You can be a Los Angelino, a football fan and a Trojan and not know Ricky Rosas. I had no idea who he was until I read a column in the L.A. Times by Bill Plaschke (taking a break from ESPN’s insufferable “Around the Horn”) who detailed the feel-good story of the East L.A. teen whose hard-luck life has been quite literally saved by his involvement with Pete Carroll and the SC ballers.
It seems the Trojan Football Family opened its arms wide to the four-foot eight-inch, 91-pound dynamo whose infectious determination serves as a daily inspiration to players who eat more than his weight in a single training table meal.
When the news broke that USC was, as either a mere negotiating ploy or legitimate proposal, in discussions with the Rose Bowl about possible Saturday afternoon tenancy next year when the school’s current contract with the intransigent L.A. Coliseum Commission expires, much was made of the “tradition” that would be lost in such a 16-mile move to Pasadena.
As far as I could determine, this “tradition” includes essential elements like walking through legions of passed out 50-something alums who’d been tailgating since 6 a.m. in the irony-laden flowerbeds of the Gerontology building, kicking the flagpoles outside of Mudd Hall of Philosophy (yes, fans, that’s the building) and lighting the Coliseum’s Olympic torch at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
But what of the real traditions?
Traditions like Ricky’s inclusion in the Trojan family. Searching out the illegal Tommy Dog vendors who sell their disease-laced, mayonnaise-and-onion-stuffed dogs of utter delight on campus much to the dismay of campus police. Trying on countless knockoff Trojan T-shirts sold by locals with every kind of offensive slogan imaginable – MAKE LOVE WITH A TROJAN, UCLA CAN (ahem); MY (ahem), U$C: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. Flashing Snoop Dogg your makeshift gang sign with the hopes that he might put you in his next video, provide you some of his “product,” or at the very least not shoot you. Walking through Exposition Park and realizing with horror that there are MUSEUMS taking up space that could be used for a sea of portable hog-fat grillers.
So many of these stalwart SC football elements are unique to South Central, this forgotten part of town that gets a rare chance to shine on six fall Saturdays every year. Six chances to show 90,000 aloof students and rich saps, plus a national TV audience that there is more between downtown and LAX than the rubble of Rodney King. I’m not saying it’s a place I always care to mosey on midnight promenades, but it’s got a hell of a lot more character than the collection of colostomy bags and golf courses that is South Pasadena.
I once heard a rumor that the school had, more than once, considered leaving South Central for the valhallic pastures of Malibu, only to be roundly chastised by many alums. It took me four years to understand that I’ll never understand exactly what it is about this place that makes it home. I traded and will continue to trade the semi-regular robberies, a dearth of quality shops and restaurants, rampant garbage and urban decay for Tommy Dogs, Expo Park tailgates, “Betty” the Crazy Asian Lady and 11 National Championships.