You’re at Galen Center. The game is beginning as players head to the center of the stadium. Attention quickly shifts to the left side of the court as the Trojans break out, their shoes squeaking as they shuffle toward the basket. A 3-pointer is scored and as you celebrate, looking around for other fans and applause to share the moment with, you’re greeted with the stiffness of cardboard cutouts sitting next to you. The 10,000 seats housed by Galen Center are practically empty, only inhabited by the players, media personnel and a few essential staff members. The sounds of the basketball ricocheting off the backboard and bouncing off the floor are the only noises that echo throughout the building. It’s eerie.
This uncomfortable emptiness has become the new norm for sports at USC, with tight restrictions such as the NBA’s Disney World “Bubble” setting the status quo. USC is no exception and student athletes have had to face rigorous protocols with the return of sports this semester. Games carry on with a coarse and serious energy, but bleachers lack the enthusiastic fans that once boosted players’ and viewers’ morale. A sense of stability has been occasionally, but still too frequently, upended, with games having to be postponed or canceled last-minute to maintain the health and safety of teams.
Even as restrictions at sporting events begin to decrease, presaging a potential return to normalcy in our collective fight against the pandemic, times still seem bleak at USC athletic events. While some students have been able to recreate a little bit of the game day essence by watching together at home, their experiences still lack the same energy of the packed sports stadiums we were all once accustomed to. Here are the perspectives Daily Trojan photographers captured as players tried to put on a show for their fans in a time of unprecedented abnormality.
Header photos by Ling Luo and Simon Park.
With only cardboard cutouts and media personnel in attendance, the sounds of squeaking shoes and bouncing basketballs echo throughout Galen Center.
Photos by Peter Gastis and Simon Park.
Through the adversity of this abnormal season, USC baseball is determined to get back to its winning ways.
Photos by Alexis Francel and Charlie McCollum.
USC soccer continues to persevere, even in the midst of the emptiness that engulfs the 70,000 seat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Photos by Beth Mosch and Eli Masket.
Swim & Dive and Water Polo
In the absence of fans, team chemistry and community are vital to maintaining a fighting spirit.
Photos by Alexis Francel and Amanda Chou.
Surrounded by rows of empty stands, referees are some of the select few who have experienced USC Athletics in-person this year.
Photos by Alexis Francel and Eli Masket.
Equipped with masks and a fighting spirit, teammates rely on each other for the support required to push through a tough season.
Photos by Beth Mosch and Peter Gastis.
Watching With Friends
Masked up and socially distanced, some Trojans have been able to share the excitement of USC Athletics together.
Photos by Rohan Palla.
Watching From Home
From the rowdy student section to a peaceful living room, Trojans are finding new ways to support their favorite teams.