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A Super Fan and a Super Streak

J.A. ADANDE

It is no surprise Giles Pellerin, 91, died while attending a USC game, his 797th in a row.

November 23, 1998|J.A. ADANDE

To those who had seen him in recent weeks, the news that Giles Pellerin had passed away Saturday was not shocking. To those who knew him at all it came as absolutely no surprise that the end came at a USC football game.

When Pellerin died after suffering cardiac arrest in the Rose Bowl parking lot during the USC-UCLA game Saturday afternoon, he was a little more than a month shy of his 92nd birthday.

He was also a week away from attending his 798th consecutive USC football game.

Pellerin wasn't in the best of health lately, but the streak went on. He hadn't let hospitalizations or even the threat of a hurricane stop him before. Saturday confirmed what many always thought: only death could keep Giles Pellerin from attending a USC football game.

"It was an obsession with him," said his brother Oliver, who has a streak of 598 consecutive USC games. "It was the way he lived, and that's the way he died."

It's remarkable to turn through the pages of the USC media guide and realize Giles Pellerin was at most of the games listed. The last time he missed one was the season-ender against St. Mary's on Dec. 12, 1925.

No two opponents matter more to USC than UCLA and Notre Dame, and Pellerin was there every time the Trojans played those schools.

He also saw USC play schools with different names and schools that don't even have football programs anymore, like Carnegie Tech and Santa Clara.

Pellerin's devotion to USC took him to nearly all of the fabled houses of college football, including Notre Dame Stadium, Michigan Stadium, Penn State's Beaver Stadium, Ohio Stadium, Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, Florida Field and Tennessee's Neyland Stadium.

He saw USC play in Yankee Stadium and Soldier Field.

In 1985 alone, he saw his team play in Honolulu and Tokyo.

As for the Coliseum, a historic stadium in its own right, the Trojans are celebrating their 75th year there, and Pellerin made every home game for 72 of them.

He was one of the 104,953 people on hand for the Notre Dame game on Dec. 6, 1947, the largest football crowd in Coliseum history.

Of course, the Coliseum's grandest distinction is it hosted two Olympic Games. Now think about this: Pellerin's streak began six years before the 1932 Olympics and ended 14 years after the 1984 Games.

It's only fitting that his odyssey began and ended in what might be the most cherished football place of all, the Rose Bowl.

It all began with a 14-3 victory by USC in the 1923 Rose Bowl.

"He went to see the first time they played Penn State at the Rose Bowl, and he got hooked on it," Oliver Pellerin said.

Giles Pellerin didn't really consider college while growing up, but watching the Trojans play made him want to go to USC. His streak began his sophomore year. While there, he kept his job as a technician for AT&T.

He remained in the telephone industry after graduating, put his engineering degree to use and moved up the ranks. The key, he told his brother, was to have a job that would allow him to go to games on weekends.

Pellerin traveled more than 660,000 miles and spent more than $85,000 on travel and tickets over the course of the streak.

He has seen his Trojans win eight national championships, play in 28 Rose Bowls and watched the team field 120 All-Americans and four Heisman Trophy winners.

He was hospitalized after an emergency appendectomy in 1949 and had to fool the nurses to get to the USC-Oregon game. "He called me on Friday [before the game] and said, 'Be here Saturday at noon,' " Oliver Pellerin said. Giles told the nurses he was going for a walk, watched the Trojans win, 40-13, then returned, not bothering to explain why his face was sunburned.

He ruptured an aorta in his stomach after the 1993 game at Penn State and was hospitalized for 12 days. Fortunately for him it coincided with a Trojan open-date week, and he returned to Los Angeles in time for the next game against Washington State.

This September he flew into Tallahassee, Fla., in the projected path of Hurricane Georges, for USC's first visit to Florida State. He was rewarded when the hurricane veered away and left blue skies on game day.

The school let Pellerin on the team charter to Washington State last month, or he would have missed the game. And Oliver took two days each way to drive his brother to Oregon.

Pellerin was hoping that he could attend this season's games plus a bowl game, which would make the season-opener at Hawaii next year his 800th consecutive game.

Hawaii is where he went on his honeymoon--which, of course, was delayed seven months to coincide with a USC game in Honolulu.

Even though Pellerin's health was sliding as this season went on, he still enjoyed the games.

"He didn't show a lot of emotion, but he knew what was going on," Oliver said.

And he still cursed the referees.

With about eight minutes left in the second quarter Saturday, Giles told his brother he wasn't feeling well. They went out to the parking lot. A police officer called paramedics, but by the time they arrived it was too late to save Giles.

This Saturday, for the first time, Notre Dame will play USC . . . and Giles Pellerin won't be in attendance.

"He was a loyal Trojan fan," Oliver said.

Right up to the very end.

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