Message to the NFL: Saturday Games Show How to Make Football Fun Again

I love football. But I’m also one of those people who is growing increasingly uncomfortable watching the sport. Which is something of a contagion for anyone who saw “Concussion” or pays attention to how the NFL Powers That Be fumble the proverbial ball when a domestic violence accusation names one of their own.

I think it was Junior Seau’s suicide that woke me up and inspired that haunting feeling I get when I cheer a hard tackle in favor of my team. Then I see the hard-partying ways of Johnny Football or follow the court proceedings for any professional player on the wrong side of the law and wonder why an organization worth billions doesn’t invest more in the wellness and welfare of the men who have made it so. And who can forget the video footage of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancé in the elevator?

One of ESPN’s own top college football analysts stepped away from the broadcasting booth earlier this week because he has seen first-hand the effects of brain trauma on his former teammates. And Su’a Cravens surprised the Redskins by suggesting he wanted to retire less than two years from the day he was drafted – a decision likely motivated by a concussion that affected his vision last year.

All of this has turned what used to be my Saturday hobby (some might say obsession) into a guilty pleasure that invokes questions about my own ethics and values. I miss the days when I could enjoy the game without contemplating whether my participation as an observer is contributing more to the problem than the solution.

But then weekends like this last one remind me why I continue to watch despite those nagging doubts. Tears fell as Jake Olson, the Trojans’ blind long-snapper, took the field on that PAT late in the game. To read the follow-on articles about how the Western Michigan coach conspired with USC’s Clay Helton to make it happen just reinforces the game day camaraderie of college football.

Then goosebumps popped up as Iowa fans turned around at the end of the first quarter to wave at the kids in the hospital looking down at the stadium. I agree with Scott Van Pelt; I hope this was the birth of a new tradition.

I even celebrated the historic Bruins comeback as Josh Rosen led his team to score 35 unanswered points against Texas A&M in the fourth quarter to win the game (but probably because my disgust with the SEC trumps our cross-town rival.)

Because we don’t watch football for the individual plays and the final score. We participate in the ritual that is game day to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and we wait patiently for those moments that validate our decision.

And it is those moments this past weekend that reminded me that football isn’t the problem; it’s the people who manage the game.

I don’t understand pink in October (why only breast cancer?) Or why team owners think taxpayers should subsidize their organizations’ facilities. But I do know that it’s past time for a culture change in the NFL. Time for Roger and his friends to embrace necessary changes to make player safety their primary focus. And let integrity, not profit, guide their decisions on other player issues.

Sure, I wish all players would stand for the National Anthem. But, as an American, I recognize everyone’s individual right to kneel in protest. I won’t boycott the game because a player wants to bring attention to an issue that matters to him.

However, more and more viewers will turn the channel if the NFL can’t make a personal commitment to make the game safer, to take care of their players on and off the field, and to enforce career ending punishment for behavior that compromises the safety of others.

Distance and denial are no longer an option. And doing the bare minimum to get by until the next kick-off won’t do either. Our growing unease will motivate us to find other ways to spend our weekends if the NFL persists as is.

For now I am holding onto my Saturdays, though the grasp is tenuous and requires universities to step up and do more for the men who take the field in college (and the NCAA to do less in the way of restricting their opportunities). But those Saturdays also hold the secret to making football fun again. Here’s hoping the NFL team owners are watching too, for the future of the game.

11 Ways to Know You are a USC Fan

Thanks to a tweet from @JohnHrabe, I came across this rather accurate list of life as a USC fan.  You know it’s good when you can’t choose a favorite between #1, 2, 4, 10 or 11:

ND Football Scandal Could Lead to Jail Time

There are only like 673 reasons why John Hrabe is one of the most brilliant investigative journalists working today.  Reason #375 is the fact that he can still find time to write hard hitting pieces like this one, exposing federal law violations at Notre Dame despite his love for Irish football.  Reason #532 is that he has a kick-ass sense of humor:

Nine Days!

Just nine days until USC kicks off its football season against Hawaii at the Coliseum.

