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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Herder of the Week - April 10th, 2007

All USC Sports, All the Time
HOTW - mpron

by Mojack

In the realm of big time college football there are bandwagon fans, and avid supporters, and also huge monetary supporters who were sometimes jokingly labeled the ol’ wine and cheese crowd, and of course there are super fans. Members of the Thundering Herd like to think of themselves as those kind of “super fans” who are diehard Trojans, always rising (or already standing) to the occasion, any occasion to support the USC Trojan football team, be it at the Coliseum or away.
But even among the Herd there are super fans among the diehards. (photo right: Michael and mpron) It’s true that the Herd is mainly a support group of the football program, but it’s slowly becoming emotionally invested in other USC athletic teams, and one of the Trojan fans leading that charge to get the Herd out to support other sports and athletic teams is mpron, a great Trojan and this week’s HOTW.
Mpron’s phone number must be on speed dial with certain coaches at USC. USC Hockey Head Coach Mark Wilbur is a friend of Ronnie’s, and Ronnie is a huge supporter of the hockey team, organizing and arranging Herd Hockey games with assistance from The Doctor the last few years. Ron is also a supporter of the USC volleyball team, and new Coach Bill Ferguson. Ron organized one Herd outing this year to watch the volleyball team, and as with the hockey, we foresee support from the Herd growing in volleyball as it has done with USC Hockey.
Ron’s support of all things USC athletics, doesn’t mean he ignores the football team. He is an avid Herdmember, going to many practices, away games, and standing with the Herd at every Coliseum game. But Ron’s support for athletics doesn’t just stop at the end of the bleachers, he’s also proactive in his assistance with former Trojans and their causes.
Ray Weber, San Diego Trojan Club President and Herder, wrote on the Herd Forum the other day, “MPRonny is one class act. For the second year in a row Ronny was at the Don Clausen Golf Tournament at Maderas GC in Poway all day, assisting former San Diego Trojan Club President, and great guy, Don Clausen, who is battling a malignant brain tumor, and Don’s wife Sally. Ronny is always helping the USC cause may it be volleyball , hockey, football, etc. Ronny's a heck of a friend and one great Trojan too!”
As Ronny himself said of the Don Clausen Golf Tournament, “As his chauffeur for the day, I wheeled Don in front of a TV that one of the players had brought and played a short message from Coach Pete with words of encouragement from him and the football team. I believe I saw a couple of tears in Don's eyes. There was one last thing to do before everyone took off and that was for Don to hit the ceremonial first tee shot. I wheeled him onto the tee box (while almost dumping him out of the wheelchair as the front tires kind of dug into the soft dirt) and Tony had already teed a ball up. It was a touching scene as Tony took Don's hand while Don was in the wheelchair and helped him address the ball. One good friend helping another maintain one of his passions if only for that on fleeting moment. I mean this is what life is all about.”
And life is about recognizing the “good guys,” and that’s what we’d like to do this week by making mpron Herder of the Week. Fight On, Ronny.
How did you become a USC fan?
I was a USC fan from maybe elementary school. I loved to play football and SC was the best game in town, pro or college. Well, let's say the only game in town when it came to college as I didn't give a rat's rear end about the Ruins even as a tyke. (photo left: Shara and Ronnie) Don't know why, I just didn't. I mean I always thought the powder blue was kind of a sissy color as a kid. There used to be this kid named Wayne who would wear a Ruin shirt when we played pick up football. The dumb ass, I would kill him every chance I got. Also, the Ruins didn't have a white horse.
Tell us how you used to support USC, watch games, etc., before you discovered the Herd.
During school and after I graduated, I used to go to all of the home games and then up to Stanford or Kal. After graduation, we used to have four seats near the handicap area around tunnel 19. My friend from the 5th grade and all the way through USC (I have worked with him for over 20 years) broke his neck while we were playing in a frat football game and so we sat there for years. Then the Galaxy and Raiders came to play and I don't know who's fans it was, but they used to use the tunnel to go and relieve themselves as I guess they didn't have many fans in the end zone sections. And you know how the wind always blows into the Coliseum from that side and it got pretty rank. We put up with this for about 3 or 4 years and even the ushers would complain. Finally, the Coliseum did something about it and cleaned it, but the chemical smell was giving people in our areas headaches. The last straw for my friend was when SC started to play night games. It was just too cold for him. So we stopped buying tickets.
Then came the dark days. I would watch all of the games on TV with friends. And then when I found TFO, I started to watch games while in chat. That was pretty fun back then even though I didn't personally know anyone. It was USC football with USC fanatics.

