AEJ and I were fortunate to be invited to the huge UCLA-USC game on Saturday, courtesy of Gordon Henderson, the conductor of the UCLA marching band. Gordon conducted “Redline Tango” with the UCLA wind ensemble in May, and he and I met through those rehearsals. Gordon is a great guy.

I haven’t been to an important college game for several years, when I attended Ohio State-Michigan at UMich. (That game did not go so well. The drive back to Columbus was… quiet.) I had a blast at the UT-Sam Houston State game on September, but that one wasn’t pivotal, nor particularly suspenseful, ending with I believe a 56-3 victory for UT. Saturday’s game, though, in addition to being a huge rivalry game, would determine whether or not USC would face My Team — The Ohio State Buckeyes — in the National Championship. For UCLA, the game was a chance to be a spoiler.

The Rose Bowl grounds were packed. It took us 10 minutes to get there from our place, but a solid hour to park. Along the way, we saw lots and lots and lots of tailgaters. The tailgaters don’t just bring a little grill and some beer. We saw rows of plasma TVs hooked up to DirecTV satellites on generators. Good times. That was too much for these guys, though. They kicked it old school. Drink up, boys!

Here’s the outside of the stadium.

After much walking, we found the band, warming up for the big game. Go tubas!!!

Gordon had arranged for us to be guests at the Chancellor’s Luncheon. When we arrived at the tent, though, the “luncheon bouncer” didn’t see our names on the list, so we made our way back through the crowd to find Gordon. By this time, there was no way he could get us into the luncheon and still meet us to get us into the stadium with the band, which had been his original plan. His solution: instead of sitting with the band, he’d give us physical tickets. On the 45-yard line. Oh, just wait…

Since we were no longer rushing to catch up with the band, we were escorted back to the luncheon by Jennifer Judkins, the Assistant Director of the UCLA marching band. Jennifer totally took care of us — and I’m sure she had much more important things to be doing — and a sincere thanks to her for that. The luncheon was pretty incredible. There was an omelette bar…

… as well as an open bar. Drink up, boys!

And cupcakes in festive UCLA colors! What goes better with a Jack & Coke than a cupcake?

I wish I could do ice sculpture. That would rule. I would totally make an ice sculpture of Loki. It would be wicked classy. This one’s cool too, though.

On the walk from the luncheon to the stadium, we saw, as you’d expect, a lot of spirit on display.

Here’s the view as we entered the stadium…

And here’s the view from our seats. Gordon Henderson totally hooked us up. This was going to be a great time…

The USC marching band takes the field, pre-game. These guys can’t even spell right-side up. This game isn’t even going to be close.

And then UCLA takes the field.

After the national anthem, the jets fly by. Loud. Even louder than “Turbine“, I think.

The USC fans tried to get excited about the game…

… and even the Goodyear blimp was rooting for USC…

… but this drunk guy sitting with us, well, his shirt thought otherwise.

The UCLA band’s halftime show was great.

Plus, they had a juggler! Seriously! This is totally what my music has been missing!

A few minutes before the end of the game, it started to look as though UCLA was going to pull out the upset. The crowd — all 90,622 of them — was warned in advance…

The Bruins fans looked a lot more excited than the USC section as the seconds ticked down…

And it happened. The unranked UCLA Bruins pulled out the huge upset, defeating #3-ranked USC, 13-9.

The whole game was mad-exciting. The Rose Bowl got deafeningly loud at times. Even with the big rivalry, and all of the excitement, people were well behaved, and no USC fans threw anything at us on our walk back to the car. (We were in our UCLA hats — hats that will be getting a lot more wear now that we’re totally converted UCLA fans.) And as it should be with any exciting event — sporting or otherwise — who gets the last word but the marching band?

We can’t thank Gordon Henderson enough for the incredibly fun day. We still can’t believe that he hooked us up with tickets to the most in-demand game of the season, and that we sat at mid-field and were treated like VIPs throughout the day. Gordon Henderson: I hereby knight thee Lord of the Bands.


FOSCO says

Gorgeous pics from a thrilling game. My favorite part of your photodocu? "Big Noise from Winnetka." I love that song.

R says

I am so disappointed in you J., rooting for UCLA?!?? What’s this world coming to? You did give me the Buckeyes so I guess you're allowed one horrible decision.


Jake Wallace says

speaking of college football, did you know that the award for best college tight end is named after you? i had no idea you played for the chargers back in the 60s.

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