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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Herder of the Week - May 9th, 2007

It's From the Heart, Man...
HOTW - Yucca
by Mojack

They say that everyone who was around in 1964 remembers the Beatles’ British Invasion. And of course, everyone remembers December 15, 2000, when Pete Carroll was hired as the head football coach of the University of Southern California. I think I personally sent Mike Garrett 10 faxes congratulating him on a wonderful choice. Those who love TV nostalgia, remember when Fonzie tried to “jump the shark” on his motorcycle on “HAPPY DAYS.” And yet those same lovers of classic television remember Little Ricky Ricardo playing the drums in “I LOVE LUCY.” What do these things have in common? They all remind me of Yucca, this week’s Herder of the Week.

For one, Yucca is married to a Brit. As Shorty writes, “for a homely guy, he sure has bad taste. How that man ever married a woman as great as Nicky is beyond me. Still, as long as he brings the tailgate kegs, I guess he's alright.” Two, Yucca is supposedly a USC Football fan. At least he’s a great poser. Three, when Yucca joined the Herd, the Herd “jumped the shark.” In layman’s terms, that means that once Yucca joined the Herd, the other Herdmembers sensed a noticeable decline in quality of the Herd and/or felt the Herd had undergone too many changes to retain its original charm. And finally, Yucca is Cuban. The most famous Cuban since Tony Montana, and I’m sure as a boy he played the drums as all good Cuban boys do a la Little Ricky Ricardo. Because no one else wanted to comment on Yucca’s Herder of the Week award, I sent Brooks $2.00 to give me a quote. Brooks wrote, “One of the best fights I've ever seen was Yuckie vs the Stanford tree. It was before the Stanford game at the Coliseum. I think it was the 2005 game. It started over one of the Stanford beauties making a move toward Yuckie and apparently the Tree was jealous. It charged Yuckie, surprising him and rolling him to the ground. It also took our the Chui's BBQ full of hot charcoal. It was the match of the century. The Tree, no arms, no legs and DRUNK was holding it's own against Yuckie. There they were rolling around on the asphalt, grass and hot coals from the Chui's BBQ. Yuckie kept looking for something to hit or twist but there was no face, legs, feet, arms or hands. Clearly, Yuckie was confused...and, I think, just a little amused...No one knew for sure the gender of the tree. It would be bad losing a fight to a tree but to lose to a girl tree? Anyway, while they were rolling around in the hot coals, the mud and the blood and the beer, Shorty grabbed the tree by it's peak and swung it around a few times and the fight was over. Yuckie, relatively non-plussed, saundered over the ice chest and pulled out an imported beer. We tried to make a complaint to the cop who responded but he said the drunk-in-public section didn't apply to trees."

Since this is supposed to be an honor, I won’t bring up the fact that Yucca stole three churro carts from drunken Dodger fans to start his churro cart conglomerate. But I will tell you that Yucca takes this HOTW seriously. He just called me yesterday, and then a few hours ago today, wondering when I would post his answers to my questions. He said, “I answered those questions from the heart, man. They were from the heart.” And all kidding aside, we appreciate Yucca and his contributions to the Herd and the Herd Forum. We need people to make fun of so we can think better of our own selves and our own lives, and Yucca is always an easy target. And he brings kegs to the tailgate. For these reasons, and for the $100 bucks he gave me, Yucca is this week’s (this month’s) Herder of the Week.

How did you became a USC fan?

As you know, I’m an ardent Dodger fan. But prior to 1977, my sports universe revolved solely around a team that I revile today, the NY Yankees. During that era, Thurman Munson was my hero, and I can tell you my pinpoint location and what I was doing when I got news of his plane crash. Anyhow, my fascination with the Yankees was my father’s influence, and it continued unabated until January 1, 1977. That’s when I adopted the Trojans as my other all-time favorite team. I was exactly 8 1/2…like the Fellini film…not to be confused with the soft porn classic 9 1/2 Weeks, a Herd favorite despite the infinite board references to Brokeback Mountain. Not to go off on a tangent, but weren’t you the one who suggested we do 9 1/2 air pushups every time a hot chick walked past the tailgate? Back to my earlier thought…on the morning of January 1, 1977, my dad woke up in a good mood, drove me out to Pasadena and purchased a pair of Rose Bowl tickets from a scalper. I have trouble believing he paid $500 for the pair, as he claims. He’s too cheap. Their face value was something like $35 a ticket. $500 in today’s dollars is $1230. I looked it up.

