bucks in 71.
In 72, in my senior year of high school, I went with my little brother Jerry, his friend and neighborhood urchin David Bird and girlfriend Alistair Mitchell. We sat pretty close to the Michigan bench and fans. I didn't see the safety that gave Michigan the lead, but we were actually ON THE FIELD on the Michigan sideline as David Garcia kicked through the game winner with no time left for the Indians.
SC fielded the greatest team in college football history the following year, and won, as we knew they would, 42-17 over Ohio State, making it doubly fun. The fact that the game was a monumental bore in the fist half (a 7-7 tie) made no difference. Fight On! Sam Bam over the top, AD, Mike Rae, I mean what a team!!!!
Corny Green returned the favor the following year, tied at 14 at the break; we lost to the Bucks 42-21. They were better than us.
The 75 game was one for the ages. Ohio State again, the rubber match, and this one was no blowout. We were coming off of 55-24 with the Domers, Woody had been talking trash about us when the Irish were up 24-6, but he was pretty quiet in the second half.
This time, Haden found JK after his patented spin move for a TD, and then bought time for Diggs to get open. Cami Gillies and I were sitting about 18 rows up from the catch. There's a famous picture that shows the fans celebrating in the SC section with a bunch of very grumpy OSU fans in the front rows. Even the cops are cheering. If there were a larger wider sot of that, you would see Cam and me in it for sure. We went crazy. Freakin' Tom Skladany, the OSU kicker was so good that he tried a 63 yarder at the gun that wasn't that far off. National Champs again!
We lost out to UCLA for the 75 Rose Bo0wl berth. I have rooted for UCLA on a very few occasions, in various sporting endeavors. I do this, generally, only when it helps USC to have the Bruins win a game. Otherwise, fugettaboutit. Except one time. The 1975 RB. Such was my loathing of Woody Hayes and the Ohio State University.
In 77 Michigan was again something like the top offensive team in the world. They scored 6 on SC. Vince Evans was the MVP. He and I and Rod Martin had all gone to school together, and attended some gut classes (as athletes do—I was a varsity water polo player at City after all) together. I was one of the radio play by play guys for the campus station and LACC won the state championship that year after a string of wonderfully improbable upsets over College of the Canyons, with now coach Chuck Lyon as QB there, Fullerton JC played at the Big A, and finally Fresno City in the fog in the Potato Bowl in Bakersfield. Well, that one ended in a 10-10 tie, but we won the co-championship. Whatever.
It was cool to see Vince and Rod do so well at SC later on, while I called their games on the campus station KSCR this time! We finished #2 to Pitt. We would have beaten Pitt by three touchdowns had we been allowed to play them in the "championship game".
I went to the 78 game and rooted for Washington to beat Michigan. My girlfriend Terry Buss and I slept out along the parade route, then walked to and saw the game and got our pictures in the paper the next morning. A fake punt was a key play. Warren Moon was really good.
The 79 game was another national title won for the Trojans. It would have gone overtime if the game had been played under today's rules. Charles White still hasn't crossed the goal line with one particular ball.
The 80 game as a doozy, and a thrilling finish as Charles White and the offensive line took over the 4th quarter and we beat the Bucks 17-16. This team might have been the best ever at SC, but a tie when they became conservative at home with Stanford cost ‘em the whole thing
The 81 game was the one that ended my string of 19 straight Rose Bowls attended. I barely remember Michigan beating Washington.
I was living in Porterville by now and getting to the game became troublesome, not only financially, but trying to get off of work. The following year, the plan was to sleep out again at the parade and see the game. It rained all night; we got soaked, came home and gave up. It rained all morning; we decided not to go to the game. I missed the Bruins games in 84 and 85 on general principal.
By now, being in the media afforded me the opportunity to get tickets through various channels, and for this one, it was my first to watch the game in the press box. Keith Byars of Ohio State was very good, especially on an early play in the game. But he got quiet, the SC defense "Rose" up, I think it was jack Del Rio who made the key final play. I felt important somehow to have moved up enough in my career to warrant a press pass to the game.
Can it really be 22 years since SC and Ohio State met in the RB? We should have seen them this year, and we will see them in 2008 in the regular season for a home and home.
