Luck on A Game Day

On Home-Game Saturdays during the Fall semester, USC’s main campus is covered with tailgate parties. These range from tame alumni and fan cookouts, to blackout-inducing keg stand ragers. Regardless of the University’s opponent, a few things remains constant: drinking, eating, rivalrous talk, and superstition. As kick-off approaches the tailgates begin to wind down and the tailgaters head en masse to the Coliseum. Most tailgaters will head to the Coliseum through Trousdale, the small brick street in the middle of campus, regardless of where on campus they were actually tailgating. A graduating senior explains the ritual that follows this procession to the Coliseum :

” So you walk down Trousdale past Tommy Trojan, and Shumway fountain and then when you get to the very end of Trousdale right before Expo there’s this big lamppost. Right before crossing the street for the Coliseum you kick the the lamp post. But you kick it with your heel, so backwards. If you miss you’ve given the whole game bad luck. If you don’t kick it and you’re a USC student that’s bad luck too. So everyone who walks by and is walking to the game for USC has to kick it. Sometimes you have to wait ’cause  it gets kind of crowded. And people can kick you by accident sometimes. I guess that’s bad luck too.”

This ritual reflects and anxiety of the vast population of USC students and aficionados. It is amazing to see the number of people who are otherwise unaffiliated with USC who go to tailgates and participate in this ritual. Undergraduate students seem to take the superstition particularly to heart, often reminding each other to enact the ritual or scolding those who do it wrong.

In a game where spectators invest so much (financially going to games & funding tailgates, physically enduring the long hours of tailgating and exposure during the game, and emotionally) in the success of their team it must be frustrating to have the entire outcome out of their control. Participating in such rituals gives them a sense that the outcome is also to a certain extent out of their teams control – and therefore they can not be held completely responsible. Loosing then becomes a matter of bad luck instead of choosing the wrong team. It also gives a little more control to the spectator as their individual actions can finally contribute to the outcome. By kicking the ‘post USC fans are doing their part in fighting off any bad luck to plague their team.