Kicking the Flagpole on Game Day

Daniel Shapiro earned his B.S. (bachelors degree of science) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Southern California in 2017.  He is currently pursuing his masters degree in Mechanical Engineering at the same university.  He is a committed fan of USC football – since beginning his undergraduate education at USC in 2013, he has attended every ‘home game’ held at the Coliseum, USC’s football stadium. He honors all of the university’s football-related traditions and dresses in football regalia as he watches the games. In the transcription below, Daniel reflects on game-day customs.  He then goes on to describe one of his favorite traditions: kicking the flagpole before games.

: “So before every game, everyone hangs out on campus and ‘tailgates.’”

Isabella: “Can you describe what ‘tailgating’ is?”

Daniel: “‘Tailgating’ is when you pitch a tent or set up chairs on [the USC] campus on game days. Everyone just drinks and eats and plays beer-pong or whatever. Students and alumni all come together to celebrate the team.”

Isabella: “Do people stay on campus during the game?”

Daniel: “No, most people walk from campus to the Coliseum to watch the game. It’s a short walk – you just have to cross [the street] on Exposition [boulevard]. Before you reach the end of campus, there are some flagpoles that everyone kicks before they walk through the gates. It’s supposed to be good luck so everyone just does it. You walk up to the flagpole and hit it with the toe of your shoe and it makes a loud ‘ding’ sound. There are like five flagpoles, so collectively, it echoes pretty loud. Once you do that, you just start walking to the Coliseum. It’s supposed to help us win the games… It’s just a superstition, but it’s still really fun because everyone does it and you can feel the excitement.”

Daniel recognizes ‘game day’ as a sort of holiday amongst USC fans.  In this regard, kicking the flagpole serves as a ritual for them — it is a means of showing reverence and celebrating the event.  Moreover, as Daniel notes above, kicking the flagpole is rooted in superstitious belief.  That is to say, there are supernatural qualities associated with this behavior.  Fans of USC football perform this action in the hopes of bringing good luck to the team; conversely, it is considered bad luck to refrain from kicking the pole.  This ritual helps USC Football fans express their commitment to the team and promotes bonding.