The name of this column is “Any Given Saturday,” a collegiate play on the great NFL movie Any Given Sunday with Al Pacino. It’s about the beauty of college sports and sports in general — in college football, on any given Saturday, something special might happen. For three Saturdays in a row here at USC, we’ve had something special happen: a home football game.
But wait, how is that special? Half the games are home games. That’s six or seven a year.
But that’s exactly why they are special. Think about it: in your four years here at USC, you will spend somewhere around 1,000 days on this campus. Of those, perhaps 25 will be gamedays.
I wrote a bit about this is my first column of the year, but there is really nothing like gameday here on this campus. I have experienced 21 of them in my time here, and they are probably the 21 best days of my college experience (only a slight exaggeration). This weekend will be number 22, meaning I’ll have just four left.
Believe me, I understand how draining and all-encompassing gameday tends to be. It seems wrong to call it a “waste” of a day, but in certain respects that’s exactly what it is, because if you’re doing it right you’re certainly not getting anything else done. And I get how rough it is to have three of them in a row, especially with three less-than-ideal kickoff times, to say the least.
But gameday is gameday. I like sleep just as much as any other 21-year-old male (ask my girlfriend, she’ll tell you). Gameday, however, is a different story. Why? Because it’s gameday. To have three in a row is not a chore, but a treat. After this Saturday, there won’t be a true gameday here for five weeks, and that’s the only one for almost two months. You get Saturday, Oct. 26 against Utah and that’s it until mid-November.
There is of course the much-anticipated Thursday, Oct. 10 matchup against Arizona. I could not be more excited for that game. If there is a single student in an afternoon class that day I will be supremely disappointed. But even I admit that it will not be the same. And though I expect many of the “restrictions” (like no on-campus tailgating) to be largely ignored, the day inevitably will not have the same festive nature of a Saturday in the fall.
I work at most games now, usually starting three hours before kickoff. As you can imagine, this is a severe detriment to my tailgating experience, in part because of the time but mainly because of my necessary sobriety. Sure, I always pass through McCarthy Quad, say hi to friends, maybe even have a burger if there’s time. And I always, always kick the flagpole. But it’s not the same, and I miss that experience dearly.
So cherish these days. Gamedays are as much a social event as they are an actual game. Sometimes I get upset because people seem to care more about socializing than football, but that is in part because I am a sports nerd and a curmudgeon to boot, so the combination is very conducive to that. But that doesn’t make the pregame festivities any less amazing.
If you have a moment this Saturday, go stand on top of the steps at the southeastern corner of VKC. Look out at McCarthy Quad to your left, Alumni Park to your right, and I guarantee you will smile. If you do this, chances are it will be before 10 a.m. That’s pretty early for a Saturday in college.
But this isn’t just any given Saturday. This is gameday.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickMBurton