SCRed - The Michigan Man
If you're in the Herd and you don't know SCRed, then you haven't been at a game with Red, since Red is the kind of guy who introduces himself to everyone in the stadium; Herdmembers, other Trojan fans, opposing fans, everyone loves Red. (photo right: Red kneeling front and center at the horrid Rose Bowl 2006) Big Red will come up, shake your hand and know about your whole family history just from what he's read on the boards. He'll soothe you with his deep calm voice, slap your back, tell you how great it is to be a Trojan fan, watching Trojan football, and by his words he instills a deeper sense of pride in you, "Damn, it IS great to be a Trojan fan, isn't it?"
I had the privilege to share a room with Red in Washington D.C. for the Virginia Tech game, and that was a great experience. As Brooks said in email, "Red's the kind of guy who will go through a couple of hundred bucks every Friday night at Gina's Pizza in Chicago before the ND game bringing pitchers of beer out for the band members waiting in line to get in."
Everyone has a favorite Red story; Red, Minx and Inga and Cosmopolitans in New York. Red, Minx and Inga and the taxi in Washington D.C. And the famous basketball incident down at the beach. Yucca emailed me about that one, "We had been drinking Margaritas. Some of the guys started a basketball game in the driveway. Shorty put a pivot move on Red that left him frozen in his tracks. I believe it was the game-winning shot. Seeing the game was over, Red stumbled off the court and watered Surf's roses with his stomach contents."
Though Red lives in Michigan and only makes about one USC game a year; away or out here, he isn't physically standing with the Herd at every Coliseum game, but he's there in spirit, and he's been there emotionally and mentally with the Herd from the beginning, weighing in philosophically about the direction of the Herd on many occasions.
For all the above reasons, SCRed is our Herder of the Week for January 28th, 2007, and our first out-of-state Herder of the Week. We could have written more "Red" anecdotes above, since there are many, but Red is a master storyteller, and he tells Red stories much better than I do, so we'll let him regale the reader with his Herd history. We congratulate and thank Red for his participation in the Herd. Our interview with Red follows below.
Red, tell us how you became a USC fan, and how the change from Southern California to the Midwest affected your support of USC?
I was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1961. My dad was a preacher and he "took a call" in 1962 to move from his church in Calgary to First Los Angeles Christian Reformed Church, which is located on Hoover Street between West Imperial Highway and West Century Blvd. (It's still located right there and is now called Community Christian Reformed Church.) So, I arrived in South Central when I was a one-year-old. Most folks in that area were SC fans, including most of the kids with whom I went to school and church. Westwood was all hoity-toity up there in the suburbs. That wasn’t our deal. It didn't hurt that John McKay was revving the program up into high gear. Nor that a guy named Orenthal James Simpson had transferred from JC to SC and was the talk of the town.
We lived on West 125th Street, which was a really diverse neighborhood. Even though our time in LA covered the era of the race riots, I don't remember ever being targeted for being white. I think one perhaps small factor in realizing some stability during those racially difficult times was that OJ cut across all racial lines. We all had OJ in common. Everyone loved the guy. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had tears rolling down my cheeks years later as I watched that White Ford Bronco rolling down an LA freeway. A true Shakespearian tragedy.
I was still in grade school when my dad “took another call” to yet another church in Michigan. Back then, the preachers in our circles moved every 8 to 10 years. When I showed up at school as the new kid, I caught endless grief for being an SC fan. I now recognize it as petty jealousy, arising out of the annual butt-kicking that we administered to the Big Ten each year on January 1 during those years. I’ve never been much of a contrarian, but I sure as heck was not going to listen to ignorant people tell me stuff that I knew was patently wrong, and then sit back smugly thinking that they are right just because dozens of others around them were saying the same thing. For example, just because Charles White fumbled the ball does not mean that Michigan would have won the game. Even if one million Michigan fans said so. It made me even more of an SC fan than I had been when I was in California.
Tell us how you used to support USC, watch games, etc., before the Herd.
For many years after we moved to Michigan, the only times I could get any USC football was when the Trojans played Notre Dame, UCLA and then in the Rose Bowl. Those games were heaven. Three times each year with Trojan football on TV. I’d be more excited at game time for one of those games than Christmas morning.
For all the other games, I would wake up early on Sunday mornings and run downstairs to get the Sunday newspaper. I sometimes would see just one line in the “Scorecard” page of the paper announcing the SC game final. No statistics or other information. Just the final. Quite often, I would see the words “Late Game” with no score. That meant that I’d have to wait until the newspaper came out on Monday afternoon. Sometimes, the buffoons doing the Sports section at the newspaper would not include the late Saturday scores in the Monday paper. That meant that I’d have to call down to the newspaper and hopefully find some guy who would be willing to drum up the old AP wires for me and get me a score. Not every Grand Rapids Press employee was particularly excited about doing me this favor. (photo right: a serious Red in profile)Finally, the Internet arrived and I got dial-up access. I plugged USC football into my MSN search and found a few boards that had some postings going on about the Trojans. As I was reading one of them, Trojan Football Online, I saw some posts about Marv Goux. Now these were real Trojan fans. I was hooked.
What made you interested in joining/supporting the Herd?