You grew up in the Los Angeles area, and there is something about being a Southern California kid that only those of us from So. Cal can understand. How did that experience growing up near to USC put you in close and personal contact with the USC Football program?
Yes I did grown up in Monterey Park, thus the MP in MPRON. Actually, while I loved the SC football team and would watch them or listen to them on the radio religiously, I didn't attend many games. Since my dad was visually impaired from being injured in the Korean War and so he couldn't drive, nor could he make out stuff more than a few feet away. He couldn't take me to games and it was easier for him to see the games on TV. So we would go when my uncle would go and he would drive. Otherwise it was only radio or TV for me. However, most of my friends were also SC fans and that too was probably a result of being an L.A. kid.
The part the still irks me and as I had mentioned during my father's eulogy was that though he was a USC fan since the Howard Jones days, he named me Ronny with a "Y" because of a stinkin' Ruin football player. He tells me this a few weeks before he passed away and it was one secret I wish he had taken to his grave! I was devastated LOL!!

You are also an alum of USC. Tell us about your experiences with going to USC, and the contact you had with the football team and other athletes while you were a student at USC.

While I was at SC I met a lot of pl
ayers while hanging out on the concrete bench in front of Tommy Trojan above the barber shop. When I first started, one of the first guys I became friends with was a lineman named Otha Bradley. He was a big mutha, but a nice guy. One of the quirks he had was wearing the Dr. Scholl sandals. You know the wooden ones that the girls used to wear (but no one was going to tell him they were girlie shoes). Another guy I met hanging out was Gary Jeter. Jeets was pretty cool. Randy Simmrin was another. The dude used to have the worst case of hammer toes I had ever seen. hahah! I also used to recall AD parking his big blue Caddy with the white interior in the middle of campus with the license plate "ADS HOG" on it. He was just too damn cool haha! Him and his fancy duds and his pimp hats. A real live Superfly.
I played for a while in the rugby club. Not very good, but I had a ball. Es mui macho! However, if you thought you were da man, rugby taught you that you ain't s--t. Towards my senior year and during grad school, I met and became friends with a lot of the football guys as a result of one of my best friends being an RA in Residence West. Two of his charges as freshmen were Chip Banks and Marcus Allen. Chip and I became pretty good friends especially his first year when he broke his ankle. I was his ride to a lot of stuff and I used to be amazed at how much food he could pack away. Marcus was kind of a strange guy, but you could see the drive he had to be great. Through them I met a lot of the other guys like Ty Sperling (one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, God rest his soul), Dennis Johnson, Kojack, Ron Lott, Eric Scoggins, August Curly and another guy I became pretty good friends with, Timmy White. He was a fast talking guy from South Belmar, NJ and he also played a mean set of drums. We used to get Chipper and go check out some jazz clubs in Hollywood. The good old days. Two other guys I used to hang out with a lot was Mike Lamb and Steve (he was a lineman and I forget his last name) Big country western guys and we would chew Levi Garrett and they would drag me off to Willie Nelson concerts. Lamb was almost the biggest guy to pledge an Asian fraternity.

