His name is Eric Calhoun, and if you’ve ever been to a USC baseball game, you know who he is. He is always the loudest, most boisterous fan at Dedeaux Field — the first to start a “Let’s go Trojans!” chant when the team needs a rally, or to urge the opponent to “quit stalling, already!” during a mound visit.
To be honest, Eric probably has no idea who I am. I interact with him briefly at almost every game, but we’ve never formally met, never spoken beyond a quick interchange, and I know for a fact he has never read my coverage of the team.
I can say that with such certainty because Eric is completely blind.
I contemplated approaching Eric several times for this piece; it would only be logical, after all, to talk to the subject. I wanted to ask him why he takes the bus from Crenshaw to be at just about every USC home game — and quite a few road games as well. I wanted to know how he does it: navigating from bus to ballpark, up and down bleachers and stairs, always by himself.
I realized, however, that answer is obvious: Eric loves the game, simple as that. But what I really wanted to ask was this: How does he know?
When Eric is at a USC game, he sometimes doesn’t even face the field — not that it would matter, I suppose. His eyes are open, but rolled to the back. Usually they are obscured by his hood, pulled low over his forehead. And yet Eric is somehow keenly aware of what is happening on the field. He knows if a ball is hit on the ground or in the air (he’ll urge a fly ball to “get going” when a Trojan hits it). He always knows the situation (“Make ’em hit it on the ground,” if the Trojans have the opportunity to turn a double play on defense). He can seemingly even tell if a pitch is a ball or a strike (“Throw strikes,” he’ll remind the young Trojan bullpen. “You gotta throw strikes”).
Is it the sound of the ball off the bat? The reaction of the crowd? Some sort of sixth sense? I’ve seen Eric stand next to the press box and listen to the announcers in there, but I’ve also seen him sitting many sections away. No matter what, he always seems to know exactly what is happening in the game. It is nothing short of amazing, and I came very, very close to asking him about it.
But I didn’t. Because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s the sound of the bat or the crowd or if Eric is just the best guesser ever. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if his cheering even makes sense in the context of the game (although it almost always does). What matters is that he is cheering at all — not to mention there in the first place.
Eric is in many ways simply a fan — and a damn good one at that. But he is more than just that. He is an eminently recognizable presence, both visibly and audibly. Though he rarely asks for it, he is always thankful for any help he receives, be it a reminder when the next game is or simply letting him know he has walked past the ramp up to the stands at Dedeaux.
He is greeted with smiles he cannot see, yet returns them anyways with his devotion and commitment. That’s not to say he is perfect — many of us have had our fair share of difficulties with Eric. I recall him simply walking right past the ticket turnstile at Blair Field in Long Beach for a game there back in 2011. Chances are he had no idea he even did so, but the usher collecting tickets was understandably flummoxed.
USC has eight home games left in this 2014 season, and you can bet that Eric Calhoun will be at all of them. If you find yourself there with him, go say hi. I know I will. Eric might not be perfect, but he’s just about the perfect fan.
Nick Burton is a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. His column, “Any Given Saturday,” runs Thursdays. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.