My first “Herd” experience was before the Herd was actually formed. Through TFO, I made plans to get to New York City for the Kick-off Classic against Penn State in 2000. On the Friday or Saturday before the game, I hooked up with Shorty, Minx and Inga. Somewhere I’ve written an account of that afternoon and evening. It was a riot. Minx went from “I don’t really drink” to “It’s all Red and Shorty’s fault. Cosnanalitans.” That night at the rally in the Waldorff, I met Brooks, Nut, Russ, Douger, Joe, and Fresno and others whom I’m offending right now by forgetting to mention them. The next day, we took the bus to the Meadowlands where we met 'Sop and his buddy Mike who had driven up from DC and had brought along all the fixings for the tailgate with them. We met a lot of parents and friends that day, including Bobby DeMars’ folks, Mr. and Mrs. Colbert, Mrs. Cassell, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer and the whole Pola and Polamalu extended family. Way too much fun. A huge highlight was talking to Mike Van Raaphorst after the game for probably 20 minutes. What an absolute class kid. That game really cemented things. I was a Herder, even though I didn’t know what a Herder was. When the posts started saying “hey, why don’t we get a group of seats together”, I knew that I wanted in.
What was your first Herd game, and what were your first impressions of the Herd?
My first Herd game was against Auburn in the Coliseum on September 2, 2002. We had the huge joint tailgate with our Auburn friends. That’s when I learned that being in the Herd was a lot of fun but also a lot of work. It was not only my first game in the Herd, it was my first game in the Coliseum. It was the first time that I had been on SC’s campus in over 30 years. I was a kid in a candy store when we went to the Bookstore.
We had a great time at the tailgate and then walked over to the Coliseum. What an unbelievable experience to feel the surge of adrenaline going through the veins as I’m walking through the tunnel to Section 11. Get to the end of the tunnel and there it is, in all of its splendor, with all of the Trojans out there warming up. An amazing experience. Please, none of you should ever take that fall experience for granted. It’s priceless. SC showcased a freshman wide receiver named Mike Williams that day. SC also showcased a resurgent Carson Palmer, the Heisman trophy winner that year. The result: USC 24 - Auburn 17.
I loved everything about the Herd. To understand fully, I have to explain the contrast. I’ve taken my family to a couple of Michigan games. We might end up in the same section. Maybe. If we are lucky. I go to the SC--Auburn game, and all the same people that I’d been tailgating with before the game are all around me in the stadium. We are standing up and rocking. We are yelling out “That’s another Trojan first down!!” I’m high-fiving everyone in sight. I’m chanting in the aisle at all the players and coaches. I save all I got for “Pete!! Pete!! Pete!!” I got nothing left after that. (I’m somewhere on the aisle in this picture. (photo left: Red somewhere in the Herd before the Auburn game)
Being in the Herd is as much fun as someone can possibly have at a sporting event. I still fervently believe that.
What does it mean to be an out-of-state Herder?
On one hand, it’s pretty cool telling people that I’m a member of an SC fan group even though I live in Michigan. Most true college football fans think that it’s very cool, even if they don’t root for SC. I’ve bestowed Herd status on other folks here in Michigan who have connections to SC by buying them Herd T-shirts and having a little ceremony to “welcome [them] to the Herd.” I tell them that as long as they are true SC football fans who supported the program during the lean years, they are true Herders.
On the other hand, I truly do get jealous of all the rest of you being able to get together as frequently as you do. My kids are at an age where it makes it tough to take four or five days over a weekend to come out for a game, and then miss all four of their games.
There are a few Herd moments in history that SCRed was a featured participant in; road trips and Herd parties and pick up basketball games. The Herd has seemingly meant more to you than just the football games. Tell us, as only Red can, what the Herd has meant to you these last few years?
You're in Michigan, what is that like to be a Trojan fan in Big-10 county? And how have you involved your boys in the whole Trojan phenomenon? Will they ever get to a game at the Coliseum and stand with the Herd?
I tried to raise my boys without forcing them to be SC fans. I even exposed them to Michigan football so that they could make their own choices as fans. I didn’t want to force them into the BS that accompanies being an SC fan and living in Michigan.
It didn’t work. They are all huge SC fans. There was no question whom they were rooting for on January 1. Fall Saturdays are full of rituals now. We all put on our cardinal at least an hour before game time. I hang a huge Trojan banner (it’s actually a huge table cloth with the name and Tommy Trojan embossed in the middle) off of our front porch and shine a spot light on it. Sandy wears her cardinal not only, but her C&G football beads that I bought at the bookstore. Try and make it a little mini-Herd event. The banner is as close to “in your face” as my support of SC gets.
The downside is that the boys end up enduring the taunts, especially after the Rose Bowl last year. One kid doing it is one thing. Hearing it all day long gets old. Even though they don’t initiate it by talking smack. Just comes with the territory.
What do you see for the Herd as it moves forward?
I think it’s important to keep the momentum. Part of that is psychological. We are getting so used to winning. What happens when Pete leaves? Are we all still prepared to weather whatever storms that might come? I think the Herd needs to play a key role in keeping folks real. We haven’t been in this for the short run. We signed up when Pete came and when the first season ended up 6-6. After that year, the Herd actually expanded! That’s the kind of spirit that needs to carry us through.
Overall, final thoughts about your Herd experience?
As Pete says, it’s all about the ball. But, to apply a similar concept to a different context, it’s all about you people in the Herd. It really is an amazing array of excellent people that comprise the Herd. Yes, the Herd is a state of mind that dwells in SC fans found throughout the Coliseum and beyond. But, there is no Herd without you. I feel privileged to have met you all and shared the joys of Trojan football with you.