When the curtain goes up on the TV Game of the Week between USC and UCLA this Saturday, everyone—from the fan in the highest seat on the tall concrete rim of vast Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to the patient reserves warming the bench—will be a performer in the biggest, brassiest, loudest, greatest sports show on earth. That adds up to a cast somewhere close to 100,000, a fittingly grandiose spectacle for a production taking place on the outskirts of Hollywood. This will be football western style—a pageant that is as different from the restrained enthusiasm of the Ivy League as the high-pitched call of the carnival barker from the well-modulated tones to be heard at a literary tea. It is the spontaneous outburst of a city where no service station is christened without a battery of searchlights to sweep the sky in flamboyant reminder.
It is an afternoon with a truly exuberant flavor and, hoping that an unjaded palate might best catch the taste of the day, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED last year sent talented Austrian Photographer Ernst Haas to the scene of action. The next four pages carry—in all the harsh subtropical color of the area—the record his camera retained of this splendid show.
When USC and UCLA meet, it is the big game of the sun country and, in terms of the number of people on hand, it is even bigger than its older, more conservative counterpart in northern California—the Big Game between California and Stanford. To the millions of new residents in this, the nation's third largest metropolitan area, it is Yale-Harvard, Army-Navy and possibly even Oxford-Cambridge rolled into one. It is not old as football rivalries go, but it is growing traditions of its own at a great rate.
The football game itself, of course, is much the same as football everywhere. But in the window dressing the influence of neighboring Hollywood has rubbed off on the students who stage the performance, and the TV screens will reflect a good deal of this at half time. The unique part of the spectacle—the contribution the West Coast has added to the football extravaganza—is in the meticulously drilled rooting sections which will demonstrate their ingenious animated card tricks while the football teams are resting.
November 26, 1956
On the opposite page, the UCLA card section is busy spelling out a greeting to the USC section across the field. The mechanics of card sections are fairly simple, but first of all they require a warm climate so the rooter can shed his jacket to provide a solid background of white shirts. To begin with, the designs are drawn on graph paper by student managers. Each student in the section is then provided with five cards, colored on each side, and his instructions are fastened to the backrest of the seat in front of him. At a signal from the cheerleader the cards are flipped. In the more elaborate productions, they are flipped in sequence to provide motion.
All of this got started, oddly enough, in Corvallis, Oregon. Back in 1924, a postgraduate Oregon State student named Linsley Bothwell equipped his 500-man rooting section with cards, and the first animated stunt in history showed a beaver (the OSC mascot) with a big tail standing over a huge lemon-yellow O (symbolizing the Beavers' opponent that day, the University of Oregon). At a signal the beaver brought his tail down on the O, demolishing it and providing a source of fun and entertainment which has survived the years. Bothwell, as one might suspect, hailed from southern California.
Bothwell's pioneering did not go unnoticed and, in 1925, the University of Southern California took a try when their yell leader Burdette Henney devised a stunt in which the USC mascot, the Trojan horse, winked its eye and bucked. By 1931, UCLA was using card stunts, and the following year the Uclans animated their pictures in the growing vogue. UCLA moved a step ahead in the art and science of card pictography in 1935, when Yell Leader Maury Grossman directed 1,000 students in electric displays during a night game against the University of Hawaii. The lights formed a hula girl swaying her hips amid palm trees to the accompaniment of some music from a Walt Disney movie. At the 1954 Rose Bowl game UCLA took cognizance of technological improvements and unveiled what it called a "wide-screen UCLArama," in which a total of 3,456 students were card holders. This was the biggest card stunt on record at that time. And next Saturday the UCLA and USC cheering sections will be the largest yet.