I missed the Bruins game in 86. In 87 it was the first ever trip for Arizona State and I rooted for them to win and they did, upsetting Michigan. The silly Big-10 people keep coming out and spending their money and thinking they might win. It's beautiful here in January. Now go home.
I thought we were the better team in 88 when Michigan State upset SC 20-17. We fumbled and tossed a pick late in the game, or might have tied it. Dang.
The next year, we turned it over 5 times, and lost. Four years earlier, I was happy to be in the Press Box, now I called the game as the very first sideline announcer ever on the Trojan Radio Network.
If that wasn't crazy enough, the following year I got to cal my first ever RB. Ricky Ervins ran it in for the go-ahead, "sacked by Seau and the Trojans are gonna win the Rose Bowl" was the final call for a Bo coached team. He went nuts on a late personal foul call and got his team another 15. Way to keep cool in the big game, baby!
I thought I called a darn good game, never let the scope of the thing get to me, and it was just another game. Except I was calling the freakin' Rose Bowl on the Trojan Radio Network. My friend and color man Fred Gallagher went to the locker room for interviews before the game was decided, so Rodney Peete finished up as analyst for the late fourth quarter. That was pretty cool. It was a really good team, that with a few breaks could have won it all. Larry Smith's greatest moment as Trojan coach.
What with doing games for SC, I was not naturally available or interested in seeing the games for the next few years.
After unfortunate (and personally devastating) circumstances wrested me from the job as "Voice O.T.T", I did not attend another RB until Cami and Mark Smith got me to sit with them at the 50 for the Northwestern tilt. It was really special to see all these Northwestern fans living a dream that must be akin to what it might be like when the Cubs make the World Series again. They were crying as their team and band took the field. They played well, SC pulled of a mild upset in a wild offensive game.
I was in the Press box for the 97 Ohio State win over ASU. I had gone to Cincinnati and missed the next few. I always wanted to see Washington State get back there, and was thrilled for long time announcer and friend Bobby Robertson, the Voice of the Cougars, who got to call his first Rose Bowl after 40 plus years behind the mike. Good things come to those who wait. They lost, but the refs could have given Wazzu one more second when they tried to spike it and one more shot at the miracle finish to cap the miracle season. No sense of timing or history for the stripe shirts on this day.
I missed the next few.
On a lark, at a moment's notice I decided to go and try to score a ticket at game time for the Miami-Nebraska farce. I bought a ticket at 3 pm in the parking lot for 20 bucks. I sold the single ticket for 30 bucks five minutes later. I did this so many times before kickoff that I not only made $100 for refreshments and a T-shirt and program, but got in for nothing and sat in the Miami rooting section. Very fun.
The 2004 game was highlighted by me saying on the pre-game show out front of the RB on KMPC 1540 The Ticket that Michigan would not be able to keep up with SC. Michigan fans booed and actually followed me to the press entrance and challenged me to a fight. I told them to meet me right there after the game and they could each have a free swing if Michigan won. If they would honor me with the same opportunity. Strangely, no one was waiting for me after the game ended. I loved the Leinart from Williams catch. My son KC was in the paper the next morning cheering that play. National champs. LSU? They have to be the happiest people on earth they didn't play SC that day or any other and could call themselves some sort of national champ as well. What a joke.
We won it all again in 05 in Miami, while Texas tore Michigan's heart out at the end, then did the same to us last year. Ugh. Ten plays that told the tale. If ANY^ ONE of them had gone SC's way, the Trojans win. It was possibly the only sporting event I have ever been to where there was not one single ticket left for sale outside for a long time before game time.
Monday marks my third Rose Bowl as a professional play by play announcer, all of the featuring USC and Michigan, who, by all accounts, are both so young and powerful, cold well meet again next year with so much more on the line than is at stake in this one.
I am thrilled again to be a part of the history and spectacle of this great event, and will certainly do my very best to keep you all informed and entertained.
From Jenny, Leo, Holly, Stephanie, K.C., Ronnie and the cats, stay safe this New Year's Eve, get a driver if you're gonna drink, be healthy and I will talk to you Monday as we start 2007 with a great day for all Trojans! Fight On, and from all of us, Happy New Year.