Last year was the first year since 1992 (as in, my senior year in high school before I was a Trojan), that I wasn’t able to make it to one game all season.  Neither law school nor an Iraq deployment nor my first Afghanistan deployment nor the many years in between when I could barely afford the $55 ticket after my rent check was cashed — nothing kept me from cheering on my Trojan football team.  But in 2011, shifting priorities and family demands left the 10,000 miles between the Coliseum and me too much to overcome in the fall.

I was devastated.  Lost almost.  Left to redefine myself.  Had the war so scarred me that Trojan football didn’t matter as much to me anymore?

Hell no!

And now I’m back, to let you know, that I can really shake ’em down…  A quick recap of what has happened since I got home from the ‘Stan:

  • Penn State Football went down.  Star RB Silas Redd ran west.
  • Matt Barkley announced he would return for his senior year.  I shed a tear.
  • @JDonels introduced me to the land of twitter.  I put on the @JenVitela jersey.  I’ve since switched to @TailgatingGirl.  Look for me on the sidelines.
  • Season tickets were renewed for the four M’s…Mia, Morgan, Mary and Me.
  • Before Jim Mora coaches even one game across town, his total lack of class  proves he will fit right in wearing Bruin blue and gold.
  • USC unveiled the new John McKay Center.  How badass is that?
  • As USC’s post-season play ban expired and scholarship restrictions took effect, the Trojans nabbed the top spot in the pre-season AP poll.  Take that, NCAA bastards.
  • The amazing team of Craig Paddock  from fame and David Burke at are to thank for redesigning the GirlsGoneTailgating site.  We’re still tweaking (and not in the Breaking Bad way) but the site should be ready for primetime soon.
  • My new USC shirt just arrived in the mail.  It will look great with the Chanel gold nail polish I picked up last weekend.

Ok, maybe that last part is less noteworthy than the rest.  But, the point is that us girls are getting ready for the 2012 college football season.  It’s either going to be a four-month journey to the crystal football or one big consolation party.  Only time will tell.  But over the years we’ve learned the only thing that really matters on college gameday…it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s who you celebrate the gameday experience with.  So come out and join us for a great season.  For my non-SC college football fans, here’s wishing you a memorable season with good friends and great stories too.

See you in nine days!

Adios, Coach!

Hey Pete –

It’s been fun.  But, nothing is forever.  The first boy to break my heart taught me that.  I was reminded again with our 9-4 season this year.

I don’t blame you for leaving.  Sorry State Department, but I’d quit my job if someone in Seattle was going to pay me $2 million more a year too.  Heck, I’d quit for half that.

Sure wish you would have done it differently though.  If Paul Allen wants you as much as it seems, I bet he would have been willing to wait until after signing day.  But, I get it – you stood in those boys’ living rooms not too long ago and promised to be their coach.  However, loyalty to the USC program you rebuilt should have trumped your personal guilt for breaking your word.  Not to worry though, it isn’t what I will remember you for.

What I will remember is that 23-0 win at Auburn – the sweltering humidity and those nice but completely dejected Tiger fans.  The Orange Bowl win too – the one that was so overwhelming there was not a Sooner in sight at the beginning of the fourth quarter.  And, I will never forget my roommate shouting, “No more momentum changes!” as we fought back at Autzen Stadium in 2005 (I’ll never forget the angry duck who threw marshmallows at me that day either).  But, most of all, I will remember the Bush Push.  Now, that was heartache – watching the time run out on the clock that crisp evening in South Bend.  But, it was as if the voice of God spoke when the announcer ordered the Irish fans off the field and put enough time back on the board for us to win the most thrilling game of I’ve ever experienced.

As time passes, we will forget being upset by an inferior UCLA team in 2006.  And hopefully we will find a way to push the Texas game into the deep recesses of our minds.  Then there was your last game in the Coliseum – a loss to Arizona:  That will be your farewell, but not your Trojan legacy.  We’ll let go of all these memories of your tenure and hold onto the great moments in college football that you gave us over the years.

