USCHerd, a USC fan site celebrating the USC Fan.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Herder of the Week - January 21st, 2007

Grover - The King of 39th and Menlo
by Mojack

In the last five years if you went by the corner of 39th and Menlo, the Herd's old tailgate spot, you would have seen a huge line of Trojan fans lined up. There was a reason for that line. It was Grover's food. Nobody can do pulled pork like Grover. He would spend days preparing the food for the 120-150 people that would come to the Herd tailgates. And by game time, the Herd's bellies were full and our taste bud's satisfied. Sadly, Grover had to give up his tailgate duties this year due to family high school football commitments, but Grover didn't miss a home game this year, introducing daughter Mary (or Little Groper) to the Herd, and he continued to provide the food for the Herd's post game tailgates. This has always been one of Grover's unsung contributions since there is nothing like cheese, crackers, salami and pate after four hours of yelling inside the Coliseum.

Grover was an Original Herder (O.H.) and has participated fully in all aspects of the Herd since it's inception; i.e., he helped organized and feed the 400 people at the joint Auburn-Herd tailgate in 2002, he was present when the Trojan Marching Band signed the drum skin and gave it to the Herd (photo on sidebar: Grover's son Marc holds the signed drum skin), and he continues to provide feedback on Herd tailgates and activities.
Grover is our Herder of the Week for January 21st, 2007. We listed a few highlights of his Herd career agove, but Grover is a great Trojan fan, and he has sacrificed lots of his own time to make the game-day experience better for all of us. We congratulate and thank Grover for his participation in the Herd. Our interview with Grover follows below:

Tell us how you used to support USC, watch games, etc., before the Herd

As a kid I was introduced to USC Football by going to games with my dad and my uncle. My uncle, who passed away just this last fall at 86, was an executive for the now-defunct Superior Oil Co. He used to get some great comp tickets for USC, Dodger, and Angels games (this of course, was back in the days before corporate gratuities were considered a bad thing). Being Catholic and from Wisconsin, my uncle was a big subway Domer fan. My dad was an USC and John McKay fan. I used to assume the role of my favorite Trojans in our neighborhood sand lot games, complete with play-by-play commentary in my mind…”Beathard back to pass, he spots a man at the 50, he’s at the 40, 30, 20, 10, TOUCHDOWN, USC!!!”

The game that cemented my lifelong love affair with USC was the 1966 Notre Dame game, yes the 51-0 loss to the Irish. It was the longest, saddest 2 hour ride home ever. I felt bad for my dad, having to listen to my uncle’s unending gloating throughout the entire drive. I will always remember that day as the day I became a Trojan forever. I shared that story with the mourners at my uncle’s graveside service last October. The Irish priest shyly chuckled when I told him it was a good day to be Irish, not so good to be a Trojan. It brought big smiles to my aunt and my cousins, and tears to me as I remembered my uncle and the affect he had on me growing up.

Like most, before the Herd we had to endure sitting in the Mausoleum (Coliseum) with a bunch of stiffs. Everyone who sat around us in Section 9 were more interested in talking on their cell phones than in supporting the team, even on crucial third downs. It was very frustrating.

What made you interested in joining the Herd in the first place?

My job took me to the Southeast in 1993. Spending several years in SEC country (mostly in FL, GA, and TN) as a Trojan fan, I was lost. In 1995 or so I discovered the internet (I didn’t really “discover” it, Al Gore did that). Being starved for information, the first route I took on the Information Superhighway was to search for anything about USC Football. Eventually I discovered a couple of USC Football message boards. The rest, as they say, is history.

Prior to the 2000 season, at the rock bottom depths of the HWNSNBS (He Whos Name Shall Not Be Said - Coach PH) era, a dozen or so of us regulars from the message boards met one evening at sports bar in LA to discuss the state of USC Football. It was there that Veronique and I met Shorty, Deke, DipWad, SCRich, Dom, SCLarry, and others for the first time in person. Shorty brought some wine, and after a few glasses we were able to get Dom out of his shell. We mostly just bitched about HWNSNBS and the attitudes of Trojan fans in general, but it really was the beginning of the formulation of ideas that would ultimately result in the Herd’s formation. When signups for seating in a section designated specifically for the Herd were announced on the message board, we were all over it.

As one of the Original Herders, what were your first impressions of the Herd?

