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On the Alabama Road with the Cardinal and Gold: Part 2

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

In Part- 2 of the On the Alabama Road with the Cardinal and Gold, Friday begins the fun, tension, and intensity in anticipation of Saturday’s huge game between the No. 20 Trojans and the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. With the Trojans having arrived late Thursday night at their team hotel, the opulent Gaylord Texan in Grapevine and the Alabama Crimson Tide flying in today, it’s all coming together.

As for today’s festivities, it’s a return trip into downtown Dallas for the Trojans noon pep rally at Klyde Warren Park, a tour of the 6th Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza, seeing some more sights, and finishing the day with a football dinner at the Old Hickory Steakhouse. Are you ready to come along for the ride? Okay, buckle up and let’s go!

Friday – Sept 2

9:00 a.m.: Is it possible to wake up in your beautiful hotel room, and there is even Texas humidity in a hotel room? I guess so. I have the air conditioning set at 68 degrees. The towels from last night’s late shower still haven’t dried. Ah, such are the challenges of living life out of a hotel room no matter how extravagant that room may be.

9:30: The goal is to eat a small breakfast, check out the action downstairs, and then make our way to Dallas. Let’s hope the traffic leading into town isn’t like trying to get off the Harbor Freeway in the Express Lane on a sold out Coliseum game day with Notre Dame. FYI, today’s breakfast will consist of Honey Oat Cheerios, a far cry from my usual oat bran. It’s kind of like going from playing Arkansas State to opening with Alabama.

10:00: With Sharon, we head downstairs and enter a sea of USC fans all dressed up in school colors and many set on attending the pep rally. The weather forecast today is for the low 90s, but that doesn’t include the humidity which adds to the “it feels like” factor.

11:00: Before heading out to get the car to head to Dallas, Sharon and I go down to say a brief hello to WeAreSC publisher Garry P. and Bruce “The Godfather” Bagni and “the boys.” They are finishing breakfast at the Riverwalk Café. After a few greetings and the assurance from the Godfather that he is more than ready to upset Alabama, we head out to the self-parking, which costs $20 per day – plus tax. I know, the plus tax thing gets to me too.

11:05: Almost out the door, we run into Trojans SID Tim Tesselone. I ask TT if he knows who the game officials are for the game and he says, “I know who the officials are, but I am not allowed to say until the game.” I thank him for his honesty, although there is a rumor that it might be a mixed crew from the Pac-12 and the Big 12.

11:10: The ride into Dallas is way smoother than Friday, which was so much stop and go. We should get to the USC pep rally easily by noon.

11:40: Arrive at Klyde Warren Park and head into a giant parking structure. As I see a space on the 6th floor a giant truck cuts me off and backs into the space. Must be an Alabama fan, and guess what? Bingo, it has an “Alabama – Roll Tide” on front plate.

11:50: There is a massive turnout of Trojans fans at Klyde Warren Park, which is a nice spot inside downtown Dallas. The heat is on and must be around 90 degrees with enough humidity to make things challenging. The large throng, most dressed in cardinal and gold, don’t’ seem to be distracted.

11:55: With the sounds of the drums and some band section vocals like “Beat the Tide,” here comes the over 350 member of the Trojans Marching Band including the famous USC Song Girls and flag twirlers. Naturally, the fans go wild and the Spirt of Troy heads towards a stage area.

12:05 p.m: Now assembled, the TMB opens with Fanfare and transitions into Tribute to Troy. Followed by “Fight On,” it looks like the crowd is bigger than the Navy Pier at a Notre Dame Weekender. It’s a sea of cardinal.

12:08: The legendary Dr. Arthur C. Bartner climbs the ladder to speak to the crowd and direct his No. 1 acknowledged band. Bartner screams, “We didn’t come to Dallas to lose this game!” And, of course, the fans respond accordingly. Bartner then proceeds to mention the Trojans coaching staff and the fans give an ovation of acceptance.

12:15: There is fan participation as the TMB plays “Seven Nation Army” and chants, “Oh, Oh, Oh, Ah, Oh.”

12:18: Dr. Bartner tells those in Klyde Warren Park that “We need to own that stadium, take over that stadium.” The Trojans fans in attendance are ready to comply with his request.

12:27: Because of the head and humidity, the rally is shorter than usual and the fans participate in the Southern California spellout, which is accompanied by “Conquest.” Not a fan can be seen not waving the two-fingered victory sign.

12:30: We head back to the car and get ready to head back to Dealey Plaza and take a highly recommended tour of the 6th Floor Exhibit, which is on the 6th floor of the old Dallas Book Depository Building that is best known as the sniper’s nest for alleged assassin of President Kennedy.

12:55: A car pulls up besides us with an Alabama flag. It seems that a lot of Crimson Tide fans have made their way to Dallas through the use of their vehicles.

1:10: Arrive at the parking lot for the 6Th Floor Museum and it is totally crowded with USC fans. In order to get tickets for the museum, you need to purchase a ticket, which is reasonable ($14 for a senior citizen and $16 dollars for an adult.) To purchase a ticket, we must walk across the street to a 6th Floor Museum gift shop, which has some really cool JFK staff along with some 1960s “souvenirs.”

