I’d like, for a moment, to offer an elegy to USC football. No, not the program, not the stunningly mediocre program that has ripped the hearts out of spoiled Trojan fans everywhere, but rather to the telecasts of USC games and the peculiarities of live sports broadcasts from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Let’s set the stage. It’s Homecoming Weekend in Troy, the stands are filled (late, of course) with cardinal and gold.

Coming back from a commercial, Fox Sports offers a quick series of shots from inside the 2-9, the 29th Street Café, an “institution,” according to on-air color man Petros Papadakis, that sits on the corner of Hoover and 29th Street. The camera shots are perfectly chosen to send any Trojan fan swooning into a catatonic maelstrom of nostalgia for football Saturdays in South Central.

Pitchers of beer line the counter (Kickoff is just after noon.), an older blonde woman – an Orange County heiress, an SC cheerleader in her day – offers a “fight on” to the camera while her completely disinterested daughter continues to talk on her cell phone. Obviously, that call is much more important than being on TV, because after all, when you’re at SC, camera crews are a daily occurrence, in fact, a daily inconvenience. That call is just as important, no doubt, as all the other calls that have oblivious students getting run down by bikes, meandering aimlessly outside of crosswalks and, a personal favorite of mine to watch in action, pretending that there’s actually someone on the other end of the phone so they don’t have to talk to the area’s staple of aggressive panhandlers.

Papadakis goes on, festooning the 2-9 with wonderfulness, saying it’s a perfect place for students and families to meet. So what if the 2-9 wasn’t always as classy an establishment for Homecoming crowds – I believe it became “classy” when the ownership raised their menu prices to the astronomical, to the parental, that the place found a new sheen of money – and so what if the Fox Sports cameras didn’t pan to the back of the place, to the dumpsters where the newborn, recently deceased baby of a third year student was found in 2005 (The student pleaded no contest in 2008 to a charge of child endangerment after four attempts to charge her with murder were dismissed, and she was sentenced to time-served and five years probation.).

Then, of course, during another commercial, there is the obligatory University of Southern California ad, with its cast of students representative of the student body at large suspiciously full of theatre majors and narrated with a trademark self-serving, aggrandizing tone.

“What if we could choose students of the highest character, ambition and talent?” the commercial drones. “What if they could come from almost every state and country and represent all walks of life … whose grades and SATs tell only a fraction of their story … what if we could choose students that could go anywhere? At USC … we can and do choose these students. They’ve made the University of Southern California better, rising farther and faster than any other in national rankings.”

The ad is the perfect 30-second illustration of what four years in Troy will offer: boundless, truly wonderful opportunity and plenty of prideful chest-beating, but it’s a bad ad, especially for the University of Super Cinema, and it’s been running for years.

The ad looks particularly bad (though not, admittedly, as bad as the USC defense on the field) when contrasted against Stanford’s ad that runs in a subsequent commercial break, full of selfless pronouncements about solving the world’s great problems – climate change, energy – and pictures of students in classrooms and fancy labs, with a flyover shot showing a beautiful Palo Alto campus entirely devoid of condemned fraternity houses, LAPD beatdowns and “haze.”

Some of my fondest memories are of SC football games – Traveler prancing down the sidelines, the lighting of the Olympic torch at the start of the fourth quarter, 90,000 fans all mumbling the gibberish of the SoCal Spellout and back in the day, when alcohol was still served, the sideshow/halftime/time-out action of police fighting with scads of drunken students – and whenever I am relegated to watching a game on TV, I am reminded of how much I still love, still hate, still miss and how much of it all I cannot ever get back.