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Perspective is lost even before USC-UCLA game begins

T.J. SIMERS

Two fans stabbed in incidents before the game. Parking lots that open early in the morning for a 7:30 p.m. contest do not help the cause.

December 04, 2010|T.J. Simers

The mistake-fest went too long into the night, UCLA certified as the crummier team as expected, but no time to listen to what nonsense Coach Rick Neuheisel had for the UCLA fans still in attendance behind the Bruins' bench.

I'm sure it was inspiring, and included a promise of better days ahead. In other words, last year's speech.

The joke, of course, is that both of these teams could drive anyone to drink.

But there was nothing funny about the lunacy taking place at the Rose Bowl Saturday, beginning with the administrators' decision to open the permit parking lots at 6. In the morning.

General admission parking was available at 9:30.

Why? For a game that means nothing — other than maybe a good excuse for fans of both teams to drink as if there is no tomorrow?

No question a USC-UCLA football game is great fun — until the knuckleheads grab center stage and start stabbing people. These days there's no accounting for the pent-up anger in the world, often released with the help of sports and a beer.

Three hours before the start of this year's cross-town rivalry and 10 hours after some of the parking lots opened, Pasadena police got the call to break up a parking lot disturbance.

A helicopter flew overhead, police cars arrived with lights flashing, an ambulance pulled in with siren on.

A large man wearing a UCLA No. 28 jersey was led off in handcuffs by police, and while there was no way of saying at the time whether he was connected to the stabbing incident, which was 100 yards away, it was a good bet he was going to miss the game.

The police later reported that when they arrived at Rose Bowl Parking Lot 1, they discovered 50 to 75 people involved in a brawl. They were not arguing who was the better coach, Lane Kiffin or Rick Neuheisel?

Most of them probably had no idea why they were punching the other guy.

Police called for backup, and the police had to be thrilled about being put in harm's way because a bunch of drunks still had three hours to kill before the game started. Two police officers would suffer minor injuries.

One of the Times' sports editors, Mike Hiserman, spoke to a commander in the field for the Pasadena police, Darryl Qualls.

Qualls said the police found two fans who had been stabbed in the fracas, one of them eight times in the back, another in the cheek. He said three suspects were in custody, reports coming later that one had been charged with attempted murder.

Who begins their day a football fan and ends it sitting booked in jail with bail set at $1 million?

One of the witnesses told The Times, "It was drunken guys looking to start a fight."

When former UCLA athletic director Peter Dalis heard of the pregame disturbance, he just shook his head. He stopped beer sales in the Rose Bowl during games more than two decades ago and took a fair amount of criticism for ruining everyone's good time.

"We were averaging 80 arrests a game," he said. "After we stopped the beer, it was about three a game."

Someone will probably point out that more than 70,000 people filled the Rose Bowl, only 50 to 75 people beating each other up. Lucky for many of them they weren't parking their car in Lot 1 as the knife fight broke out.

The obvious question: Why schedule a rivalry football game at 7:30 p.m. after a full day of drinking? The technical answer, TV insists on the starting time. Others will say, why not? They can hold their liquor.

But something funky is going on with sports fans. Whether it is the anger out there, the increasing acceptance that no one can watch a sports event without a beer in each hand or lost perspective, I wonder whether more and more people are going to start watching the game from the couch in their homes.

As many empty seats as there were in the Rose Bowl, there weren't that many people arrested and prevented from watching the game.

USC TOOK a 7-0 lead, but a few seconds later Johnathan Franklin exploded for a 59-yard touchdown run. I can just imagine what Kiffin was saying into his headset: "Dad …"

KUDOS TO Neuheisel, the gutty-little Bruins scoring with 23 seconds left in the game to avoid UCLA losing three straight years to USC, 28-7.

FORMER UCLA quarterback Cade McNown was the honorary captain for the game. A UCLA spokesman, asked if McNown was provided with a parking permit or placard, said he was given a permit. You have to check these kind of things around here.

THE GOLF cart kid at USC, who was certified a NFL agent, had predicted he would sign four to six players today. The folks at USC, while finding that doubtful, urged the National Football League Players Assn. to remove all doubt and decertify Teague Egan before the UCLA game. The NFLPA did so Friday.

USC student Egan, while eager to chat last week about his 1st Round enterprise, went silent after the NFLPA ruling. He emerged from hiding only to text, "1st Round is assessing everything and will be available for comment soon."

Surprisingly, no one yelled, "Hold the presses."

CUTTING THROUGH the schmaltz — it was the final home game for 17 UCLA seniors. But if folks chose to be honest, they would have been hard pressed to say, "thanks for the memories."

The UCLA seniors wrapped up their careers with a 21-29 record, failing to defeat USC, while making two bowl appearances — losing the Las Vegas Bowl and winning the EagleBank Bowl in Washington.

I'm sure most of the graduating Bruins will make very successful businessmen.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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