I was too busy worrying about putting together the initial Herd Tailgate to think too much about an initial impression, but it was obvious from the that first game against San Jose State--the Coliseum only half-full, a new coach that none of us wanted, a much maligned underachiever at QB—at least we were going to have a good time. Except for one malcontent, no one was going to tell us we had to sit down and shut up. It was the beginning of something very special.

How did you first start cooking/planning the tailgates for the Herd?

Before the Herd, Veronique and I used to enjoy some great intimate tailgates near the Herd’s old spot on 39th and Menlo. We’d have hors d’oeuvres, shrimp and salmon stuffed tomatoes, clam chowder, homemade chili, and cream puffs for dessert. We would occasionally visit with some of the few posters we knew in the area (JoeSC, DLB4SC, AquaTrojan, etc.). One time we even ventured over to a little tailgate shanty on 39th, near gate 24. It was pretty sad; a few guys were standing along the street curb with a tiny bbq grill that had burnt hot dogs and hockey puck burgers on it and chips were being served from their bag. Not surprisingly, it’s where we met Brooks for the first time….burnt weenies and Brooks are synonymous.

That’s when we said we’ve got to do something about the tailgating situation. The Herd was formed the following year, and it was only logical that the tailgating had to step up…a lot.

Any seminal moments for you in the Herd?

It has to be the “We Believe” game against ASU. It’s been well documented how TrojanRuss initiated the chant--how the team responded and how you couldn’t help but sense a change the direction of the program. Four straight losses in empty stadiums preceding the ASU game, down at halftime, the team barely breathing; you could sense the pulse rate of every player increase as they came down the tunnel for the second half. I’ve experienced nothing like it, before or since.

You're different than some Herd members because your whole family is involved, and you make it a very family oriented activity. How did that start?

Initially, it was just Veronique and me that went to games. We had two season tickets before the Herd was formed and we only got two for the Herd’s inaugural season in 2001. By the time the 2001 season started, Veronique’s work as an interior designer forced her to work most Saturdays, so Marc started coming in her place. He was eleven at the time, and was starting to show more interest in the games.

For the past five years Marc has been a regular in the Herd and has developed what I’m sure will be a lifelong love of all things USC. In that time my boys, Matt and Adam, have attended at least one game a year, distance and their involvement in football being a factor. Our oldest daughter, Anne, has been to a couple of games with her significant others…but again, distance (she lives and teaches HS in the Bay Area) and her involvement in school and extracurricular activities (she coaches the cheerleaders) are a factor.

The biggest surprise, to my delight, has been Mary’s (Little Groper) involvement in the Herd and with USC this year. We were able to get four Herd seats throughout most of this season and Mary was hooked after her very first game (Nebraska). Her enthusiasm is a joy to watch. The best part is, as a result of our shared interest in USC and the Herd, Mary and I have become closer than I could have ever have hoped. I came into Mary’s life at a very difficult time, when she was in middle school. It wasn’t easy for her. I really enjoy spending time with Mary; she’s so much fun to be around. Our days spent together tailgating and going to the games will be ones that I’ll cherish forever.

What do you see for the Herd as it moves forward into the future?

The Coliseum has become a very loud, hostile environment for visiting teams, thanks in no small measure to the Herd (a great coach and football team helps too). In a sense you could say that the Herd’s mission has been accomplished. I don’t think our noise or enthusiasm has the influence on the overall crowd that it did a few years ago, although that’s not to say that I don’t believe it would be missed. The Herd and the Coliseum were made for each other.

I’m all for staying together and staying put in our little corner of the Coliseum. I hope we can continue to grow, although I think we need to do a much better job of recruiting graduating USC seniors into the Herd. It seems to me that it would a very favorable option for young people and a way for them to extend their student section experience for many years. I also look forward to returning to tailgate duty in a few years, when time permits.

Overall, any final thoughts about your Herd experience?

I’ve had the time of my life these last five years. I can guarantee that there is not a group of fans anywhere in the country that have the total gameday experience that the Herd has. Where else are you going to find a group of 100 plus friends that tailgate together and sit together at the games? I wouldn’t trade a day with the Herd at the USC campus and in the Coliseum for all the luxury boxes in all the state-of-the-art stadiums in the World.

1 comment:

Shorty said...

Well deserved accolades. I'll never forget the 17 trays of Lasagne you
and Veronique made for homecoming against ASU some years ago. The Presidents tailgate was right next to us. John McCain was eating w/ Sample and they had hot dogs or some such and we had lasagne! Their party was dead and we were rocking. Thanks Grover and V.