Can you tell us how you found the USC message boards, and to follow that up, how did you feel when the t
opics on TFO turned to the lack of fan support in the Coliseum, and grew into the formation of the Herd?
You know, I don't recall how I stumbled on TFO. I think it was through my friend Burt who is currently the spotter for Paul Mac and Arbo. I thought it was cool to read all of this stuff with guys that were passionate about SC football. It used to be funny reading TheDoc going at it with that Irish moron FresnoMike. As for the Herd, I thought it was a good idea. Though I couldn't blame anyone for not showing up for the games as we purely stunk, I thought when you guys decided to make a stand...literally, figuratively and not take the silence anymore, it was a great idea.

Though you were always a proponent of the Herd on the old message board, I know that you didn't have season seats immediately due to your work commitments. What was your first Herd game, and what were your first impressions of the Herd?

Unfortunately, I was working Saturdays on and off as I used to be on-call on our computer systems and so I figured I would miss three to four games a year. That and I didn't re
ally know anyone so I was kind of apprehensive about that too.
My first personal interaction with the Herd was at the barbecue at Chris USCNYC's apartment downtown. My first actual game was the DC trip. Doc emailed me and said he had tickets and a room and his girlfriend said she didn't want to go so he said if I got out to the east coast, I was covered. It turned out the week before, I was going to be in Atlanta for work anyway and so I was able to change my flight to make the trip. Doc's girlfriend decided to make the trip after all, so we scrambled to find a ticket which turned out how I met Skycop and the rest is history. I thought it was a fun group and I also loved standing during the game behind the band in Landover and I had so much fun, I started to go back to the games. And thanks to Brooks helping me locate a ticket every week, they were usually Chris' (mesk) up in NorCal. I made it to all of the home games except Kal as I had to work that day. Since then, I think I have made it to all of the home games as well as a few away games.

What has the Trojan expe
rience and the Herd experience meant to you? And to follow that up, what has the extended family of the Herd meant to you?
I tell my friends that one of the many nice things about hanging with the Herd is that there are always people hitting the away games. So if you want to go, you can just go and there will be people to do stuff with. Being in the Herd makes being a SC fan that much more special. It is a way to share a common interest....nay a common fanaticism for USC athletics in a way that is unique. Sure there are others who have a good-sized group to go to games with, but who else can say they sit with over 300 fanatics who are willing to stand and go hoarse as one. To go that extra mile.
There are no other groups paying or otherwise who are recognized by the team as their biggest supporters. This is evident, as I don't recall seeing anyone other than Herd members being asked to accompany the team into the stadium before the Huddle. Now, that is special, very special indeed. That is why I work to try to get Herd events at other USC venues. I realize it can be difficult to get people to go, but the other sports do appreciate it when we show up. They appreciate it a lot and the coaches tell me this. Even the ones that have not yet had a Herd event, for example, women's VB or water polo.
The Herd and the Herd Forum has always been special amid the message board crowds because we all tailgate together and have become friends, and are interested in each other's lives. You shared with us the experience of losing your father, and we appreciated your candor and that you made your friends in the Herd a part of that emotional journey. You also shared about the profound experience of finding the Japanese internment camps where your family was interned. Would you care to share about those experiences, and how you involved the Herd in those emotional roller coasters?
Oh man, the Herd was invaluable during the time my dad was hospitalized. For anyone that has not gone through the ordeal of having to see a loved one fighting for their lives, you are blessed. Especially when that someone is your dad. The guy that you thought was da man when you were growing up. The guy that you thought would live forever. To see him as being mortal even at 51, it was tough. That was why my friends were so important to me during that time. Even people who only knew me as my board name offered up support and prayers. It helped out a lot and was comforting.