This was a pivotal moment in my life. Not only was it my first college football game (I had never even watched one on TV), but to a certain degree it determined the course of my life beyond high school. I can recall being awestruck by the pageantry that was SC football and turning to my dad and saying, “That’s it…this where I want to go to college.” I should preface all that by mentioning that I entered the Rose Bowl with a neutral state of mind. In fact, when the teams ran onto the field I found myself cheering for Michigan only because their uniforms were so cool. But justice prevailed and by the end of the game, the Trojans had stolen my heart. The rest is history.

Tell us how you used to support USC, watch games, etc., before you discovered the Herd?
I became a season ticket holder a year or so after joining the Herd. I’m bad with dates, but I think that was PC’s first season. Prior to the Herd, I attended three or four games a year. You could walk up to any scalper and buy a ticket for $10. Crowds were generally sparse and the mood laidback, as anyone in the Herd can attest. I took my wife Nicky to a pre-Herd era game. She had to put up with fellow SC fans chewing me out for standing. Nicky is from Liverpool. Tell someone to sit down at an English soccer match, and you’ll be lucky to go home with all your teeth. That afternoon pretty much encapsulated my SC gameday experience during those dreary pre-Herd days. Most of time I’d get together with a few friends and watch the game at someone’s apartment. It was more fun to watch a game with living organisms than the corpses that occupied the Coliseum – even if that organism was a plant. Someone once told me if Elvis ever came back, he’d go to a USC game. No shit…that’s because he’s dead. By the way, I have a bruin friend whose family used to host an annual USC-ucla bash. His parties were a blast, except his mom made this ambrosia salad, and if you didn’t eat it she’d get mad.
You grew up in Southern California, and there is something about growing up a local So. Cal Trojan fan that only those of us from Los Angeles can understand. There is a lot of pride about our local friends and neighbors who go onto glory at USC. How did that experience growing up close to USC put you in personal contact with the USC Football program?
That’s easy. My sister used to work with Rod Martin’s sister around the time he had three picks in the Super Bowl. He sent me an autograph picture once. Plus I went to high school at Bishop Amat in La Puente, which put me in frequent contact with guys like Randy Tanner, John Jackson, Mazio Royster and Stephon Pace.

My friend manages a steakhouse in Santa Monica. A few months ago PC came in without a reservation, so the hostess stuck him in the lounge. When my friend got wind, he pushed back a reservation for PC and seated him at a decent table.
Can you tell us about your experience finding the USC message boards, and to follow that up, how did you feel when the topics on TFO turned to the lack of fan support in the Coliseum, and grew into the formation of the Herd?
The first message board I hitched my wagon to was TFO. I found kindred spirits when guys on the board lamented the lack of fan support. I still think we have some of the lamest fans in college football, but the energy in sections 11 and 13 is in sharp contrast to that. It’s an embarrassment to look around and see people in their twenties sitting on their hands on 3rd and 1. We have grizzled old veterans in the Herd who stand up every minute of the game. Take Brooks, for example. He’s indefatigable at games, and he’s older than the Coliseum itself.
What was your first Herd game, and what were your first impressions of the Herd?
Again, I’m really bad with dates. It might have been the “warm up the bus” game against San Jose. What I do recall was being nervous walking up to tailgate. I’m more shy than you think. It was like my first day at a new school. Most of the posters on TFO were pretty established, but when I arrived at the corner of Menlo and 30th for the first time, I was immediately treated like ‘one of the guys’. My first Herd encounter was my most gratifying gameday experience to date, and the game had nothing to do with it. The most memorable thing was recognizing that I had found a home. After a string of mediocre seasons, most of my friends had given up on SC; therefore, I had no one to go to games with. Going to a movie by yourself is okay. Going to a football game by yourself is weird. The guys from TFO were my new friends, and the center of the bond was USC football. Here I was, with a few dozen guys who want to stand up and be vocal – in good times and bad - without being called a jerk. Well, I am one of those jerks. In many ways, it was a like a support group. “My name is Yucca and I am a jerk.”
A year or so later, I remember driving home after a game and listening to PC on a postgame radio show acknowledging the efforts of the tunnel fans, whom he mistakenly referred to as the ‘Rowdy Bunch.’