To the coach who succeeds you:  we want/need to see a clean program that wins – and in that order.  We need someone committed to the personal and professional development of these young men into honorable members of the Trojan family.  I don’t care if they graduate, that is their prerogative – but I prefer them not to break laws or NCAA regulations that put their careers and our program in jeopardy.  It’s a difficult balance I know.  But, we need someone who has enough control over our players to avoid gross misconduct at least.  Hopefully whoever steps up to fill your shoes will learn from both your achievements and your mistakes.  And, hopefully they will be as committed to the university community as you have been.

For now, vaya con Dios, Pete.

I hope you aren’t leaving because the NCAA is ready to hand down crippling sanctions and you are running for cover while we are left to cope.  Please let that just be rumor.

But, I guess it doesn’t matter either way.  It is college football.  We will move on. Maybe next year we will be better than a 9-4 team.  Maybe not.  But, we’ll still have fun.

I never believed you wanted to grow old at USC.  You were just waiting for the right opportunity to try to beat to death the NFL monkey on your back.  I hope you found it.  We didn’t care that your victories as a college coach carried an asterisk and a footnote with your Jets record.  But, we know you did.  And so we wish you great success in Seattle.

Just, if it doesn’t work out, please don’t follow the Nick Saban career path and come back home to the Pac-10, coaching for Stanford.  Or worse.

Good luck!

Jen Vitela, Class of ‘96

PS:  Don’t forget to pack an umbrella.

When it comes to the internet, SEC = China

As opposed to sporting events which have incorporated social media to add to the entertainment value (e.g. Nationals Park Fan Tweets), the SEC is trying to stamp out all online communication during games because they consider it competitive with their CBS broadcasts.  Sure, twitter reaches out to a larger audience than phone text messages of the past and posting a photo on facebook is easier than emailing it to everyone in the address book on your cell but, seriously?

Dudes, this stuff isn’t going to go away.  You’d do best to embrace it instead of passing a regulation that will be impossible to enforce.  Time to start thinking out of the box and creating ways to use social media to draw attention to your event instead of to your ridiculous rules for gameday.  See story at:

CBS Declares What the Rest of us Already Know…

The Trojans are the best team of the decade:

Thanks for the link, Craig!

The Unwritten Rule…

When Trojans benefit from the USC Ticket Office lottery and win tickets to games with limited seats, there is a rule most of us know and follow:  If you can’t use the tickets, sell them to another Trojan for face value.  It’s that simple.

For example, last year I had a pair of tickets to the Ohio State v. USC game.  I couldn’t use them because I was serving in Iraq.  Sure, tickets were selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay.  But these were Trojan tickets and they should be used by Trojans:  It’s not about making a buck — it’s about sharing the Trojan spirit on gameday.

Then yesterday I received an email from the Sacramento alumni club.  Seems one of their members was lucky enough to buy 2 tickets through the lottery but is unable to make the trip.  But, instead of sharing that Trojan spirit, she asked fellow alums to submit bids through email.  So, not only did she sell her tickets for a profit, she used the Trojan network to do it.

This is wrong.  Just plain wrong.  The USC Ticket Office lottery intends to sell tickets to Trojans, not ticket brokers.

The Unwritten Rule can also be called the Golden Rule of Football.  Because, just as you might forgo the profit and hand the tickets over to a fellow fan, adopting the unwritten rule usually means you’ll benefit on any given Saturday too.

Just something to think about…36 days before kickoff.


Do you think it is coincidence that my season tickets arrived on the same day as the Zaca Hangover Patches that David over at recommended???

Join us for the Six Games in Six Weeks Tour

GGT is back!  After a one-year hiatus while I surfed the sand of the Middle East, we’re now gearing up for the 2009 College Football season.  I think we’re all ready to see the action on the field after a summer of BCS debate on the Hill and subsequent declarations that changes to our broken system will take at least another five years to fix, if ever.  We might as well wave the white flag and start soaking the watermelon now.

So, if you want to join us, we’ll be at Ohio State on 9/12, Washington on 9/19, USC on 9/26, Cal on 10/3, Ole Miss on 10/10 and Notre Dame on 10/17.  Hope to see you there!

***Just added — Notred Dame on 9/5…I guess it makes it a Seven Weeks in Seven Games tour…