Football Fridays, the bell & the Turkey Tussle

Even though a hooper, I’ve always loved football.

I grew up pretending to be like Jerry Rice – streaking down the streets and leaping over my friends for a touchdown. And even though I love the game, I knew it wasn’t for me – I mean there  aren’t a lot of 7-foot-tall football players out there.

But I still follow the sport – my Bruins are 3-0, the best record for an LA college football team – and I’m always down for a game of Madden or joining a Fantasy Football League.
 
And believe it or not, I still follow my high school football team, especially now that I am home in LA.

To me, there is nothing better than high school football. Beyond the game itself, there’s no greater sense of school pride.

High school football for me was pep rallies, Friday nights with your boys and the biggest bang of all was the Turkey Tussle. For those of you that don’t know, the Turkey Tussle is the annual homecoming tradition between my high school – John Muir – and our biggest rivals, Pasadena High School…but more on that later.
 
Talk about school pride – our pep rallies were a full on show. You had some of the cutest girls in school performing on the squad. The band would serenade us to the Mustang fight song and then you had my personal favorite the Muir Drum Core – they’d march in right through the crowd. The Drum Core was the thunder to the band’s lightning.  All you could do is stare as they pounded the drums with such intimidating force.

There was no greater a popularity or fashion contest than our high school football games. While the team was out fighting for the school, this was our time to show off. I remember the talks: ‘Who you going to the game with?’ ‘What are you wearing?’ ‘Where we going after?’  I still remember wearing my Eddie Bauer windbreaker – with shoes to match – fresh khaki’s and my coach Hill Mustang Beenie to top it off.    

The Turkey Tussle stands alone as the greatest high school event in Pasadena. The battle for the bell between the John Muir Mustangs and that other school – the Pasadena High School Bulldogs. Believe me, after this annual game, I was overly  equipped for the UCLA/USC rivalry to come. We really didn’t like them – it was personal – for bragging rights and to settle our beefs throughout the year.
 
This was real, we wouldn’t even allow red shirts in our gym – that red is for PHS.
 
The annual game has been played since 1954 (Muir is 39-17-2 thank you) and is played on the greatest stage – Pasadena’s own Rose Bowl. Our team could lose every game, but you better beat Pasadena.  You’d get spectators from all over ranging from current students, alumni and future Mustangs to be.
 
My father went to Pasadena and I remember being asked as a kid who was I cheering for PHS or Muir and I’d respond, “Muir dad.”
 
But beyond just the rivalries, the wins and the losses, I appreciate what the football experience does for a young man – shaping boys into men and giving many a chance at life  they may have never had and putting a lot of my peers in college.
 
The discipline of football kept many kids off the street.