You and your cousin have a special relationship, since in a sense you have USC Football as a very bonding experience to share together. You’ve also brought other friends to Trojan games and Herdgates? What has the Trojan experience and the Herd experience meant to you? You’ve also seemed to form some friendships from the Herd, and see people outside of Herd events. What has the extended family of the Herd meant to you?
On several occasions, you’ve invited me to your home to make anagrams out of Manu Ginobli and Midvale Dave’s names. I appreciate the invitation and one of these days I will take you up on your offer. More on this question later…

There are a few seminal Herd Yucca moments; from getting in a fight with a CAL fan and getting kicked out of the Coliseum to fighting the Stanford tree and getting rescued by Brooks as the Cops were taking you away. I’ve been kicked out of the Coliseum, so if I can admit that, it’s not so embarrassing for you either, and could you give us some insight into those experiences many of the Herd still laugh about as they reminisce?

The Cal game was the one in which we were down like 21 points and won. When I found myself surrounded by a bunch of vitriolic Cal fans, I started to swat their beers out of their hands and say, “that just cost you $6. Now shut your mouth.” I must have knocked down six or seven beers, and these people were just coming back from the concession stands so their cups were all full. When I separated myself from the Cal horde (actually, I ran for my life), two LAPD stopped me. A few minutes after being escorted out of the stadium, I bought a ticket from a homeless scalper for $5 and re-entered the game. The tree incident happened in front of everyone. The Stanford band was coming and I yelled in quasi-Braveheart style, “Let’s block them.” I had this vision of the Herd spilling out on to the street and forcing the band to change course, but I soon found myself standing all by myself in the middle of street with my thumb up my ass. So I became an army of one, and grappled some guy for the Stanford flag. Then some jerk threw beer on me. I was about to pummel the beer guy when I felt someone punch me in the back of the head. I spun around and saw the tree standing there with his dukes up. At that point the “Chui’s” descended on the band and dismembered the tree. After the incident, my friends from the LAPD came over and handcuffed me. That’s when Brooks came to my aid. He told the cop I didn’t throw the first punch, and I was released.

Now, from the mouth of the Churro Cart owner, tell us the inside scoop. What really happened on January 1st, 2007, in the City of Pasadena. And then tell us how you ended up missing, and your reaction to the “Missing Herder” posts on the Herdblog?

Still a tender topic. I’d rather not discuss it in a public forum like this blog. But if anyone wants to know what happened, just come to me and ask. Here’s a good time to ask me about the “Herd extended family.” The days following the incident, I felt really crappy. You, Brooks and Father Mike had my back. That meant a lot to me. After the Rose Bowl, I decided it was time to give USC football a break. That meant staying off the board. That didn’t stop me from reading the board. The “Missing Herder” posts were very funny, but obviously born from the mind of a half-wit.

One final note, it’s very ironic that the Rose Bowl incident transpired exactly 30 years after my first USC game at the very same venue against the very same team. Weird.

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 interested in each other’s lives. So you, so you and Cuba, so you and being Cuban. Was Ricky Ricardo your actual godfather? Wad Fiducio the pig your real pet? Give us some more Yucca insight on being the third most famous Cuban after Castro and Tony Montana.

People think Fidencio was fabricated, but he’s alive and well in Caracas, where he was appointed by Hugo Chavez to run the Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s all I know about him. Being Cuban is not all that different than being Slav, Filipino or even a hayseed from Fontana. We all put our pants on one leg at a time. Recently I was the butt of a pretty awful joke because of my Cuban heritage. A Herder – who shall remain nameless – flashed a tin badge in front of my face and asked to see my papers. Afterwards, I cried in my car. I think I’m over it.

Following up that last question, tell us about the character of Yucca. We’re on message boards, duh, but our internet personas sometimes veer greatly from our personalities and public personas that we really are, so tell us who Yucca the Cuban is compared to Bill the Cuban in real life?

There’s not much difference. I’ve pretty much been the class clown all my life.

Finally, what do you see for the Herd as it moves forward? And what are your final thoughts about your Herd experience? And if you could design the Herd t-shirts next year, what slogans would you throw out there?

I see the Herd growing. I’d like to hire a couple of prostitutes to greet people and serve hor'dourves in cardinal and gold lingerie, but in a way that’s fun and acceptable for the entire family. I’d also like to create a section for neo-Jacobins. Finally, I’d like to suggest a Herd shirt idea. I’d like to see a drawing of the tunnel 11 entrance with a caption reading, “Once you’ve been inside, you’ll never be the same.”

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