This one time in band camp …
This one time at a USC Football Game I almost got my ass kicked by a 250lb defensive lineman from San Jose State. Wait — what?
If you’ve known me for any time at all you know that I have never played football. What I have played was the Trombone in the USC Trojan Marching Band known as The Spirit of Troy and The Greatest Marching Band in the World.
Now I’d played the trombone since I was about 12 years old in various orchestras and marching bands throughout my life. Growing up my family lived in South Los Angeles across the street from the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Spirit of Troy had been a fixture since as long as I can remember. So in 1995 I started attending USC as a Freshman and had signed up to join The Band.
Yes there was a Band Camp. In fact as freshmen we got to show up to school a week earlier than everyone else so we could attend. I wasn’t much of a football fan prior to that point but there is literally no way you can join the Spirit of Troy and not absolutely love football and want to destroy UCLA after a week of marching in the sun for ten hours a day, memorizing music and learning the alternate words to the UCLA Fight Song that are captured in the video above. Yes, I still remember Every Single Word.
So after band camp and tons of practice I am pumped up as hell for my first game . The year was 1995 and it was against the San Jose State Spartans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 1995 USC was voted #1 in pre-season polls and Keyshawn Johnson was a shoe-in for the Heisman Trophy.
Now if you’re not a Trojan you may not realize how strong tradition is at USC and what happens before every home game. About 10,000-20,000 Alumni and Fans all show up hours before the game and have a giant tailgate party across the entire University. The Band then assembles, plays a few songs, and walks through the entire campus playing fight songs and getting everyone pumped up. The Alumni and Fans then follow us as we march to The Coliseum across the street, enter the stadium and jump start the pre-game show. This tradition is absolutely brilliant and even a decade plus later I still love following The Band to games.
So it is Saturday, September 9th, 1995. I’m dressed in my Spirit of Troy Marching Band Uniform, there are about 300 other band members present wearing our Trademarked Sunglasses and marching over to The Coliseum. The Fans and Alumni are following us and everyone is pumped up as hell.
Now here’s the funny thing about trying to get 300+ people (the band, song girls, yell leaders, cheerleaders, etc) into The Coliseum in a rapid fashion — we actually enter through a gigantic tunnel that leads on to the field. It turns out that this is the same tunnel that the TV crews, football players, equipment managers and coaches use to get on to the field.
So as The Band has begun walking through the tunnel we are told to stop. There is a logistics issue and it turns out that the San Jose State Spartans Football Team needs to get on to the field before us. Now I have no idea whose bright idea it was to have 60 football players walk through the middle of a 300 member band in the middle of this tiny-ass crowded tunnel but this was a Bad Fucking Idea. The USC Band loves the USC Football Team and we always have their back wherever we go. So as soon as the band sees San Jose State trying to walk between us to get on the field everyone immediately starts screaming and yelling. You do not walk through Any Band ever and you especially do not do it to one of the craziest bands on the planet!
Inside the tunnel it was instantly deafening. I couldn’t hear the person next to me. Everyone was yelling at San Jose State at the top of their lungs. Most of what was being said I cannot repeat here but you can just imagine that it was about how much they suck, their mothers suck, and what we may have done to their mothers last night. I of course joined in on this as I am a Die Hard Trojan and these guys were going down.
So I imagine if you’re a football player getting pumped up for a game the last thing you want to see is 300 band geeks yelling at you and talking about your momma. In hindsight this should have been obvious to me but I guess I got caught up. It was at this point that one of the defensive linemen just snapped.
He jumped up into my face (why the hell did he single me out?!?) and just started screaming back at the top of his lungs. I couldn’t hear him because we were like 10X louder but two of his teammates had to grab him suddenly because he was about half a second away from tackling me like he’d probably been used to doing hundreds of times before. I kept yelling at him as his teammates pulled him back. The rest of The Band saw what was going on and stood next to me ready to join in the fight as well. We managed to get even louder than we were before.
I’m under no illusions — I’m a big guy but that motherfucker was bigger, stronger, faster and would have fucked me up and probably every band member in my immediate vicinity. It still did not stop us, as The Spirit of Troy we were motherfucking fearless and I’m sure the fact that we had brass instruments in our hands helped. At this point some coaches popped out of nowhere and made sure the football players kept going even as we kept yelling and screaming at them brandishing our instruments like brass knuckles ready to throw down.
After the game the team’s coach came over and told our band director he had never seen anything like that and it completely demoralized his players. They lost that game 45 to 7. There was a slight adjustment from the NCAA and Pac-10 after that game that specified that no team was allowed to enter the tunnel if a band was present from that day forward.
Fight the Fuck On Trojans! Beat the Bruins!