Clint Hamblin said he went to Lowe’s, bought a chunk of sod for $3.50, flung it over his shoulder, had his fiancé, Kara, spray paint the UCLA script logo into it, and then tacked it to a piece of plywood.
His friend, Aaron Brink, supplied the finishing touch. Since he recently went out dressed as Prince Charming for Halloween, he happened to have a plastic sword with a gold handle laying around.
Once Brink’s sword blade was planted into Hamblin’s fresh blades of grass, it became a photo op and talking point for those passing by their tailgate party early Saturday morning, hours before the USC-UCLA kickoff at the Rose Bowl.
“The whole thing is stupid,” said Hamblin, a Sun Valley resident, referring to a pre-game storyline that involved UCLA nixing the USC tradition of allowing its Trojan-clad band major punctuate the opening festivities by sticking his sword into the midfield grass to incite the roar of the crowd.
“I love that the Notre Dame people came to USC’s defense. USC even stabs its own logo. It’s not disruptive.”
Added Brink, a Burbank resident and USC grad: “If they won’t let our band do it, then we’ll do it.”
If most UCLA fans walking by the display had a good laugh about it, at least a couple tried to swipe the sword when no one was looking.
“That’s not going to happen,” said Hamlin, head of security at Campbell Hall School in Studio City. He also pointed over to his brother, Doug, a Pasadena police office patrolling the grounds.
For that matter, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca – a USC grad — was also visible walking around the Brookside Golf Course that surrounded the Rose Bowl prior to the game, part of the security procedures in place after some past years where fan violence disrupted an otherwise peaceful rivalry gathering.
The fact Saturday’s game had a noon start, with the gates opening at 6 a.m. with no overnight parking, it cut down on the time anyone with ill intentions could wreck havoc.
Both schools issued a press release urging fans to “exercise discretion and sportsmanship” while attending Saturday’s game, remind them about the recently publicized installation of the Los Angeles Sports Council’s “Southern California Fan Code of Conduct” that attempts to crack down on profanity, intoxication, threatening behavior or throwing of items that can lead to ejection or arrest.
Some of the early tailgating Saturday came under cold, gray skies, with some rain mixed in.
“It might dampen attendance, but it doesn’t dampen our spirits,” said Keenan Warner, a retired elementary school teacher and president of the Santa Clarita Bruins club, who set up his tailgate near the fan zone on the south side of the Rose Bowl.
It might have been understandable if there were some verbal sparring under the popup tent of Tom and Joyce Jackson of Downey – they posted both USC and UCLA flags, along with the popular “House Divided” banner. But not this day.
Joyce tried to stay warm in her UCLA colors; Tom, a USC grad, was decked out in the cardinal and gold. Their son, James, a UCLA grad, would join them later along with co-workers who were part of the sideline crew.
“I don’t mind rooting for the Bruins, but I can’t leave my roots,” said Tom. “One day of the year, I have to pull this out.”
Their tailgate specialty of the day: Waffles, with either strawberries (if you’re a USC supporter) or blueberries (for UCLA). Same for either a Trojan or Bruin Sunrise drink: O.J., vodka, and pomegranate or blueberry mix.
By the time the sun came back out, Marisa Malmsten’s white shepherd dog Swayze had broken loose from the family RV and started to stretch her legs, showing off her UCLA T-shirt that said: “Get Your Bruin On.”
“We’ll only sic her on USC people,” said the Winetka resident with a laugh, knowing she’d spend the rest of the day in the RV with the dog while her husband, UCLA grad Derek and their two teenagers, would fight the elements attending the game.
“We will be just fine. Great access to the restroom when we need it.”