1:20: After purchasing our two tickets for a 3:30 appointment with history, we look around the gift shop and it’s fascinating. There are 60s music CDs, a 60s television lunchbox, Kennedy for President T-shirts and hats, pictures of President Lyndon B. Johnson, and a great 6th Floor Museum souvenir book.

2:05: After spending enough time at the souvenir shop, I am starving. It is recommended by one of the 6th Floor Museum employees that there are some eating establishments down the street and around the corner. As we begin to walk down the street, we notice that the whole Kennedy Assassination site is full of Trojans fans, many of whom are pointing up to the window that Lee Harvey Oswald is said to have fired the fatal shots. Other fans are taking pictures on two separate “X” marks in the middle of the street where Kennedy was first in the back and then the fatal head shot. It is all so eerie.

2:20: We eat at an Italian pizza place called “Tutta’s West End.” It’s a combo restaurant and sports bar. We order a half pepperoni and half “Californian,” which is a basic cheese pizza with an avocado and sprouts placed on top. Actually, I would recommend this establishment if you’re in the area.

3:20: Head back to the 6th Floor Museum to begin our tour. Before we tour, since we came to this solemn destination on Friday night, the daytime gives a more realistic view since Kennedy was shot at 12:30 p.m. on November 22, 1963. The crowd has seemed to grow in number and a number of folks are sitting on the infamous “Grassy Knoll” area, which some claim is where a second gunman fired a shot.”

3:30: Upon entering the air conditioned first floor of the 6th Floor Museum, which has an electronic sign that welcomes USC and Alabama, we are given a headset and an electronic device to listen to narrations of various areas of the museum. Riding the elevator to the 6th floor is indeed unnerving, especially for those of us that lived through the assassination. I personally remember being in 8th grade at recess playing basketball with classmates when that fateful day happened. Now to ride up to where Oswald fired the shots is almost overwhelming.

3:47: The first part of the tour is recalling the early 60s with all the race issues and election talk. We hear from JFK giving his vision of the future. There are historical pictures to highlight the narrative.

4:01: We experience the famous 1962 Cuban missile crisis and JFK’s vision of landing a man on the moon and back. Man, does this all bring back so many memories.

4:07: The tour moves into the hostile environment that JFK was coming to in Dallas on Nov. 22. Dallas either loved or hated the man. There is a buildup of Kennedy landing at Love Field in Dallas, riding his limo into the city, and finally coming to his final moments. It is all handled with displays that are very moving.

4:15: We finally come to the moment of truth – the assassination. There is news footage, an old AP press machine, and audio of reports that three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s limo.

4:20: Suddenly we see a small but very visible enclosed glass case where Oswald fired his shots. The boxes that were surrounding him and the box that held his rife have been recreated. Some of the originals are now in the National Archives. Although you can’t get to the actual window, which is open for effect but still has another piece of glass protecting the inside from the elements, there is another window next to it that shows the vantage point that Oswald saw Kennedy.

4:21: I am stunned how close Oswald was when he first fired the shots. Let me tell you, I think anybody could have hit the target it was so close. What I didn’t realize from the videos I had seen in the past was how close the first shot that hit Kennedy in the back was from the Dallas Book Depository Building. I mean it was a Disneyland shooting gallery.

4:46: After seemingly frozen in awe at the sniper’s view, we move on and see Lee Harvey Oswald’s wedding ring and the hat worn by Jack Ruby on the day he shot Oswald in the basement of a Dallas police station.

4:55: We conclude our tour of the 6th Floor Museum by hearing and seeing some of the conspiracy theories associated with the JFK assassination. All are very convincing and can leave a lot of doubt, although the general conclusion is that Oswald acted alone.

5:25: Although we wanted to go up the vertical Dallas observation tower to get a daytime view of the city, we don’t have time and elect to head back to the Gaylord Texan to meet with a dinner group of friends.

6:15: Upon arriving back at the hotel, we see Trojans Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz get off the elevator, and, boy, could the Trojans use him on the offensive line against Bama tomorrow night.

6:50: After a quick shower to freshen up, we walk down to the Old Hickory Steakhouse. We are greeted by Garry P., Bruce “The Godfather” Bagni, former All-Pac-12 linebacker Kevin Bruce, Trojans broadcasting icon John “JJ” Jackson, San Diego Trojan club past president Dan Orr, celebrated message board contributor “Paladin” and some other dignitaries. It’s a great group and Trojans football is the topic of the evening.

7:15: I order salmon as the main dish while Sharon has her traditional steak. While the food is served, everything USC football is discussed such as Saturday’s game, the Pete Carroll era, recruiting, the top high school programs, and even some 50s TV trivia that covered such popular kids shows as Zorro, Sky King, Engineer Bill, Ruff and Ready, Skipper Frank and Tom Hatten’s Popeye show, and just about everything a baby boomer could watch on the tube.

9:30: The dinner concludes with last discussion on issues like what would be a winning situation for the Trojans. There seems to be general agreement that although the Trojans will have their hands full and are the underdogs, a byproduct of the game as a moral victory would be to be as physical as Alabama for four quarters. The gathering was hopeful that the team would play hard and that the coaching staff could match wits with Nick Saban and staff.

9:45: Head back to the room to write this report and begin the countdown to Saturday night’s very intriguing match-up between the two legendary programs – USC and Alabama. The moment of truth is almost at hand.

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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