USC vs Hawaii — Football in Paradise

Apologies for not updating my blog sooner. So many things happened this offseason that I could have made a full time job of writing about Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, Stafon Johnson, Joe McNight, Mike Garrett, NCAA Santions, Lane Kiffin, Norm Chow, Dillon Baxter, Heisman trophies, Seantrel Henderson, Pac-10 expansion… And that just scratches the surface.

However, I didn’t neglect any of these things. I’ve expressed my opinions in both serious and light hearted fashion via Twitter. If you’re a Twitter user I invite you to follow me @uscpsycho. If you’re a USC fan and don’t mind some non-USC banter in your Twitter feed you may enjoy my tweets. Especially on game days and road game weekends when I bring you along for the ride. If you’re not a Twitter user you can still read my tweets at http://www.twitter.com/uscpsycho. But you won’t be able to share your thoughts with me if you don’t have a Twitter account, and I love to hear from USC fans.

If you’re new to reading my blog it’s a bit different from other blogs about USC football. My USC football blog skews autobiographical. I’ll tell you my experiences with opposing fans, what it was like on gameday on a rival’s campus and even how inept the TSA might be in a given city. If all you want is a breakdown of X’s and O’s this is not it. (For that I recommend Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the LA Times or just about anything but Scott Wolfe’s Daily News column.)

Hawaii was the opening game of USC’s 2010 campaign but it is different than any other season opener. Usually the anticipation of opening day is nine months – from the last game of the previous season until the first game of the next. But when USC plays Hawaii the anticipation starts building from the last time we played in Hawaii. So in this case I’ve been looking forward to the game for the five years since we last played in Hawaii in 2005.

As the number of weeks before the game shrunk I wanted time to speed up so I could get to Hawaii and the start of football season. But as soon as the ball was kicked off I wanted time to slow down because I knew my time in Hawaii was growing small. I’ve been to Hawaii four times in my life and three of the trips were to watch USC football. USC will keep playing in Hawaii every few years for the foreseeable future and It never gets old for me. I’m thrilled that I only have to wait three years for the next trip to Hawaii! 2013 will be an interesting travel schedule because it looks like I’ll also be going to Colorado or Utah and Notre Dame that same season.

I arrived in Hawaii on Tuesday, two days before the game. What I remember most about the first moments after landing is the excitement I had about sharing my love for USC with thousands of Trojan fans while in paradise in the middle of the Pacific. If you’ve never been to a USC game in Hawaii it’s unlike any other road game. It’s different because of the concentration of so many fans in such a small area. When USC plays Stanford, Berkeley or Notre Dame thousands of USC fans make the journey but they’re spread out across a huge city; you can sense our presence but the Spirit of Troy doesn’t permeate the air. In Hawaii it permeates the air. Trojans literally paint the town Cardinal & Gold. You can’t go anywhere without seeing USC fans everywhere. It’s a very cool vibe!

The first night I went to Duke’s, which is the defacto meeting spot in Waikiki but it’s also a place I grew to despise. I spent part of almost every day at Duke’s and with each passing day got more and more frustrated with the place. They under-pour every mixed drink. I complained and was told they “serve responsibly.” They don’t serve responsibly they rip you off. Even Long Island Ice Teas taste like they don’t have alcohol in them. If you’re ever in Waikiki my advice is to use Duke’s as a meeting spot but don’t waste your money on drinks there unless you stick to beer because they can’t mess that up.

I was eager to meet a lot of people in Hawaii that I had only talked to on Twitter  and I definitely did. On my second day in Hawaii I met a bunch of my Twitter friends at the tweetup. We talked about football, our plans while in Hawaii and just got to know each other over drinks. It’s always fun to meet people in real life after getting to know them online.  I have to give a special shout out to @trojansigma, @hmartin4sc, @DLTrojanFan, @Mumm24, @MiniMumm, @ls12288 and @scottenyeart. These are the tweeps I hung out with the most and we had such a blast! They live all over the country but I know I’ll stay in touch with them and hopefully tailgate with them again!

Right after the tweetup was the official USC pep rally which was attended by 2,200 USC fans looking to get fired up for the game and for the season. If I’m being honest I have to say that this event was just OK. Admission was $45 which got you bratwurst, chips, a variety of rice crackers and non-alcoholic beverages. A lot of people were complaining; for the price the food should have been a lot better than what was offered. Of course the band played and they were typically great. It was also fun to see Pat Haden let loose dancing on stage with hula girls and thanking the fans for making the trip. In all my years of going to USC football games I can’t remember Mike Garrett ever addressing the fans at a tailgate or pep rally even once. I don’t know how common Pat Haden appearances will be but he is a breath of fresh air.

My third day in Hawaii was Thursday and it was finally gameday. FINALLY! All the months of anticipation were finally over. I boarded a bus at noon and made the short journey to Aloha Stadium. Once there I went to the official USC pregame tailgate luau. This was much better than the pep rally on Tuesday. The luau was $35 and included lots of great food, unlimited non-alcoholic drinks and two alcoholic beverages. There was an appearance by the band  and even, coincidentally, cardinal & gold port-a-potty’s. I had a great time at the luau!

It was great to finally watch USC football for the first time since the end of December. I miss all of it, the band, the song girls, the spirit leaders, the fans, the excitement of the game… All of it!

Couple of notable things about Aloha Stadium is that they have artificial turf even though you’d think growing real grass wouldn’t be a problem in Hawaii. And Aloha Stadium is one of the last few stadiums that still sells beer for college football games.

If you’re a USC football fan you probably know by now that the game was a mixed bag. The offense looked great, Ronald Johnson and Matt Barkley were unstoppable, the kicking game was as good as it’s been in a long time and the defense… Well the defense was despicable. The explanation provided by the USC coaching staff for the poor play of the defense was Hawaii’s use of the “pistol” formation on offense. USC had no idea Hawaii would be doing this because no game tape was available from this season. USC’s coaches didn’t find out about the pistol until the day before the game and tried to make all kinds of adjustments. This may have been what caused us to falter on defense; Lane Kiffin said that the defense would have been better off if they stuck with there original defensive game plan instead of trying to make so many last-minute adjustments.

Regardless, USC won the game and that’s the most important thing. But the team clearly has a lot of work to do on defense.

The people in Waikiki were very friendly and largely indifferent about the game. I didn’t hear a single barb or jab from opposing fans during the entire trip. I don’t think that’s ever happened at a road game other than in Hawaii. I don’t think any of the Hawaiians thought Hawaii had a chance to win and I never got the feeling they cared. I can’t help but wonder if they are just as passive when opposing WAC teams come to Hawaii.

The rest of the time in Hawaii was spent relaxing, hiking Diamond Head, going on biking & snorkeling tours, runs along the beach, dining, relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere.

Coming back home was a bit bittersweet. I had such a great time in Hawaii and made so many great memories. But I also looked forward to seeing friends back home and getting back to my real life. But that didn’t last long; once I was back it didn’t take much time before I wanted to escape reality again and go back to paradise!

Follow me on Twitter! http://twitter.com/uscpsycho

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One Response to “USC vs Hawaii — Football in Paradise”

  1. Paul Says:

    Hey – I’m new to this blog but just started following you on Twitter. I’m @newaustinite – fight on!

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