This will probably be the ranking people disagree with most, but I’m sticking with it. You might say, "A trip to see USC? In the Coliseum? That’s big time football right there! Playing the best of the best, in their house, that’s what it’s all about. How can you rank these other schools above that?" Well, imagine, if you will, a thoroughly mediocre USC team, the sort of teams Paul Hackett was fielding before Pete Carroll took over. Imagine the sort of lackluster fan support that typifies a dynastic team fallen on hard times. Suddenly, the USC road trip is a lot less appealing. By taking the relative strength of the teams out of the equation (as I said I would in my first post), a trip to a rather run-down section of Los Angeles is suddenly not so appealing.
I’ve made the drive down to southern California dozens of times, so it’s hard for me to back up and imagine myself sightseeing my way down Interstate 5 for the first time. But, even if it is your first trip down south, there’s still not much to see, and by ‘not much’, I mean I can’t think of a single interesting thing to write about. Actually, if you’ve got a few extra hours to make the trek, I’d suggest taking US 101 - the ’scenic’ route. You get some pretty coastline along the way, and you can check out Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo and grab a bite to eat. It sure beats picking between fast food establishments in Buttonwillow.
Actually, if you’re REALLY interested in the scenic route, you can take highway 1 up the California coast by Big Sur. No, it won’t be fast, and it’s probably not a good idea for those who get easily car-sick, but it’s a drive definitely worth doing. In fact (and I did this one Sunday coming back from LA), you can combine this drive with a tour of Hearst Castle and really make it a memorable trip.
Of course, there’s always the option of flying down to Los Angeles. However, I’d only recommend this option if you’re either on a tight schedule or are traveling by yourself and meeting up with friends. Yes, it’s a short flight, but once you factor in all the TSA security time, it’s not really much faster than driving, and unless you’ve got no one to split gas money with, it’s not any cheaper either. Finally, once you’re in LA, you’ve still got to rent a car (what, you were going to public transit your way around Los Angeles? I’d like to see you try!).
However you get to LA, once there, you’re liable to run into one of the worst road trip buzzkills out there : traffic. Wherever you’re coming from, you’ve got to navigate a myriad of LA freeways to find USC, and whatever time of day you’re traveling, you stand a good chance of hitting some bumper-to-bumper action. Man, does that kill road trip momentum!
I’ve already discussed how I hate Los Angeles in a previous post, so there’s no need to rehash old arguments; it should suffice to say that I hardly consider this a ‘destination’ vacation. Still, there are nice parts of Los Angeles, scenic parts, interesting parts, ones definitely worth visiting. USC is not located in one of those. This part of town is — what’s a nice way up putting it? — run down. Oh, sure, the campus is nice, but if you step outside that gated community, you’ll find bars on all the (non-broken) windows. Wanna visit a nice part of Los Angeles? You’re gonna have to fight through more traffic!
Still, I always choose to stay in one of the hotels near campus, for the simple reason that I much prefer walking to the game. If normal traffic is bad, pre- and post-game traffic is horrendous. One thing to keep in mind: however you get to the game, get your drink on before entering the stadium; even though the Coliseum is off campus, alcohol sales are no longer made during college football games. From what I’ve heard, this decision was made in part because of the behavior of Cal fans during the 2004 USC game; I’d like to think that my friends and I played a small part in that decision. I won’t say more, except to say that if someone hands you a Jell-O shot at nine o’clock in the morning, just say no.
Finally, the stadium. Look, I actually think the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is a pretty neat building; it’s got classical style written all over it, and you just can’t go wrong with Olympic torches as decoration. But the stadium was designed for opening and closing Olympic ceremonies, so it’s footprint is just too big for football. Normally that’s not a problem, but when they give the visiting fans the sort of crap-tacular seats on the outer rim of where you might possibly be able to see something that could resemble a football game that they gave us last year, that’ll be a couple demerits. In all honesty, those seats probably dropped USC a spot or two in these rankings.
Al Davis hated the LA Memorial Coliseum so much he moved the Radiers to the Oakland Coliseum.
Aaaaaaanyway, let’s get to the rundown.
Reasons to head down south:
- When USC’s team is near the top of the polls, this is quite the college football experience.
- USC Song Girls. One of college football’s most hallowed traditions.
- If you’re in the LA area, grab dinner at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Yes, they DO go together, and it’s fabulous. You can thank me later.
- Make it a combo trip: while you’re down there, you can visit a movie studio or a theme park. Heck, Magic Mountain is right off of Interstate 5!
- The Coliseum really is a very cool building.
- Win or lose, there’s lots of liquor stores nearby.
The USC Song Girls : Beano Cook’s favorite part of college football.
Reasons to park yourself in front of the tube:
- When USC’s team is outside the national rankings, LA’s fair-weather fans will desert the stadium in droves, if for no other reason that to beat the traffic.
- You can actually see what’s going on if you’re watching on TV, unlike in the awful visitor’s seats.
- You can mute the TV when the USC band plays one of the only two songs it knows for the 80 billionth time.
- I haven’t had too many bad experiences with opposing football fans, but more than half of those have been involving ‘SC fans. And to think, I almost attended USC instead of Cal.
- Little danger of getting shot or mugged while sitting in front of your TV.
For me, the LA road trip is so short it’s almost mandatory. In fact, my trip to the Rose Bowl this year will be my eight consecutive visit to LA. No, USC isn’t the most fabulous of destinations from a road trip standpoint, but it’s so close by it’s almost always worth doing. And if you do get to see USC lose at home, well, the chants and the gloating are worth the price of admission right there.