As I was tending to my father during the time I thought he was going to recover, I started to look more into the history of my family. Since I would go see him da
ily after work, we would talk. Now, you may not see how monumental this was for a 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese American father and son to do. Many people of my father's generation do not talk about a lot of stuff that went on during the war. For the most part, many of them die without passing on any of this history. Same with my dad, he wouldn't talk much about camp and I probably wouldn't have listened anyway. He also wouldn't talk much about his war experiences. I knew of the history of his unit during WWII and also some of what he had gone through. A little from what he said and some from my uncles who shared the same experiences in Europe. I talked with a guy who's dad was also in the same unit. He said that his father had finally opened up a little to him as well. But the basic message was that they did what they did so that we, their children, wouldn't have to. Little old guys who it seemed would never hurt a fly were basically the bad asses of the war as the most highly decorated unit in WWII. I am very proud of that heritage.
It was while my dad was in the nursing home for rehab, that I told him I was planning to go to Arky. He said he would like to go to see the places where he was in relocation. I was shocked as he had said before that he would never go back there because of the heat and humidity. I would've loved to have taken him on that trip as I think I would've heard so much while we were there. I talked with a man who was a boy living down there during the war and currently owned the property that one of the camps was on. Very interesting 3 hours of discussion. I took a picture of my dad with me and took pictures of it at the camp sites next to the monuments. It was my last trip with my dad and it was pretty sad, but it was special and I am so glad I made it.
You are someone who is always supporting USC athletics. You are present for baseball games, volleyball games and Hockey games. You and the Doc have been big proponents of USC Hockey, and you both helped organize the Herd hockey games. Can you share how you became involved with Coach Wilbur and the USC Volleyball Coach Ferguson?

I got into hockey through TheDoc. One day he said let's go see the hockey team. I didn't even realize they were still playing. I went and they were really good. They had this one player, Raffie Kalajian who was amazing. I believe he led the nation in scoring that season. Anyway, after the first game, I emailed Coach Wilbur a question about a ref's call during the game. He emailed back right away. Turns out that he is also an insomniac. From there, I would email him on occasion and we became friends. Since I liked hockey anyway, it worked out just fine.
One season, Shorty told me to make arrangements with Coach for a Herd Hockey night. Coach Wilbur jumped on that right away. He loved the idea and it went off like a firecracker. That first Herd night was memorable with SCCowboy screaming, "WELCOME TO HELL!!!" at the San Jose State players. And it didn't matter that the guys in the Herd basically knew nothing about hockey. All they needed to know was that we were winning, we were physically kicking their ass and the other guys sucked.... especially Barney (who it turned out was not his name, but he flipped off Shorty anyway). The boys on our hockey club loved it and every year, they cannot wait for Herd Hockey night. They even tell their parents about the Herd nights and that the parents have to come too.
Unfortunately, the past couple have not worked out quite so well. The one before the Ruin game because of ESPN game day and the last one was short notice due to the passing of Mario Danelo and the season ending earlier than it had in the past. Still a success as we collected over $750 in the name of the Herd. I met mens VB Coach Bill Ferguson as Ray "SDTroy" Weber, my bench mate during games, sent me one of coach's email newsletters. I emailed coach a hello and welcome and he wrote back a thank you. We also kept in contact through emails and I went to go watch them in a pre-season game against Penn St in the men's gym. We have become friends since then and he would appreciate any kind of support that we could lend them.

What do you see for the Herd as it moves forward? And what are your final thoughts about your Herd experience.
My goal is to get the attendance going at other sports at SC just like football. I think VB is going to take off soon and I want to be able to say I was there at the beginning. Same with baseball. We used to be what other schools would measure against and I hope we will become that way again in these sports. I would like to see the Herd more active with these other programs. Yes, I realize that people have families and that if we do too much, these families could revolt LOL. Just the same I would like to see us become more of an SC athletic support group with the main focus on football of course, but give some to the other kids. They bust their ass just as much as the football players and they deserve to get some of the cheers as well. In the days when I used to play many moons ago, it was always more fun and you could somehow dig up that last ounce of strength where there were people cheering you on.
Yeah, I'm an SC homer. I see nothing wrong with that and to heck with anyone who thinks that is a bad thing or corny.

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